Friday, December 30, 2011

Board learning: Definitive posts (so far)

An ongoing conversation about how nonprofit boards, and the adults who serve on them, learn is the unique niche of this blog. It's in the blog's name, in my credentials, and increasingly everywhere in the writing here.

In the past year, I've made a more conscious effort to increase the quality and frequency of posts focused on the learning that occurs in nonprofit governance. The result is a growing list of resources - or at least my interpretation - related to board learning in all of its forms.

In this post, I gather links to some of my key writings on the topic, published in 2011. For the reader interested in a general overview, this offers a quick summary of my experiences and biases on board development. For me, it also represents a chance to pause and reflect on an intellectual journey that really has only begun.

The challenge of organizational board learning (6/18/11)

While others preceded it, this post truly launched my focused effort and my commitment to exploring board learning in greater depth this year.  I began to understand just how important it is to facilitate an extended conversation about the learning needs (and responsibilities) of those who govern. The continuing challenge, as a facilitator of that process, is providing the theoretical context for what is shared while keeping it accessible, to not dummy down the discussion (like so many of the resources offered to boards). My goal is to stretch just enough to inspire, but to not chase away those interested in the topic by adopting an overly theoretical approach. Boards are made up of smart people who want to serve and to lead. They don't want to be bored, and they want the tools to succeed. That's why understanding and sharing the essence of board learning is so important.

The 70:20:10 rule of board learning (10/30/11)

I'm not sure why, but this post continues to draw regular, strong readership. Traffic sources suggest it pops up often in general searches regarding the 70:20:10 experiential learning framework - the luck of the draw (and Google) brings readers to the page. But I also suspect that nonprofit readers found it via the usual social media outlets (e.g., Twitter), saw something that resonated or appealed, and began sharing with others. Or they discovered it and saw that it supports or enhances conversations their boards are already having about their development efforts. Whatever the reason, I hope that it ultimately helps to broaden readers' perspectives on how we learn and how our boards learn collectively.

So, what do boards experience? (11/6/11)

This post introduced readers to the broader concept of experiential learning. I took a favorite taxonomy, from a scholar whose work resonates for me, and offered examples of each type of experience from a nonprofit board setting.

Embedded board learning: Part 1 (11/28/11)
Embedded board learning: Part 2 (11/30/11)

The previous posts sparked deep reflection on the myriad ways in which boards learn, whether or not they realized they were doing so. In these two posts, I shared eight comparatively easy ways to build learning into routine governance work. I'm tired of the old complaint, "But we don't have time...," and the assumption that learning only takes place in a formal (preferably classroom-like) setting. Some of of my recommendations will appeal more than others. That's fine. My ultimate goal was to give you some ideas, that didn't require massive amounts of time or labor, and encourage you to do something to more consciously create opportunities for our boards to learn and serve more effectively.

Board learning styles: Applying Kolb's model (4/10/11)

I'd forgotten about this post in this year of "learning" focus, but it definitely deserves to make this list. Because I came to adult learning from outside of education, I've tended to be open to a range of perspectives, especially those that just make good sense. This is one of those frameworks. I've seen how these general learning types interact in groups, particularly in my interactions in and with nonprofit boards. Boards that include convergers, assimilators, divergers and assimilators have the capacity to look at issues from different angles, explore options, not accept easy answers, and ultimately emerge with the right decisions for their organizations.

What does a board know? (2/21/11)

This post introduces the idea that boards carry - and need - many types of knowledge to govern. I borrowed a framework from another discipline and applied it to board work. It helped launch a recurring theme for these posts: that the learning resources available are far more varied - and far more accessible - than those that typically come to mind when we think about board development. More important, many already lie within the board and its individual members.

Andragogy: How adults learn (1/17/11)

This one wasn't the most profound piece I wrote on the topic of board learning this year, but it was an important contribution. It acknowledged the idea that adults learn differently, and in more varied ways. It also introduced andragogy, a foundational notion in adult learning theory.

I admit, creating this post was as much a chance for me to reflect on this topic - and the informal goal that I set for myself as a blogger - as it is to draw these resources into one location for anyone interested in learning more about how boards learn. The journey will continue in 2012, in ways that even I can't predict.

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