Danger of death (Lars Plougmann/flickr.com)

How do we learn from the network?

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

When our organization’s hierarchy prohibits direct contact with the field, indirect and informal contact becomes more important than ever. Global and regional meetings, bilateral programmes, and various kinds of informal events provide opportunities for staying in touch. In fact, decentralization raises the stakes of informal and incidental learning – activities “flying under the radar” of decentralization’s hierarchical relationships may become the primary mode for learning about, with and for the field. How do we overcome barriers to learning from the network? First, when we reframe new ideas and possibilities, we ask how this aligns with the current characteristics of the nodes in the network (“the membership”). Second, we need to leverage continual learning to innovate, recombining and inventing new solutions (knowledge brokering). Third, we need to consider indicators other than the volume of programming, and consider how we can scale up quality. Photo: Danger of death (Lars Plougmann/flickr.com)

Crop Circle - Waylands Smithy (Ian Burt/flickr.com)

Decentralization done wrong

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Leave the global functions to headquarters, and shift responsibility for the field to those who are actually there (or close by). It sounds perfectly sensible. And, in fact, it is an approach to decentralization adopted by some organizations. What are its implications for learning strategy? At the most obvious level, decentralization for those of us who work at the global – and, to a lesser extent, regional – level has reduced direct contact with the network. We often experience this as a constraint, limiting our ability to stay current with what is happening in the network to ensure that our work is closely aligned to the mission. We duly note that privileged relationships with donors have been preserved at the global level, despite decentralization. We observe mostly negative consequences of decentralization, even though in principle it should be the best support to take into account differences from one geographic region to another. In the organization’s culture of …

The hub upon which all things turn (Nic McPhee/flickr.com)

The hub in a network

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

We sit at the hub of a distributed network. In the past, only some organizations sought to organize as networks – those that had to bring together, federate or otherwise affiliate disparate groups characterized by diversity. Today, an organization that does not distribute its functions is unlikely to leverage its network. Learning strategy therefore carefully considers how to decentralize the means while sharpening the aim. We explore the tension between the consequences and risks of decentralization and the benefits of learning in the network. We share a collective vision and commitment to building the capacity of our network and leveraging our organization’s connectedness to improve. How well we execute on that commitment is measured by mission performance. We are empowered as connectors in the network: from members to the hub, from the hub to the members, and members to each other. What is changing about the collective vision we share? What needs to change? How …