2003 An “Affinity” for Learning Communities

Dr. Mary Ellen Fleger’s Foundations as Learning Communities. An incomplete guide for you.

Learning Communities are:

  • A group of people having common interests.
  • Groups of people engaged in intellectual interaction for the purpose of learning.
  • One way to build the commonalities & connections essential to our education and our society.
  • The integration of work and learning creating the capacity to think big.

Components of learning communities:

  • Purpose with goals & objectives
  • Issues & topics to address
  • Affiliated participants
  • Meetings & activities
  • Scholarly process for learning
  • Community connections, partnerships, engagement
  • Assessment/evaluation of activities & projects

Why Learning Communities?

  • Philosophical: they fit into a changing philosophy of knowledge.
  • Research based: fit with research that tells us about learning.
  • Pragmatic: learning communities work. They allow you to continue a collective learning process across many organizations.

New thinking/Learning Communities:

  • Focus on community changes.
  • Imagine the difference if the starting point for foundations was not what they do best or like best, but what the community needs most.
  • Learning communities provide people the time and opportunity for interaction and talk about ideas, one’s work, and the larger community.

The Southern Oregon Grant makers Affinity Group as a learning community:

  • Each organization will see how universal their deepest problems are.
  • Inevitable setbacks and crisis occur for everyone and you can help the community from derailing.
  • When facing challenges of profound change, there is no substitute for collaboration: people coming together out of common purpose, willing to support one another, so an entire community benefits.

New opportunity for Foundations:

Fix it approach

  • Focus on correction & analysis of problems
  • Little margin of error
  • Focus on what’s wrong
  • Problems stronger that vision of collaboration

Create it approach:

  • Create something new that we want
  • Expect error, tolerance for chaos
  • Focus on what we want to accomplish
  • Vision stronger than problems

New paradigm for Foundations:

  • Takes you from fragmentation to integration
  • Creates community networks
  • All members are tied together in some fashion
  • Decisions are made by the network in concert with the community
  • This seamless giving community will bring economies of scale, greater efficiency, and reduced duplication

Fixing financial incentives:

  • When financial incentives change, behavior changes
  • A shift in incentives translates into concrete decisions & actions

Who’s in charge?

  • Community accountability is most elusive, but is an important characteristic of a learning community.
  • If it’s best to close some services/agencies, merge others, or reduce certain ones, then the members must do that.
  • A learning community is accountable to the broader geographic community.
  • Consumer satisfaction is one criteria by which you will be judged.