Some of the best collaborative learning experiences in any association or nonprofit can happen informally through volunteer experiences on committees and task forces. Learning belongs on your agenda along with the business of dialoguing, deciding and doing.
Formal learning takes place through leadership development programs, board orientation and officer training. Informal learning can happen through the new ideas and information flowing through our work and as brief “teaching moments” about our culture and practices routinely built into meeting agendas.
When our committees or task forces are charged with analyzing and deciding a critical issue, we can be intentional about using critical thinking processes and tools to be more effective. We could be disciplined about answering certain strategic questions or checking particular perspectives.
When we falter in our ability to communicate or get a project done, we can use action learning practices to reflect on and improve our group interaction and effectiveness.
At the end of each significant meeting, we can evaluate how well we accomplished our objectives and agree on how to be more effective next time.
When we set our goals and plan of work, we can explicitly declare what we want to learn individually and collectively. This should be as important to us as what we want our committees and task forces to achieve. The higher the level of accountability a group has the more open and willing its members should be to coaching and holding each other accountable for the success of the organization.
Instead of seeking volunteers who already have relevant experience and knowledge, we might be wiser to seek volunteers who are excited about learning how to do something bold together. Know-how is not hard to find when we start with leaning to work collaboratively.