JEFFERSON E FUNDERS FORUM as a Learning Community
In 2003, Dr. Mary Ellen Fleeger, Trustee of the Carpenter Foundation, offered her perspective and experience on Learning Communities as a methodology or practice:
1. 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.
2. Components of Learning Communities:
- Purpose with goals and objectives
- Issues & topics to address
- Affiliated participants
- Meetings and activities
- Scholarly process for learning
- Community connections, partnerships and engagement
- Assessment/evaluation of activities & projects
3. 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.
4. New Thinking and 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.
5. The Jefferson e Funders Forum as a learning community offers the opportunity to notice and learn that ….
- 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.
6. The Learning Community Approach offers a New Opportunity for Foundations: To Move From Fix It Approach to Create It Approach
- Fix It Approach
a. Focus on correction & analysis of problems
b. Little margin of error
c. Focus on what’s wrong
d. Problems stronger than vision of collaboration
- Create It Approach
a. Create something new that we want
b. Expect error, tolerance for chaos
c. Focus on what we want to accomplish
d. Vision stronger than problems
7. A Potential New Paradigm for Foundations Now:
- Moving from fragmentation to integration
- Creating community networks
- Understanding that all members are tied together in some fashion
- Facilitating decisions by the network in concert with the community
- Creating a seamless giving community will bring economies of scale, greater efficiency, and reduced duplication.
8. Fixing Financial Incentives:
- When financial incentives change, behavior changes
- A shift in incentives translates into concrete decisions & actions.
9. 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