Learning Communities

Learning communities provide a space and a structure for people to align around a shared goal. Effective communities are both aspirational and practical. They connect people, organizations, and systems that are eager to learn and work across boundaries, all the while holding members accountable to a common agenda, metrics, and outcomes. These communities enable participants to share results and learn from each other, thereby improving their ability to achieve rapid yet significant progress.

There are large, well-researched bodies of knowledge about learning communities, communities of practice and purpose, and collective impact. At the Center, we draw from that expert knowledge and apply it to our innovation approach. We see learning communities as critical components for building distributed leadership and scaling promising practices by connecting organizations, agencies, and philanthropies who both share the community’s goal and have the capability to operate at scale. The features of learning communities most relevant to our work are described below.

What does a learning community do?

Jessica Sager, Co-Founder and Executive Director of All Our Kin, shares the benefits of participating in FOI and its learning community.

      • It connects people. Learning communities convene change agents across sectors, disciplines, and geographies to connect, share ideas and results, and learn from each other. Communities may work together in-person and virtually.
      • It sets goals and measures collective progress. These communities align participants around common goals, metrics (ways of measuring achievement), theories of change, and areas of practice.
      • It enables shared learning. Communities share learning from both successful and unsuccessful experiences to deepen collective knowledge.
      • It supports distributed leadership. The scope of a learning community allows it to offer a wide range of leadership roles and skill-building opportunities.
      • It accelerates progress toward impact at scale. These communities facilitate fast-cycle learning, measure results to understand what works for whom, and bring together the key stakeholders who can achieve systems-level change.

The Center is part of a team that supports a dynamic learning community of Saving Brains innovators to help them advance the impact and scale of their work in countries around the world.

Why are learning communities important?

Achieving widespread change in the early childhood field requires tackling an interrelated set of complex social problems. To solve these problems, the field needs a strong community of learning and practice that will work to identify multiple intervention strategies for different groups of children and families. Rather than replicate “successful” programs in different contexts — where they may or may not achieve the same results — learning communities share results and metrics to figure out what works best for whom and why.  This approach provides a highly targeted and effective way to achieve impact at scale.

View Learning Communities in Action

View Related Key Concepts
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