Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Learning theory to governance practice: Learning in everyday (board) activity


"Daily" (routine) interactions between offer powerful, practice-based learning experiences for adults in any setting - including nonprofit boards.

Sociocultural perspectives certainly informed my thinking about embedded learning in a nonprofit board setting (and offered a frame for the book chapter that emerged from this work). One of the reasons I was drawn to them was the practice focus: their attention is, as the quote above says, on the routine activities where work is done and learning ultimately takes place. (That's very much reminiscent of the "70" of the 70:20:10 framework of adult learning.)

The other major reason that a sociocultural approach appealed to me is the value offered when considering a mission-rich environment inherent in a nonprofit setting. That would include a nonprofit boardroom (and, indeed, was clearly evident in my case study data).


I can make obvious ties to the data in my study on this one: most notably, the way in which questioning was welcomed in board meetings and the central role that mission played in discussions surrounding those questions. They were part of the routine of this board (the "ordinary" part).

More broadly, as I read this quote again, I feel a renewed need to call for more open environments - open spaces - for conducting board work. That kind of atmosphere that I witnessed in my research created different, richer opportunities to learn in governance activity than more highly-structured agendas. Board members need time to think, ask questions, consider different answers to those questions, and infuse mission into their eventual collective responses.

They need authentic, meaningful, mission-focused work from which to govern

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