Friday, April 13, 2007

On the Right Track – Perhaps!

It won’t go down as my greatest speaking performance ever, but a recent opportunity to share some of my research on board learning at the UW Graduate Student Symposium provided a bit of a rush nonetheless.

The reason: a warm reception to the ideas behind the research I was describing – and the dissertation research on nonprofit board learning that lies along the horizon.

My talk described qualitative research conducted last summer, a case study focusing on nonprofit board meetings as learning events. A local board welcomed me into its fold for a brief ("brief" for qualitative research) exploration of a strong, diligent governing body learning in action. What I found, in a very short period of time, was quite intriguing and exciting. (I’ll save the themes that emerged for a future entry.)

The Q&A that followed included multiple expressions of support for the foundational idea: that board learning is far more comprehensive, and far richer, than the out-of-context training events that most of us summon in our minds. Audience comments also encouraged me to continue to explore practical ways to communicate whatever I learn in the research process, to benefit nonprofit boards.

Among the possibilities I’m envisioning: print, electronic and in-person sharing of key ideas, including recommendations for how to use that information; new strategies for recruiting board members; different frameworks for defining board member responsibilities and assessing individual and group performance; recommendations for enhancing formal experiences like training events and retreats; development of resources for nonprofit boards interested in learning; and, ultimately, a comprehensive board development model.

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