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?