A Decade of Learning: Building a Public Procurement Community of Practice

May 27, 2014


  • Ten years ago a community of practice was formed by the World Bank to allow public procurement professionals share experiences and learn from their peers in the Central Asia Region.
  • Over the last decade this community of practice has grown to include more than 20 countries across Europe and Central Asia.
  • The 10th Public Procurement Knowledge Exchange Platform is being held in Istanbul, Turkey at the end of May 2014, marking a decade of learning and sharing experience among thousands of public procurement professionals.

If you were a public procurement officer working in Central Asia ten years ago, it was unlikely that you had any direct communication linkages with your counterparts in Georgia, Turkey, or any other country in Europe and Central Asia.  Although much of the work being done by procurement officers in many countries was similar in both scope and format, a mechanism that could link these professionals through an informal community of practice simply did not exist.

April 25, 2005, however, was a turning point. This date marked the first day of the inaugural Regional Public Procurement Forum – a regional workshop developed by the World Bank in an effort to draw on expertise on public procurement from around Central Asia and beyond, foster cooperation, and provide a platform to exchange knowledge and experiences relating to public procurement reform.  

By the time this first forum had ended, an action plan had emerged. It called for both the establishment of a regional public procurement group that would meet at an annual forum and the introduction of mechanisms to expand competition and promote regional integration and cooperation in the sphere public procurement.  This first forum planted the seed for what has subsequently sprouted into an annual forum that is instrumental in improving public procurement for practitioners across the Europe and Central Asia (ECA) region.

“The introduction of the Public Procurement Forum in 2005 was an important moment, in terms of support being provided by the World Bank,” notes Samia Msadek, Director for Operational Services and Quality in the ECA region of the World Bank, “this forum is fundamental in helping to ensure the sustainability of the work we are doing in coordination with our public procurement partners throughout the region.”

" “Bringing procurement professionals together to learn and share best practices with their peers across countries and regions" "

In the decade since then the representatives from Kazakhstan, the Kyrgyz Republic, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan first met to develop a common platform to learn from one another, this has grown into an annual Platform and has spurred the creation of an influential community of practice - spanning more than 20 countries throughout Europe and Central Asia region and beyond. Hundreds of participants - from Albania to South Korea - have benefited from this annual gathering and thousands more have been trained in a variety of public procurement practices. Furthermore, and perhaps more importantly, all of these beneficiaries now have a vibrant community of practice to draw upon when exploring new developments in public procurement.

“We are exploring ways to evolve this annual gathering into a sustainable procurement professional’s network,” says Hiba Tahboub, ECA Regional Procurement Manager.

The interest of international organizations in this event has also grown during the second half of the decade. The first Forum was sponsored only by the World Bank. Now, as the latest forum kicks off on May 27 in Istanbul, six international organizations are cosponsoring the Forum: the Asian development Bank, Islamic Development Bank, SIGMA, European Development and Reconstruction Bank, European Investment Bank, and the World Bank.

“Improving the capacity for public procurement is fundamental to the development of any country,” says Martin Raiser, Country Director for the World Bank in Turkey, “this Forum has transformed into a leading event for procurement specialist around.”

This year now marks the 10th anniversary of this Forum. Perhaps not surprisingly, as this community has grown in number and geographic reach, its breadth and scope has also expanded significantly.

From the certification of more than 1000 public procurement officers in Serbia to the introduction of electronic government procurement in Armenia, the results of the past decade of cooperation among public procurement specialists through this annual forum are palpable.  As the scope of this forum continues to grow and the benefits continue to build on previous successes, all the participants in this community of practice - past, present, and future – can anticipate even more tangible benefits from this Forum as it moves into its second decade of transformational change through regional cooperation.   

“I don’t think the transformative nature of this community of practice among public procurement officers can be overstated,” says Majed M. El-Bayya, Lead Procurement Specialist at the World Bank and coordinator of the event.

“While the size and scope of this initiative have obviously grown,” continues El-Bayya, “bringing procurement professionals together to learn and share best practices with their peers across countries and regions has remained the core mission of the Forum.”