Friday, June 6, 2008

How's your Learning Circle?

These days, nonprofit workers are likely to head to Starbucks for their professional development.  Many are choosing "learning circles" rather than sitting through seminars or certificate courses.  Learning circles are the latest incarnation of peer-to-peer education - a slightly more formalized approach to "Let's do lunch."
Learning circles have several appealing qualities.  They are cheap.  Personal time involved is the greatest cost.  They are flexible.  A range of topics can be addressed according to need and the wisdom at the table.  And they provide moral support for leaders and managers when they feel isolated.
There are no strict boundaries for learning circles, but they often involve an agenda, a membership process, and a facilitator.  (See "Turning to their Peers," The Chronicle of Philanthropy, May 29, 2008.)
Having a set goal and timeframe can help a a group get to particular results.  But how much of the value is simply fellowship and exchange of experiences and ideas?  Or an excuse to get out of the office?     

1 comment:

Bob Giloth said...

It's a great idea for nonprofit leaders to take control and define their own education and peer learning. In the 1970s I had the great experience of joining with other neighborhood housing rehabbers to share information on lumber, plumbers, and funding sources. This small network eventually became the Chicago Rehab Network. Of course, a peer learning network can stay just that -- sometimes the bottom up quality of learning is lost when formalized.