'Communities of practice': prospects for theory and action in participatory development

'The myth of community' permeates both the understanding and the practice of participatory development. Yet the idea that communities exist as coherent units of people who inhabit bounded geographic spaces and are ready to be mobilised for development restricts the very agency that participation promises. This article offers an alternative model of community: one that is more compatible with the ideal of people-centred, participatory development. Using Etienne Wenger's concept of 'communities of practice', and drawing on narrative theory and cognitive approaches to policy analysis, the article argues that community should be created and sustained around shared meanings.