Date of Award

5-1-2011

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Workforce Education and Development

First Advisor

Winfrey-Freeburg, Beth

Abstract

This qualitative study investigated how the organizational culture at a small, non-profit, faith-based organization impacted communities of practice (CoP). The literature reviewed focuses on the following: faith-based, non-profit organizations, communities of practice and organizational culture. The study was situated in a small, non-profit, faith-based organization in Southern Illinois. The methodology of the study was an ethnographic informed design and the follow methods were used: participant observation, interviews, and document analysis. Wenger's (2004) social theory of learning informed this study. The purpose of the study was to describe: (a) how a small, non-profit, faith-based organization's culture fosters or hinders the development and growth of communities of practice (CoPs), (b) how the organizational members identify the existence of CoPs, and (d) what value the organization recognizes as a result of the knowledge shared. This is important not only to add to the literature concerning small, faith-based organizations and CoPs, but to help this organization and similar organizations understand the importance of learning that takes place as a result of organizational member's participation in CoPs. In light of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act (PWORA) of 1996, or more informally known as Charitable Choice (Thomas, 2009) and now the White House Faith-Based and Neighborhood Partnerships (White House, 2009), the need to help these small, faith-based organizations is relevant. Part of helping the sustain themselves could be by enabling them to recognize the existence of CoPs within their organizations, and in turn helping them understand how to utilize CoPs to their benefit. The results of this study provide discussion around several findings. Findings revealed that there is a CoP in existence. Organizational members do recognize that they share a passion and come together as a group to work toward that passion, yet do not recognize the CoP as it is defined. Further findings provide understanding about how knowledge is shared and what knowledge is shared among organizational members that participate in the CoP. In addition, findings reveal that the organizational culture is aligned with the faith and values of the organization; that the culture does foster growth of CoPs in various ways, but does hinder the growth of CoPs through two barriers. There are several conclusions drawn from this study. First, that the staff is the central hub of communication flow between the internal organizational members Second, that learning is a heart thing, which is a metaphor used to describe the affective learning that takes place within the organization. Third, there is a strong relationship between the culture of the organization and the CoP. Fourth, that sharing, socializing and prayer time are tools used for social interaction among the staff and volunteers. Finally, that the framework of the social theory of learning is embedded with the community of practice identified at The Center. The recommendations include ideas for future research that could expand on the conclusions of this study. Additionally, it is recommended that the results of this study be shared and explained to the organization itself, as well as create ways of sharing the results with similar organizations. Sharing of this study would help such smaller, faith-based, non- profit organizations learn how recognize CoPs, understand how to build a culture within their organization that would foster CoPs, and help them learn how to utilize CoPs in a way that best utilizes their limited resources.

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