COMMUNITY OF PRACTICE
ON HUMAN RESOURCE
MANAGEMENT IN CIVIL SERVICE
Public administration institutions are increasingly realizing the
need for effective Knowledge Management as the calls for efficient,
responsive and, above all, citizen oriented administration becomes
as strong as ever. One popular method of managing knowledge is
through Communities of Practice (CoP) which provide platforms for
people who share the same professional interest to systematically
exchange information, experiences and ideas about a particular
topic. These non-hierarchical networks prove to be especially effective
in enabling the exchange of ‘tacit’ knowledge which can only
be accessed through some form of interpersonal communication.
The dynamics of change in the way public administrations operate
create a demand for more effective knowledge management in the
public sector. Civil service structures in the Western Balkans represent
the case in point as they undergo a reform process aimed at
transforming outdated work principles and procedures towards
practice in line with EU requirements. However, ready-made solutions
imported from the West have had mixed results, as they often
fail to connect with local realities. Thus, CoP’s can provide the much
needed medium for domestic stakeholders to pro-actively interact,
tap on each other’s knowledge, share experiences and insights in
addressing largely similar challenges, and develop a genuine vision
for civil service reform that is locally-owned.
The Community of Practice on Human Resources Management
(HRM), in the context of civil service reform in the Western
Balkans, intends to deal with an intricate array of issues related to
the people’s side of public administration. Considering that civil
service jobs enjoy limited popularity among the younger generations
and that employment rates in the private sector will continue
to rise, there is a necessity to rethink the current way civil servants
are managed in the region. In that sense, the HRM CoP, building on
the combined knowledge of practitioners, aims at facilitating the
development of innovations and workable solutions for modernizing
current policies and procedures on HRM in the region.
UNDP as an organization remains committed to the principle
of development based on nurturing of knowledge and strongly
believes that Communities of Practice can play a pivotal role in
generating, capturing, codifying and applying relevant knowledge.
In line with this principle, UNDP Country Office in Bosnia-Herzegovina
and UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre undertook to assist
the growth of this CoP, thus contributing to the overall reform
efforts in the region. This Handbook intends to offer more information
about the Western Balkans CoP on HRM to all those who have
an interest in this initiative. Enjoy your reading!
Deputy Resident Representative
UNDP Bosnia and Herzegovina
Deputy Chief, Policy Support and
UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre
The challenges that public administration structures face nowadays
call for new and innovative practices. Conventional bureaucracies
can hardly meet the growing demand from the citizens for faster and
more efficient government services. Higher demands on the part of
the citizenry are mainly due to the trends like globalization and technological
advancement which, in essence, make access to information
and knowledge as cheap and easy as ever. As a result, we live in a new
type of society in which knowledge stands as the most valuable form
of capital and where learning is an essential asset.
However, conventional learning methods can hardly be sufficient to
sustain a regular working individual in today’s world let alone an insti-
tution or a government. Imagine the quest for information without
e-mail or internet. Remember the times when we had to spend hours
searching through the books and other documents just to find one
particular piece of information. Compare it with today’s situation where
most of our documents exist in an electronic format which enables us
to find our info in a split second. What a difference, isn’t it?
Still, the superb accessibility to information and knowledge that we
enjoy nowadays translates into something meaningful only if we know
which piece of information and what type of knowledge is actually
needed. Many hours of work have been lost in vain because we worked
diligently on something that was not needed in the first place.
In other instances, we do manage to figure out what it is that we
need but after hours of searching we ‘convince’ ourselves that ‘there
isn’t much on the topic’. Yes, in spite of modern tools, we often end up
empty-handed because the information and knowledge that we want
is not to be found in a written (codified) form. In many instances, the
things that we were looking for do exist but not in the places where
we thought we can find them. They exist in the heads of other people
whom we may or may not know. Such knowledge is labeled as ‘tacit’
because of its intangible nature.
Tapping on other peoples’ tacit knowledge is not a novelty in itself.
It has been around forever. However, technological breakthroughs
enabled people to exchange what they know faster and easier than
ever before. The process of learning acquired a strong social note and,
soon, people from various fields of interest started communicating and
collaborating regardless of the departmental, organizational or even
national boundaries. They were engaged in a kind of communal activity
which the sociologist Etienne Wenger (1991) accurately labeled as the
Community of Practice (CoP).
