How Can We Learn in Public? | Beth's Blog

How Can We Learn in Public?

Guest Post

Note from Beth: I’m hosting a small army of guest bloggers, grantmakers, who are attending the  GeoFunders National Conference taking place this week in Seattle.   The GEO community is united by a common drive to challenge the norm in pursuit of better results. GEO’s 2012 National Conference  shares a range of perspectives and new ideas for smarter grantmaking that leads to better results and presents opportunities for participants to learn from the wisdom and experience of their peers.     If you’re not attending and curious what funders are learning,  you’ll have an opportunity to read some of the ideas and questions being discussed right here on this blog.

Gail’s question at the end of this post made stop and think.    Keeping people engaged in learning along the way happens when people discover that it is the learning that is exciting part!

How Can We Learn in Public? – Guest post by Gale Berkowitz

Yesterday I attended the GEO session Learning in Public. The topic intrigued me, but I must confess that I was also drawn to the session because Beth Kanter was facilitating it. Speaking of learning in public, with Beth at the helm, I knew I would learn something about engaging audiences, and I am always on the hunt for better ways of connecting to the audience. She did not disappoint!

The session started out with a group exercise, a living spectrogram.  Here’s how it works:  A statement is read.  The audience decides if they agree, disagree, or are neutral.  The first question was easy:  “I like chocolate.”  YES!  But the next question was not so easy:  “When it comes to evaluation and strategy development, there’s no such thing as “too transparent.” I agree and I don’t agree, but I am certainly not neutral.  While I lead Evaluation and Learning at The MasterCard Foundation, part of my job is to help us be transparent about what we are learning.  Among the many things I like about our Foundation, one of them is that we are working with all of our partners to build monitoring, evaluation and learning in from the start of each project.  By doing so we have a better chance of getting the important learning questions right from the start and build the information systems early on so that we have a better chance of answering those important questions when the time comes. We are doing our best to learn in public and in collaboration with our partners.

All that probably sounds pretty good.  But like the session presenters discovered, not everyone cares about data equally, particularly in terms of how it is produced.  But like the session presenters, people are much more interested in the results.  They don’t just appear, and it often takes awhile (years) to get results.  The challenge may be to find ways to keep everyone engaged in the learning along the way.  Maybe I should ask Beth for some ideas about this?

Gale Berkowitz

Gale Berkowitz, Director, Evaluation and Learning, The MasterCard Foundation. For the past 10 years, Gale has lead evaluation and learning within foundations.

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