Invest in the Field

One of the potential benefits of working in a network is the capacity to learn together quicker. Harold Jarche calls this “social learning” – the idea that learning and work happen as interconnected groups (e.g., networks.) In times of rapid change, we need information and feedback about innovations and what works and doesn’t to flow easily and quickly. When many people are connected together in bigger networks, the potential for this learning  and sharing amplifies. For this to work, it takes people adopting an ethic of sharing their learning, essentially investing in the field.

I see writing a blog and sharing what I am doing in my work and learning as embodying the ethic of investing in the field. I use Twitter and Linked In to share when I write a new blog and to pass along links to other articles or resources I find valuable. In addition, I am a member of two list servs of facilitators, which I have found to be a great resource. In sum, I invest some time to share what I am learning, in a way that benefits the field, and I receive value learning when other people doing similar work who share share what they are learning. Essentially I benefit from their investment in the field.

Last December, I wrote a blog that shared in detail the design and process I used to offer a keynote speech and a World Café in a community to raise awareness of collective impact and offer an experience of this type of collaboration. I shared a link to the story on the Art of Hosting list serv, which goes out to people all over the world. Soon after, I received an email that said “Thank you!” from a woman in Canada who I have never met:

I don’t know you but I am sooo grateful for your post in the latest AOH Digest!

I’ve have been working in similar endeavours as yourself, though not as extensively, perhaps. Recently I’ve been “lead” to help collective impact happen in my community. I’ve been contemplating and cogitating and “sleeping on” the design of a first gathering. I’d gotten to a point then got stuck.

Restless, I opened the latest AOH Digest and voila! there you were with this piece! Thank you for the confirmation of the intuitive direction and design that was emerging in my mind and heart and the very practical ideas contained in how you did things.

May you continue to have success with your work. I hope I can too, with the impetus you’ve given me.

It felt good to know that the time I invested in design of that event and writing the blog about it generated additional value out in the world. I resonated with her feeling of gratitude, thinking of times when I came upon information on line that complements and inspires my thinking. One of my more grateful moments is when I encounter an error message working on my computer, I click over to Google and type in the error code and up pops an answer step by step. Someone who encountered that problem before me, took the time to figure it out, and then invested in the field to share the steps to solve it.

As we consider how to “amplify our impact” and “scale what works,” this ethic and regular practice of investing in the field by sharing our learning is a simple contribution we each can make. As the former CEO of Hewlett Packard once said “If we knew what HP knows, we would be three times more powerful.”

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