Community of Enquiry

A guide
Published on 12 Mar 2018

What is a Community of Enquiry?

A Community of Enquiry (CoE) is a workshop-style session that offers space for a group of people to collaboratively explore ideas and ask rich and meaningful questions of each other. The session starts with participants being presented with a prompt to get them thinking — this is often a piece of evidence that can be related to an area of work, or a theme that can be explored. It may be in the form of something that seems more obviously like evidence, such as an explorative research paper or a video talk/presentation by an academic. But it could also be something more abstract, like an animation or a short personal story.

The CoE allows participants to share what they think and do and why, while listening to others coming from different contexts or positions. Crucially, it is different to other facilitation methods in that it doesn’t start with a set of questions or a problem, but instead lets a group define what they want to discuss.

Why might it be useful for you?

The CoE approach is based around principles of trust and exploration. It helps people, either from a single team or a cross-organisational team, come together to share knowledge and experiences. It helps build understanding by encouraging people to acknowledge other viewpoints, but also asks them to share their own.

Iriss ran these workshops with a number of organisational teams and found this process particularly useful to collectively identify and address issues that were important to those taking part. The process also helped explore not just service-based challenges, but those that are embedded in core values. This then gave people a route into discussing changes they wanted to make to organisational and individual behaviour and practice.

This guide provides 10-steps to setting up and running a Community of Enquiry.