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The missing middle: communities of practice in a freelance labour market


  • Irena Grugulis

    (Durham University, UKÂ Â

  • Dimitrinka Stoyanova

    (University of St. Andrews, UKÂ)


Learning at, and through, work is a key part of the skills literature. However, the idea and ideal of the ‘community of practice’ assumes that workplaces are coherent communities where the skilful are available for novices to consult and observe. This is not always the case. This research note, drawing on three months of detailed ethnographic research in a TV production company, explores the way communities of practice function in a labour market dominated by small firms and freelancers. It argues that the experienced workers who would normally be central to skills development are simply not available to consult or observe, since they are employed on freelance contracts. The novices’ community is one with a ‘missing middle’.

Suggested Citation

  • Irena Grugulis & Dimitrinka Stoyanova, 2011. "The missing middle: communities of practice in a freelance labour market," Work, Employment & Society, British Sociological Association, vol. 25(2), pages 342-351, June.
  • Handle: RePEc:sae:woemps:v:25:y:2011:i:2:p:342-351

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    Cited by:

    1. Ivory, Chris & Casey, Rebecca & Watson, Kayleigh, 2016. "The role of mobile ICT in repair worker communities of practice," 27th European Regional ITS Conference, Cambridge (UK) 2016 148676, International Telecommunications Society (ITS).
    2. Spilg, Edward & Siebert, Sabina & Martin, Graeme, 2012. "A social learning perspective on the development of doctors in the UK National Health Service," Social Science & Medicine, Elsevier, vol. 75(9), pages 1617-1624.


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