Learning Weavers

Learning Weavers

What are learning weavers? Why does your network need them?

I’ve often thought that we need to spend much more time and energy making sense of and learning from what we are doing. Along with that, think how much our networks could benefit if they could share the many great ideas and practices that are generated in collaborative projects and help others use those ideas and practices in their efforts.

But it just isn’t happening to the extent that is needed. So what are we missing? What needs to happen to help capture learning and spread it around?

Last week we came up with an idea: can we explicitly build a pool of people who are assigned to network and project sessions and whose job it is to capture the essence of the session and any new ideas or practices that emerge. We could call them learning weavers.

After the session they might snip short videos from session (of course asking permission of the person speaking) where someone is sharing something important and/or innovative and share them with some annotation on the network’s email list or newsletter.  They also might write a blog post sharing a particularly interesting approach with the rest of the network. For example, a slide or two used during the session might offer a useful visualization of something that the rest of the network could benefit from. The group might have used an interesting survey, or implemented an activity that could be used in other settings.

For training sessions that would be of interest to many in the network, learning weavers could annotate the resultant video, noting who was saying what at different points in the agenda. (Youtube has a simple way to create something like a table of contents that can take people directly to a specific part of the video.)

They also might periodically interview working groups or project coordinators, or members of a network circle such as communications, to find out what they have been learning and then share with the network.  

These learning nuggets could be productized – turned into a module and offered free or for sale in a network store (see our Resources tab on this site for an example of such a store).  

What skills would such a person need?

They would definitely need excellent writing skills, a knack for analysis, some video editing skills and maybe some graphics experience.

How much would it cost for a learning weaver pool?

I estimate that you could find excellent weavers for $50-100/hour.  Your network might start with a pilot project, bringing on a group of 2 or 3 learning weavers and using them for selected sessions where you know innovation is likely to happen. You might need to invest in their learning about networks so they know what to look for, and it would be good for the group to come together after a month or two of work and analyze how it went and what needs to be changed. Such a pilot might cost only a few thousand dollars.

Seems like a small price to pay to be able to capture and share all the innovation and learning that is happening in our networks.  I’d be glad to work with anyone to help set something like this up!

Please comment below and let me know what you think of this idea.

10 thoughts on “Learning Weavers

  1. I love the title and concept of a learning weaver! I’m a big believer that in the work of social problemsolving, we need to be sending more time learning and socializing the “ground truth” among our teams, collaborators, networks. I also think that part of this is about pulling apart the data and our interpretations and insights about the data. I’m also mindful that this approach privileges particular interpreters. This is an issue that I think about a lot in my own work on research and evaluation. I wonder if there is an opportunity to integrate some of the work of Emergent Learning into this approach? (http://www.4qpartners.com/4qp-el-platform.html)

    1. I encourage everyone to check out Alison’s site on Emergent Learning. Excellent tips here.

      1. Thanks Juneholley. Just to clarify, the site I linked to isn’t my organization. But I was fortunate to work with and learn from the team at 4QP years ago.

  2. Sounds like the ‘Celebration’ stage of Dragon Dreaming.
    I relish the concept of taking on a separate role for this; splits the facilitator’s job up to more manageable pieces. Perhaps it’s a role that could arise through intrapreneurship.

  3. Nice post!

    This reminds me of Etienne and Beverly Wenger-Trayner’s concept of “Leadership groups for social learning” – see https://wenger-trayner.com/resources/leadership-groups-for-social-learning/
    Quote: “The practice goes like this: everyone at a meeting belongs to a leadership group – and each group stewards one part of the learning process of the whole group. In this way leadership of the community meeting is distributed over the entire event. Leadership here is seen as an act of service, that is, not leadership in terms of telling others what to do, but helping the group develop itself as a learning partnership.”

    While the authors here aren’t specifically talking about networks per se, it seems to me that their idea of assigning various roles to people in order to maximise the social learning capability of the entire group could be made fractal, and be spread throughout an entire network… Maybe some readers of this blog have already given this a try?

  4. Indeed, learning is a crucial, yet seldomly operationalized, part of Network Weaving. Much of what we are learning during our network weaving activities, can be characterized as tacit knowledge and skills. How could we go from tacit to explicit?
    Creating a “Learning Weaver” role may contribute substantially in going from tacit to explicit. Some thoughts and suggestions to take this further:
    • Much of our learning is not about what we achieved, but about how we did it. So it might help the new Learning Weavers if all people in the network were made aware that learning outcomes of their network activities are equally important as the actual outcomes. For example, consider a network that aims at reducing income inequality. Of course, actual outcomes like a decreasing number of people living in poverty are important. The point is that learning outcomes, e.g. about how we achieved reduced poverty, what went well and what went wrong, are equally important.
    • I think it would be wise to prevent the Learning Weavers from becoming journalists/reporters. Stressing writing skills and video editing skills might give people the expectation that it’s about reporting. I think Learning Weavers should primarily have knowledge about how people learn.
    • I also think that a lot of learning takes place by observing Network Weaver role models. We should not feed the idea that “the learning is covered by specialized Learning Weavers”, otherwise people could stop copying behaviour from role models.

  5. What a great idea, June! Amen! I would only add that this is a function needed throughout society, much like project managers, facilitators, accountants, etc. It would serve the collective intelligence of groups, networks, organizations, communities, societies, and regional and global institutions. I’ll also note that it is a function that could be made known (and offered as an opportunity) to appropriate volunteers and interns, at least in the nonprofit/civic sector(s). I’m so glad to have this essay to refer people to!

  6. This is an excellent idea. I have worked for organizations who require individuals to report on learning experiences (conferences, etc.) in various ways (staff meetings, etc.), but this would make it more intentional. It might also extend the learning “moment” and increase stick of the learning and perhaps influence use and implementation of the new knowledge into practice.

  7. Interesting idea for Learning Weavers. To the skills I might add content knowledge (although a fresh perspective might be helpful) and knowledge of adult learning theory.

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