Why the Community of Practice?
Please read the following short story. We believe it will help you answer
the question Why the Community of Practice?
The first days of summer can be quite uninspiring for the civil servants, who are
overburdened with laws, by-laws, decisions, rulebooks and, of course, reforms
to such an extent, that they start making their vacation plans already in May.
By June, they are intensively browsing the internet trying to find their “place
in the sun”. - It was Thursday and Goran was already telling his colleagues
about being on vacation as of Monday and that, already by Tuesday, he was
going to fly with his family on vacation to Tunisia. He was dreaming about
his “place in the sun” and, at the same time, finalizing the tasks previously
assigned to him. At that moment the phone rang. It was the Secretary to the
Ministry calling, asking Goran to come to see him immediately. Judging by
the Secretary’s tone of voice, he could tell that it was something very urgent.
Half an hour later, Goran was shaking his head in disbelief, not being able to
comprehend what was happening to him. That is to say, the “internationals” had
pressured the Minister to provide them with the inputs for the new draft-law on
the reform of salaries in civil service, which had been waiting for a long time to go
into parliamentary procedure. The Minister had coldly advised the Secretary that
the report was to be on his desk Monday morning at the latest and Mr. Secretary
had shifted the whole matter to Goran, because he (Goran) used to be involved in
these matters in the past and was “familiar with the context”. Goran knew that he
needed at least five days to finalize the report because, among other things, he had
to make a comparative analysis with the countries in the region in order to find
out whether the local salaries were in line with the salaries in the region and, if so,
to what extent. “There goes my vacation”, he said to his colleagues who were
watching him sympathetically and, out of courtesy, offered their assistance.
He phoned his wife and told her not to rush buying sun tanning lotion, because
the vacation was most probably to be postponed. Amazingly, she did not get
upset, but straight away suggested that he should seriously consider the offer
of a job at the bank. On that day, Goran already prepared the huge part of the
report, because he had the most of the material ready on his desk. However, it
was the problem of finding information from the countries in the region that
bothered him. He was browsing the internet, searching the websites of the
various institutions in the region and did not even notice that it was already
half past four. One of the colleagues from the office reminded him that it did not
pay off to work overtime, because it was not payable. Goran laughed and they
went together to the parking lot. On the way to the car, Goran complained to
his colleague that there was no chance for him to finish the report by Monday,
because he simply was not able to obtain the information from the region.
“Why don’t you try to find the answer through the Regional Community of Practitioners?”,
asked the colleague. Goran didn’t know that for already several months,
a group of civil servants had existed who were organized in an informal body,
aimed at assisting each other through the exchange of information, experiences
and lessons learned. Instead of going to the car, Goran returned to the office. He
called his wife and told her that he was going to stay late at work. When she asked
him what was that about, he just shortly replied: “Darling, I am saving Tunisia”.
At the Community’s website, Goran found a lot of useful information. Having
completed the online form, he had become a full member of the Community,
which enabled him through a web forum to ask his colleagues from the region
for all the information he needed. However, he expected the full answers to
arrive at a later point in time. Considering that up to that moment he did not
have any experience with this type of collaboration, Goran went home (for the
second time that day) thinking about whether any of the colleagues from the
region were going to respond. That night, he and his wife entertained guests, so
they decided not to burden their friends with their newly-emerged problem.
The next morning, Goran went for a meeting and was out of the office until
almost half past eleven. When he returned, he straight away checked his e-mail.
He could not believe his eyes. There were 12 messages in the Inbox, received from
his colleagues in the region who had sent the relevant information. Some of
them had even sent the specific documents related to his query. While he was
reading the messages that contained so much information, different experiences
and lessons learned, in his head he already started picturing the situation in the
region. He spent the following two hours writing that “harder” part of the report,
but he was actually only pasting the readily available details provided for him by
his colleagues from the Community. He handed the report to the Secretary at 3
o’clock that afternoon. The Secretary was delighted with the quality, but burning
from the desire to forward the report to the Minister, he forgot to thank Goran.
At home, Goran found his wife on the phone inquiring about the possibilities
for getting back the money they had paid for the vacation in Tunisia.
He took the phone from her and told the lady on the other end of the line
that there was no need for a refund, since indeed they were traveling on
Tuesday for sure. He embraced his puzzled wife and said: “You have no
idea what can be achieved through the Community of Practitioners!”
