Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Communication Studies

Department or School/College

Communication Studies

Committee Chair

Joel Iverson, PhD.

Commitee Members

Greg Larson, PhD. Laurie Yung, PhD.


crisis communication, knowledge management, community of practice


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Organizational Communication | Other Communication


Crisis is a constant of our reality. We are caught in the continual and inevitable cycle of crisis development. Whether it is a natural disaster, international conflict, or disease outbreak; knowledge is central to our ability to prepare for, respond, and recover from crisis. Knowledge is a social process that requires active participation (Wenger, 1998). CoP theory explains how knowledge is accomplished through the communicative practice of mutual engagement, negotiation of a joint enterprise, and shared repertoires (Iverson & McPhee, 2008). The Extension Disaster Education Network is a CoP that is longstanding, enacts knowledge, and is focused on preparing for, responding to, and recovering from crisis. The main goal of this research is to understand how knowledge is accomplished within EDEN using CoP theory. This research uses qualitative methods to in the form of semi-structured interviews and participant observation fieldwork at the Annual EDEN Meeting held in Spokane, WA, September 2019. A total of thirteen EDEN members participated in interviews and 25 hours of participant observation were recorded as data. Three key findings and implications are identified regarding both theory and practice as it relates to CoP theory, social support, and crisis communication. First, this research provides support for the use of CoP theory to analyze and understand the knowledge processes in an organization. Second, social support was identified as a specific and pervasive communication strategy that EDEN members use to accomplish knowledge through mutual engagement. This finding expands literature on CoP theory and illuminates how to facilitate meaningful engagement through the four functions of social support including informational, emotional, tangible, and belonging support. Lastly, this research contributes to crisis communication theory and reveals how to maintain the flow of knowledge and relational connection between stakeholders throughout the stages of crisis development through the lens of CoP theory.



© Copyright 2020 Danielle Maria Farley