Learning Communities LO5962

Joe Racine (jracine@csn.net)
Fri, 01 Mar 1996 09:10:22 -0700

In the Fifth Discipline Fieldbook Charlotte Roberts suggests that we
stretch the boundaries of the learning organization to include its
geographic community in which the organization resides. Having been
involved in community strategic planning for many years, I have worked
around the edges of this question. However, trying to frame it only
raises a number of additional questions:

Is a neighborhood or a city an organization in the same sense as a private
company is an organization? Is there a direct parallel between
stimulating and taking advantage of creativity at all levels of an
organization's hierarchy and constructively involving citizens in public
policy formulation?

It seems that learning in a learning community must take place on parallel
tracks, one for the citizens and one for local government. The culture of
the community must be one in which there are genuine opportunities for
public dialogue about community-wide issues, AND citizens must learn to
routinely take advantage of those opportunities. People must learn
factual information about public issues. They must learn the value of
collaboration and respect for the interests of fellow citizens with whom
they disagree. Citizens need to learn that their opinions can make a
difference, and that they can lead to tangible success. They must not
only see such participation as an opportunity, but, rather, as a
responsibility. The National Civic League calls it building "civic
infrastructure." People also need to learn to trust government to carry
out policies. This may be easier to swallow in a culture in which there
has been genuine public participation.

Citizens need to have a clear understanding of community values in order
to adequately assess the "value costs" of policy decisions. Citizens
should explore alternative futures beyond those envisioned through their
limited experiences. They need to learn the concept of sustainability,
the intergenerational effects of their decisions and their responsibility
to use community resources in a way that doesn't jeopardize the future.
Finally, they need to learn about themselves through some sort of
community assessment or system-wide description of the social, economic,
and environmental makeup of their community.

Government needs to learn that command and control policy-making doesn't
work in an era of customer service and heightened consumer expectations
for value, quality, and timeliness. Officials need to expand the notion
of government as legislator, regulator, and service-provider to include
the role of facilitator. (This concept is being promoted actively by the
International City/County Management Association.) Government needs to
learn to accept managed risk, even if it yields short-term political
discomfort and negative headlines.

All of this raises a question that has appeared in the past on this list.
If the people learn, and if the government learns, has the "community"
learned. This implied cultural shift in a democracy raises huge questions
about realistic approaches to nudging a community in the direction of

Any thoughts?


Joe Racine Joseph A. Racine & Associates 2485 West Main Street, Suite 206 Littleton, CO 80120 (303) 795-3199 e-mail: jracine@csn.org

Learning-org -- An Internet Dialog on Learning Organizations For info: <rkarash@karash.com> -or- <http://world.std.com/~lo/>