Testing Peer Learning through Relationship Building

Boris Strečanský

In my new role in the European Community Foundation Initiative (ECFI), which has been launched earlier this year, I am thinking about ways, how to organize a space that would encourage and nurture peer learning among CFs or CF Support Organizations (CFSOs).

The peer learning idea is not new, maybe it is as old as mankind, as it is collaboration that made us what we are, as a human species.

It is the idea that people, colleagues with similar or equal work, status and/or practice, can learn from each other (skills, knowledge) when they are actively helping each other or when they are engaged together in common experience and reflect on that experience together.

The “peer” dimension is clear – but what remains to be seen is how to create in practical terms, an environment in which CFs or CFSOs in Europe would have such space available – for working together or experiencing together the same experience – and reflect on that experience.

The practical side of it is obvious – resources, most likely the money that can provide for the travel and other costs needed for such interactions to happen. But as old Jewish saying says – „If the problem can be solved by money, it is not a problem, it is the costs“.

The conceptual side of it is less obvious and it is worth staying with it for a while. What else is needed for peer learning to be effective?

When thinking about this in the context of community foundation family, following dimensions or characteristics of peer learning emerged in my mind:

  • Importance of relationships
  • Embeddedness in practice
  • Conversation and dialogue between theory and praxis
  • Co-creation of learning environment
  • Creatively overcoming the insularity and diversity in European context

Each of them would deserve a separate blog post to dig into, but I leave it for later now. I want to stay just a little at the first one – the importance of relationships.

Learning is a sophisticated form of an interaction and interaction is a relationship.

In the world that is full of interaction and relationship – in the on-line, virtual space – even now we are in one – the physical world interactions are lagging behind. Maybe it is not true to all of us, but the ongoing pervasiveness of the virtual sphere into our lives is a symptom of current times. For that reason, many rightly believe that is it is good to balance that in a physical world, through face-to-face interactions.

Maybe this simple point is behind the recently announced Call for Application for CF2CF Exchanges that has been made recently available through ECFI.

The CF2CF Exchange Program assumes, that learning and relationship building are two sides of a coin and it is hard to separate them. Some testimonies from the past point to the fact, that what remains from investment into the peer learning programs are the long-term relationships that bring their fruits at much later point of time.

The ultimate purpose of any peer learning activities in the ECFI  is to improve the community foundation practice, improve the understanding of various faces of the CF model in Europe and strengthen relationships among different stakeholders involved or interested in development of community-based philanthropy in Europe. I hope this is where my work for ECFI will contribute to.

If you made it here, maybe the information below can be relevant to you –  Call for Applications for CF2CF Exchanges offered by European Community Foundation Initiative (ECFI) is open.  The first deadline for applications is May 31, 2016.

What is the CF2CF Exchange?

CF2CF Exchanges are bilateral, cross-national peer exchanges open to all CFs and CF support organizations (CFSOs), with an emphasis on national associations. The full description of the CF2CF Exchange can be found here

How does it work?

Several people from one organization visit and interact with several people from a CF or CFSO from another country in Europe and use the visit to forge relationships, exchange experience and learn from each other’s practice.

The visit (or, where funds permit, potentially reciprocal or repeated visits) is intended to allow the two CFs or CFSOs to get to know one another better and create a chance for a longer-term relationship or partnership building.  We believe, that it is the relationship that matters. We hope that these exchanges will contribute towards strengthening ties among CFs and CF Support Organizations in Europe and will support peer learning and knowledge transfer.

The typical duration of the CF2CF Exchange is envisaged to be 3-5 days. We encourage applicants to be creative in the design of the program. Low-cost solutions and in-kind or additional financial support from the organizations involved are encouraged. Exchange activities may be proposed to begin from mid June 2016.

The program can offer up to a 5,000 EUR contribution per application. In this year it is expected that the available funding will allow for support of 2-3 CF2CF exchanges. Applicants are encouraged to find other sources of funding or an in-kind way of funding some of the needed costs.

Applications will be assessed by a Selection Committee using these criteria:
·       Coherence of the application, quality of rationale
·       Potential contribution to long-term relationship building
·       Relevance of proposed process (agenda) to the goal of the CF2CF
·       Quality of the proposed process of the CF2CF activities
·       Cost-effectiveness

Interested organizations have to fill in the on-line CF2CF Exchange Application Form.

Please share information on this opportunity with your CF networks, and in case of any questions, do not hesitate to contact me.


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