Remarks: This story is fictional and any similarity with the actual people
or events is purely coincidental.
However, retaining the best people in the civil service has never been
more difficult, especially for civil service structures in the Western
Balkans. On the one hand, today’s civil servants have an unprecedented
access to information which means that they can find new
jobs much quicker. In addition, an old belief which asserts that an
individual should be ‘loyal to his/her organization’ has been replaced
by a new one which holds that an individual ‘should be loyal to his/
her best interest’.
On the other hand, the work in civil service became highly unattractive
because potential candidates perceive it as something highly routine
in nature (not dynamic) with limited promotion opportunities (career
progression) and fixed salaries that completely disregard individual
performance. Such perception is only partially correct because the
ongoing reforms make civil service jobs in the region more dynamic
with civil servants being exposed to the new concepts, methods and
practices almost on daily basis.
Our Community will work on the establishment and affirmation of
human resources management in the respective civil service structures
in the region. We will do that by sharing our information,
ideas, knowledge and experience aimed at strengthening individual
capacities of our members and, in that way, making the respective
institutions better positioned to deliver required results. However,
networking is only one aspect of our HRM centered activities. The
other aspect is linked to concrete projects, products and/or innovations
developed by civil servants for civil servants. We strongly
believe that a combination of activities that involves networking and
project implementation (product launch) will make the HRM reform
more demand driven.
The History of HRM CoP
UNDP BiH, within its program of Support to Public Administration
Reform in Bosnia-Herzegovina, launched activities to organize the
regional civil service workshop aimed at enabling an effective exchange
of experiences in the area of human resources management. The idea
was first presented to directors of the State and Entity civil service
agencies who expressed their full support.
• July - December
The first draft of the Workshop’s concept paper was developed and shared
with UNDP colleagues in Bratislava Regional Centre and respective country
offices in the region. Valuable inputs were received.
• January - June
Improved concept paper received positive remarks from the key local
and International partners. The organisational Board of the event was
formed consisting of National PAR Coordinator in BiH, directors of the
State and Entity civil service agencies in BiH, the EC Task Manager for
PAR and UNDP BiH representatives. The format of the workshop was
agreed as well as the list of potential participants. CoP paper was
presented to the Board receiving very positive remarks.
• June - August
Technical preparations for the event were in the last phase. Many
prospective participants inquired about the plans for a CoP.
The Workshop took place. Both Mr. Gregor Virant, Slovene Minister
of Public Administration, and Mr. Adnan Terzic, Chairman of the BiH
Council of Ministers, participated as well as regional PAR experts and
senior representatives of the central civil service institutions. Participants
hailed the idea for the establishment of CoP. Some even volunteered
to take an active role like moderating online discussions.
• October - February (2007)
The report from the 1st Workshop was circulated together with
the initial list of prospective CoP members. UNDP BiH pledged to
extend the support for the CoP initiative which was elevated to the
level of project. UNDP BiH approached Mr. Dan Dionisie, PAR Policy
Adviser from UNDP Bratislava Regional Centre, asking him for assistance
in the development of the draft Project Document for CoP.
Mr. Damir Ahmetovic, Chief Technical Advisor for HRM, presented
the initiative in the PAR Conference in Alexandroupolis (Greece)
organized jointly by UNDP BRC and the Greek government.
Mrs. Svetlana Vukovic, Director of the Montenegrin Human
Resources Authority, expressed the interest to host the 2nd Civil
• March - May
The first draft of the CoP Project Document was produced (with
Dan’s immense help). UNDP BiH sent Damir for the CoP workshop
organized by BRC for CoP facilitators. BRC decided to come up
with funding for the 2nd Regional Civil Service Workshop. Preparations
were underway for the organization of the 1st CoP Resource
The first meeting of the CoP Resource Group was held in Sarajevo.
Representatives from Macedonia and Albania couldn’t make it to the
meeting but they sent emails expressing their full support for the CoP.
Resource Group adopted the vision and goals of the Community and
confirmed that the first CoP meeting will actually take place on the
second day of the Civil Service workshop. Damir Ahmetovic was named
the CoP Coordinator.
