Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Setting up online learning communities is just like learning to skate inline

This year 2011 the digital energy within the ICCO Alliance has been mostly dedicated to the setup and give life to the Learning Communities (LC’s). Several LC now have been formed around the themes the Alliance is working on together with its partners in a large number of programmes. And yes, it was confirmed again: people sometimes believe online facilitation simply happens, that it is something like breathing that everyone can do automatically. But fast skating inline down a frozen canal is a better metaphor. To skate inline you need first to learn to walk, then to skate and then skate well and finally to skate with other people. And like skating, online facilitation is best learnt with and from other people by doing it. However you always need the right weather and ice conditions to skate. Anyhow many colleagues within the Alliance have really put lots of energy and creativity in the setup and animation of their community. Need assessments have taken place, as well as discussions during face to face meetings about how to continue to deepen ideas and share experiences while working around the world. The LC’s Private Sector Cooperation, Basic Health and HIV and Food and Nutrition Security definitely have ‘taken off’.

Lately we have been talking with a quite a number of the facilitators, which was a really motivating and inspiring round of conversations. The feedback they gave us showed that most are struggling with ‘what’ and ‘how’ they need to do to energise the communities, help them become vivid and interesting for the members. The idea now is to develop, together with all facilitators, ways of working with their communities that really aim at usefulness for all members. As it is in our DNA, we’ll be practice what we preach and have started already to discuss these issues online in the ‘facilitators’ learning community’ and we’ll deepen this conversations in a couple of online sessions which will be held beginning of 2012.
Something which is hindering the facilitators is what is perceived as a lack of clarity about the importance the organisation is giving to learning activities. And indeed what seems to emerge in the conversations we had lately is that a shared view about what the learning within the Alliance means and should be, is not really clear yet in spite of several attempts to come to agreements between the directly involved departments and among management. Perhaps this is also due to the fact that ‘learning’ is not the right word for what the organisation wants and needs. Learning has a scholarly connotation, something you have to do on top of your work. Would it be better to talk about ‘innovation’ instead? That would be much more in line with the outcome of the Challenge 2020 discussions recently held within the Alliance where a clear preference and even strong need for innovation was agreed upon.

Looking back over all activity from past year it is good to see quite a number of ICCO Alliance colleagues fast skating inline with their learning community be it not yet so fast. This is promising for next year and motivates us very much to keep on supporting all users of the digital tools within the ICCO Alliance and their partners.

We wish all of you a very merry Christmas and all the best for next year.

Pier and Maarten

1 comment:

Rob Witte said...

Why this doubt about learning. I thought that the new PMEL paper of ICCO rightly includes learning in the cycle of planning monitoring evaluating learning back to planning. Learning can happen by design, by policy or as an accident, but the cycle's feed-back to policies and planning should be closed. See e.g. the learning cycle e.g. on