Supporting Learning Communities for Innovation and Impact

Learn and Let Learn: Supporting Learning Communities for Innovation and Impact

Even nonprofits that work on common issues and face similar challenges often work in relative isolation from one another. Learning communities have demonstrated potential to amplify grant-maker and nonprofit efforts and transform the fields in which they work.

Strategic support from grantmakers can significantly expand the impact of nonprofit organizations through providing opportunities to develop and share knowledge in a community of peers.

Between 2010 and 2013, Effective Organizations — a coalition of more than 3,000 members representing over 400 grantmaking organizations — partnered with RCLA to study learning communities as a vehicle to support grantee learning. 

The Program

Through six case studies, this research provided insights into different types of learning communities, their common challenges, and their role in helping scale effective practices.

This research found that learning communities:

  • Yield opportunities for transformative learning for participants and the broader field.
  • Require intentionality in design and execution.
  • Resources and buy-in from participants to best tap the collective wisdom of stakeholders.
  • Serve as an effective grantmaking strategy to scale social impact. (Since learning communities generate increased social capital and a sense of connectedness, participants are willing to leverage their resources, networks and relationships in collaboration with one another.)
  • Amplify effectiveness, regardless of the approach to grantmaking. (The emergent and peer-driven elements of learning communities help to make them dynamic platforms for connecting learning to action.)

The final report,“Learn and Let Learn: Supporting Learning Communities for Innovation and Impact” presents six case studies and the key takeaways for designing learning communities, establishing a structure allowing for evolution, and recognizing and communicating multiple kinds of success.