• July - October
CoP adopted its new logo which featured alongside UNDP’s logo and
that of the Montenegrin HR Authority on the invitations and other
materials related to the 2nd Civil Service Workshop. UNDP BiH updated
the CoP project Document to address the CoP’s maintenance and
support of fresh initiatives.
In the preparatory phase for the 2nd Civil Service Workshop, CoP Coordinator
participated in two Organisational Board meetings held in
Podgorica in July and August respectively.
A CoP Handbook was developed to familiarize prospective members
about the concept and goals of the CoP.
About the Community
Strengthening the capacities, at the level of the respective civil service
structures in the Western Balkans, in the area of human resources
management, through the regional coordination, sharing of knowledge,
experiences and lessons learnt.
• To strengthen the civil service reform process in the countries of
• To advocate modernization of human resources management
(HRM) based on actual needs of the respective civil service structures
in the Region
• To pledge for strengthening of the local capacities and engagement
of local experts in the reform process
• To promote reform activities in the area of human resources management
within the public administration
• To affirm the practice of collaboration via CoPs within the countries
in the Region.
Short-term goals (July 2007 - December 2008)
• To establish a functional Community of Practitioners (CoP)
• To promote the work of the Community and to build as-wide-aspossible
base of its members, by the end of June 2008
• To create the CoP Handbook to serve as the promotional material
• To organise the First CoP Meeting proper in September 2008 (20 - 21)
Expectations and hopes for the future
We will stay loyal to the proclaimed Vision but will attempt to be as
action-oriented as possible thus providing an added value in the
process of CS reform in the Region.
The Community aspires to democratize civil service reform by
creating an opportunity for all civil servants to express their views
on the issue of HRM modernization in the civil service.
We will strive on building links with similar CoP’s and other organizations
interested in the HRM reform in the civil service.
We will work hard to gain the trust of the Governments and Donor
Organisations active in the Region and be recognized as a Genuine
Voice of Civil Sevants.
Who can participate?
HRM CoP is open to civil servants, elected and appointed state officials,
academics, independent experts and others who have an interest in
working towards the modernization of HRM policies and practice in the
region of Western Balkans.
Ways to participate
Participation from members will vary. Some people will emerge as
active in on-line discussions (forums), others will only reply to specific
questions from the fellow members. Some members will be passive
when it comes to discussion but very eager to participate in a specific
activity (e.g. research). Finally, there will always be people who are
happy with being recipients of updates and alerts.
All of the mentioned ways of participation are welcome. We must not
forget that the full potential of our CoP will only be unleashed if all of
us make sure that we contribute in one way or another.
In order to ensure the progress of the CoP, it is necessary to conduct
periodic reviews to check upon the relevance of the main idea behind
the CoP; to reexamine our approach in doing things; to reflect on the
usefulness of our collaboration, etc. These issues would be raised in the
regular Resource Group meetings but any possible alterations in the
way we work will be done through a consultative process involving all
members. In fact, members are welcomed to express their views and
suggestions regarding the CoP’s work at any time.
Four main reasons for you to join our CoP
New sources of support
CoP provides you and other group members with additional
resources that you can use to help you deliver effective services.
This includes targeted professional development activities to meet
specific needs, access to critical information in a timely fashion, and
the opportunity for you to network, exchange ideas and provide
By being an active member you will be able to tap on the knowledge,
experiences and ideas of other members which will raise your own
expertise. Also, we will try to provide our members with some training
opportunities, at later stages of our work, in order to ensure members
have the skills to meet the changing and challenging demands of their
institutions, organizations or departments.
Collaboration with colleagues
You will be able to work closely with others to achieve common goals
and outputs. This can include:
• developing joint position statements and Best Practice Guidelines
• working together to influence strategy, regulation, policy, and practice
to meet the needs of our work
• forging common understandings regarding CoP purposes and goals
• providing common in-house training opportunities, such as workshops
Image of your profession
HRM is a rather new concept in the context of public administration in
the Western Balkans. People are yet to realize the difference between
a purely administrative personnel function and a new strategic HRM
function. Consequently, the image of HR professionals is not at the
level it should be. You can help to raise the profile of HRM profession
by publicising the CoP’s activities and results.
How do I join?
Send an email to: email@example.com and we will send an electronic
Membership form for you to fill-in. You can also complete an on-line
form by going to our website: www.hrmcop.undp.ba