Learning Communities LO6030

Alan Mossman (100733.3202@compuserve.com)
07 Mar 96 12:58:50 EST

in reply to Learning Communities LO6009

Bill I think you correctly criticise Joe's imperatives for community
learning (LO5962).

For the last 8 months I have been involved in a community planning process
here in my home town. Stroud nestles at the confluence of five valleys at
the SW edge of the Cotswold escarpments in the West of England. Great C18
and C19 woolen mills, most long since converted to other industrial and
office uses, are dotted along the valley bottoms; cottages climb the steep
valley sides to the commons and fields where sheep grazed. Out of town
and edge of town supermarkets and shopping centres have contributed to the
decline in the prosperity of the town centre. National and local planning
policies and the motor car have also contributed.

Last August in an open letter to the town in the local paper I suggested
that there was a way in which we could work together to create the town we
wanted. The alternative was to let that future continue to fall between
the stools of the Town council (which has very very limited powers and
virtually no full time staff) the District Council (responsible for
certain services over an area well beyound the Stroud Valleys) and the
County Council (responsible for other services over an even wider area).

>From the beginning learning has been a central interest of a number of
local management and organisation development people who responded to my
call. The combined talents of these professionals and the other
residents, business people, local officials and elected councillors who
have chosen to get involved has created an exciting and energising set of
proposals - a picture of the way we would like our town to be.

CPC, as the process has become known, is the vehicle on which, the
umbrella under which we choose to travel for the time being. We have not
incorporated - we are not an "organisation" (or even an organization) in
the formal sense of the word. Stroud is the focal system. The system
boundaries vary according to the topic. The retail focus is on the town
centre but industry, economy and jobs draw their boundary around the

As I said in a post yesterday (LO6004) I feel it is difficult for an
organisation which has no PURPOSE to be a learning organisation. VALUES
are important too. Does systematic learning require anything else ?

We have both. In developing them we have learned from the pioneering work
of the US Office of Education (DHEW) in the early 70s on the Charrette
process, from Robert Fritz's work on the creative process, from Future
Search and from Real Time Strategic Change processes. Above all we have
learnt from experience - and on occasions, failed to learn from it.

To date we have designed our own process, gathered the communities wishes
for Stroud (an affinity chart with 5000+ Post-it Notes provided by 3M UK),
had a conference at which 150+ community members clustered the Post-it
Notes and generated a draft picture of the way we would like the town to
be. Over 100 people in 14 groups are now engaged in gathering information
about the way things are now in relation to the draft picture. The next
conference when we begin action planning is in mid-April.

In our view it is important that the local governments which serve the
area are part of our virtual organisation so that we learn together. And
yes of course they will have other purposes which are best served by
learning which may be independent of CPC (e.g. learning about supporting
learning communities so that they can better support groups in other parts
of their constituency, or learning about the provision of a particular

I don't believe that citizens have to be, must be, any particular way.

It certainly helps if they shared values -- we have a group of people
looking at how we might re-establish a basic set of community values;
others are concerned about sustainability and we are learning about
ourselves in relation to the picture we have begun to create of the future
we want.

I do not feel that we need to learn to trust local governments to deliver
local services. Indeed the name we have chosen for our shop in the town
centre is >>up2us>> ! It is - it is up to us as citizens to make our
communities the places we want them to be. Local governments are part of
our communities. So are local businesses.

There is still a lot of distrust of local governments by other community
members and vice versa. Trust takes time to build. More and more people
are getting actively and publicly involved. There are limits of course -
we don't have the generous funding of USOE which enabled them to pay low
income participants; like Bill many people have jobs which take them away
from home or which through _downsizing_ and so on leave them with little
extra energy for weekly meetings and research and thinking in between.
What is critical in my view is that the process is TRANSPARENT so that the
community can see waht is going on and get involved when their interests
are threatenned.

I want what we are doing in Stroud to lead to a reinvigorated town which
will be a joy to live, work, shop and play in and to visit. I want the
process to lead to an easier job for the local governments (that fits with
my experience when I worked for a local government in Greater Manchester
UK) and a more attractive place for businesses to locate so that the whole
creates a virtuous circle.

Do you know anywhere that has happenned or might have happenned ?

If you want to know more about what we have done here in Stroud please
contact me direct.


Alan Mossman				e-mail	100733,3202@compuserve.com
The Change Business Ltd			voice	(+44) 01453 765611
19 Whitehall Stroud GL5 1HA England	fax 	(+44) 01453 752261

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