Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Building nonprofit board learning environments: A few foundational questions


What questions will best drive inquiry that will lead to new thinking about nonprofit board development? What do I need to be asking - of myself and others - to successfully create a vision of environments for board learning and leadership? 

As I commit to the theme chosen for this blog in 2015, I move forward with a few questions driving my focus and thinking. Some have been burning for years. Others are emerging as I explore the role of personal learning environments and performance support in adult learning. Together, they offer an exciting base that I hope will inform thinking, spark conversation and - ideally - transform board development practice.

Today, I share some of the most compelling questions as I prepare for what comes next.

  • What do board members really need to know, do, apply, etc., to govern effectively?
  • What capacities do our board chairpersons and committee chairpersons need to lead effectively?
  • What ongoing learning needs do new members have as they move toward full participation?
  • What are some of the most common learning and information needs that emerge while engaged in the work of governance (i.e., learning in a time of need)?
  • How can we make that information as accessible - and close to the work - as possible?
  • How do our board members define their learning needs? When do they tend to identify them as learning needs?
  • What motivates board members to seek out information/support for their learning needs?
  • What types of performance support do our board members use in other areas of their lives? With what formats and processes are they already comfortable, and how might we incorporate them in a board setting?
  • What types of coaching, from whom, could be offered to board leaders while on the job?
  • What needs to be done to make formal learning experiences (e.g., orientations and formal training events) as effective as possible?
  • What types of post-event support do board members need to ensure that they have the best opportunities possible to incorporate what they learn into their governance practice?
  • What new resources - or forms of resources - are needed to support board learning and performance? How do we make them as accessible as possible to as many boards as possible?

I doubt I'll come away from 2015 with definitive answers to even these "foundational" questions. They're really the stuff of a lifetime of inquiry. If I can spark conversation - and maybe a little action - on a handful of them, it will be a great year.

NOTE: As I advance the "Building Environments for Board Learning and Leadership" theme, I'll be creating sets of resources for readers who are interested in exploring the topic on their own. One is a new Pinterest board, devoted to posts that address this theme. A set of bookmarks also will continue to grow with the series. At the moment, those resource lists are predictably small, but they will expand over time. For more general resources on both learning environments and performance support, visit my Pinterest board dedicated to those topics.

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