Generating ideas, connections, and action

Creating Space III Evaluation Summary

We would like to thank you all for your thoughtful remarks and reflections about Creating Space III. We are deeply committed to facilitating exchanges that leverage learning, shift our understanding and generate knowledge that will strengthen our practice of leadership development. Approaches to collective learning that can generate practical wisdom are relatively new and require risks and experimentation. We are learning from your comments about the balance between large and small group learning, peer learning and expertise, structure and open space and product and process. Please read below comments from participants, learning themes, and concrete lessons for next year.

What we are learning from participants about national meetings:

The self-organizing capacity and value of connecting a diverse group around learning within a field.

Participants at Creating Space III Sample comments: "wonderful to be with like-minded people who work in the field; I met people who were willing to challenge my assumptions; renewed friendships and exchanged ideas; new connections, good support, wisdom shared; beneficial to be in a community that isn't my normal work; near opening time would like to learn more about interests and values of participants; use the web so that organizations being represented could be researched ahead of time; like open space with less structure."

Lessons: The feedback affirmed the tremendous value of bringing together a diverse community of participants who represent a breadth of experience in leadership development models, and who also bring the specific expertise and perspectives of funders, scholars and service providers. It is also important to provide unstructured time for building relationships that facilitate learning.

Learning Circles facilitate peer learning through small group work.

Sample Comments: "Give more time to the breakout groups and run fewer simultaneously; continue pre-identified circle sessions next year; liked small group time and conversation; liked smaller group learning in circles that provided more intimate connection; loved the circle breakout topics - more would be good. Create more time to work together in small groups. We don't seem to have much time to share the work we do or get to know each other."

Lessons: There is value in being exposed to new models, new ideas and the results of research through learning circle sessions. The dynamic of small group work in the circles facilitates learning.

Expertise can catalyze learning.

Emerging Questions from the World Cafe Sample Comments: "Really appreciated having Meg W. here - a gift of an opportunity. Have well-known leader in our field share comments with us; important to have Meg - or another speaker who can provoke good group conversation; liked the World Café - preceded by a topic on leadership that will generate thinking; anytime we can experience someone whose ideas challenge us to think differently, I believe we all benefit; liked the balance of small group peer knowledge as well as expert knowledge."

Lesson: There is clear benefit to tapping the expertise of those who are innovating and thinking about new approaches to leadership development. They serve as learning catalysts for peer exchange within the community.

Community Building and Balancing Process with Product/Substance

Sample Comments: "too much group dynamics/process work for a group that will always be changing--too forced; I am still sitting with some discomfort around the emotional aspect of the work. I think there may be some important learning for me there; Renewed spirit and sense of direction. Not enough substance on Wednesday; too many contrived reflective moments; I could tell by the body language that some people are not comfortable with 'touchy feely' elements but feel like they have to go along. How does this diversity get acknowledged?"

Lessons: The comments on community and process ranged from profound connection to contrived relationship. The tension of attending to process while anchoring the learning around common purpose is one that often shows up in the cohort experience of leadership development programs. Leadership development programs also struggle with issues of how to build relationships of trust and openness that will facilitate sharing, and deep learning. Being the leadership we want to see in the world implies new ways of relating and behaving that fully express our values. This is an important conversation in the field of leadership development. We believe our learning about what did and did not work will have value for the entire community. We will be posting a bulletin board to solicit lessons from your experience, e.g., within the design of your program how do you facilitate the development of relationships; what are your expectations of the level of interaction and community among participants; and what are you learning?

Zachary Green shares his expertiseAlso to facilitate this learning, Dr. Kathy Allen and Dr. Zachary Gabriel Green have agreed to extract from this experience and other theoretical work a piece on principles of learning communities. Upon completion this will be posted on the LLC website.

Implications for the LLC National Meeting in 2003 (Creating Space IV)

Facilitating Community Introductions: To benefit fully from our rich community we will integrate some of the great suggestions about advance use of the website to help members learn about each other's work, on-site poster sessions and displays, and a respect for the importance of open time and space for networking and exchange.

Peer Learning and Expertise: We will continue to provide opportunities for small group interaction in Learning Circle presentations that disseminate emerging practical wisdom and engage deeper learning. We will also draw on the expertise of those on the front lines of innovation and leadership scholarship to catalyze our peer learning.

Integrating Process and Substance with a strong focus on Purpose: There were many good ideas about connecting the ongoing learning circle work on themes and in the regions to circle presentations at the national meetings. This will allow relationships and community to deepen and develop over time in the context of our ongoing work.

Continuous Learning: We appreciate the importance of naming and learning from the creative tensions that emerge around large group and small group work; peer learning and expertise; structure and open space; and product and process. We are committed to engaging the community and openly sharing the lessons from our experiences.