Centre for Employment Innovation’s Key Learnings (2017 – 2022)

Collaborative Learning

Collaborative Learning
What is Collaborative Learning?
  • Collaborative learning spaces are intentionally designed to build and strengthen relationships amongst its participants. 
  • Collaborative learning spaces facilitate the sharing of knowledge, best practices, opinions, and ideas.
  • Collaborative learning spaces provide space and a structure for people to align around a shared goal.
  • Examples of learning spaces include social innovation labs as well as communities of practice, learning, and healing as they are a way for organizations to increase their productivity through the sharing of knowledge and best practices.
    What are the goals of Collaborative Learning Spaces?
    • Person-centered 
    • Relational
    • Relevant and responsive 
    • Action-oriented 
    • Inspire innovation and support the development of new policy and practice. 
    • Co-created by all CL members 
    • Prioritizing the insights, experiences, and expertise of the members.  
    • Leveraging external supports were identified by the group. 
        What are Social Innovation Labs (SILs)?
        • SILs create the ‘container’ for diverse stakeholders to come together to share knowledge, redefine complex challenges, identify opportunities and co-develop and test a range of creative solutions.  
        • The ongoing approach of SIL’s can be used to address a multitude of BIG questions, but requires a strong foundation of collaboration, first-person perspective, an openness to ideas, and testing of multiple solutions. Through this process, organizations and individuals develop adaptive change strategies that can better prepare communities to address future challenges and opportunities, while simultaneously deepening relationships and building their own capacity. 
        • Social Innovation Labs are one approach to problem-solving and can be very useful when it comes to complex issues (i.e. issues that require us to look at the whole picture, from different perspectives). 

        For more information on Social Innovation Labs and the work of the Centre for Employment Innovation in this space, check out this report. 

        What are Communities of Learning (CoL)?
        • Communities of Learning are spaces where individuals, who are connected by a specific project, initiative, or activity, gather to connect, learn, share, and discuss topics that are relevant to their role within the project or activity. 
        • An important feature of the CoL is intentional sharing of emerging and exemplary practices, project learnings and in some cases, resources, as well as personal reflections on leadership through this program.  
        • There may be multiple Communities of Learning within a project/initiative for different roles and scopes of engagement. For example, partners who are involved in implementing a project may have their own CoL to share their approaches, challenges, and collaborate to strengthen the initiative. Individuals who are participating and involved in the initiative may have their own COL to focus on topics relevant to the initiative.
        • The agendas and learnings are co-created and are often quite rich and grounded in people’s personal experiences and insight.
        • CoLs create the space where people organize and mobilize, supporting purposeful actions that deliver tangible results. 
          What are Communities of Practice (CoP)?
          • Communities of practice (CoPs) are transformative spaces where individuals, who may share common practices interests, and/or visions, gather to learn, share, and discuss a particular topic. The learnings are co-created and often quite rich and grounded in people’s personal experiences and insights, and evidence. 
          • CoP is a term that is meant to represent any form of community group that is intentionally gathered to engage with a particular topic.
          • CoP involves groups of people interacting regularly to discuss a shared concern or passion with the goal of making improvements in this area.
          • Although COPs may start with a few folks stewarding the spaces, the goal is for all members to take ownership of the COP spaces. 

            For information on communities of practice specifically for youth, check out this blog post on Youth-Focused Community of Practice (YF-CoP) that was created by Templeton Sawyer, Employment Support Practitioner at Teamwork Cooperative and Joel Murphy, CEI Impact and Innovation Coordinator. 

            What is the difference between Communities of Learning (CoL) and Communities of Practice (CoP)?
            Community of Learning (CoL)  Community of Practice (CoP) 
            CoL create an environment for sharing experiences, providing insights, and reflections on experiences with program implementation and administration, and creating relationships that foster future joint, shared, or cooperative initiatives. 

            CoP are often more focused on sharing best practices and advancing a specific professional practice. 

            CoP are inherently postured toward supporting the application of new knowledge to practical professional activities.  

            What are Communities of Healing (CoH)?
            • These are spaces where individuals who share a common experience or background can heal through co-learning and the sharing of experiences 
            • CoH ensure that all voices are heard which leads to real sustainable change.  
            • CoH are identified as spaces needed for culturally relevant support, relationship building, sharing of experiences and together addressing challenges and planning next steps forward.
            What are the benefits of these learning spaces?
            • Trust, relationships, and community building are at the core of all learning spaces. 
            • Nurtures a learning culture which is achieved through knowledge sharing. 
            • Identifies and fills knowledge gap which leads to improvement in productivity.  
            • Generates creative and innovative ideas as well as boosts performance and productivity.  
            • Knowledge sharing ensures better and faster decision making
            • It allows individuals to share their ideas, brainstorm, and collaborate in a safe and welcoming environment.
            • Knowledge sharing acts as an intuitive way of forming a close-knit community.
            • Provides individuals with an internal knowledge base.
            • Sharing best practices allows knowledge to be captured and retained.
            • Allows valuable information to be made accessible for all employees. 
            • Supports ongoing systemic change. 
                Who participates in Collaborative Learning Spaces?
                • Host: A host can be an organization or a lead who is calling people together. They take on the role of providing ongoing support, for example, by offering specific resources. 
                • Facilitator: The role of the facilitator is to engage participants and to ensure that all opinions are heard and acknowledged. Facilitators can contribute added information and knowledge into the learning space. In addition to supporting the dialogue’s flow and allowing for exploration by posing questions, the facilitator aims to deepen learning experiences for all participants. 
                • Harvester: The individual who is capturing the information and learnings that come out of collaborative learning spaces.
                • Knowledge mobilization (KMb): It is a term used to define the connection between academic research and organizations, people, and government to improve programming and inform policy change.
                • Innovation outputs: These are concrete learnings (e.g., tools, processes, frameworks, etc.) that emerge from collaborative learning spaces.
                • Participant(s): These are groups of people who are engaging with and partaking in these collaborative learning spaces.
                    What are the principles of participation for Collaborative Learning Spaces (CoL, CoH, CoP)?

                    Often when convening these spaces, the facilitator opens this up to the group to co-create the principles of participation. However, they often include the following: 

                    • Everyone in the group feels an ownership of the space.   
                    • Fostering a sense of curiosity over judgement. 
                    • Bringing together partners to form a collaborative collective, grounded in a trusting and mutually beneficial model.  
                    • Creating an environment where participants feel safe, respected, and supported to contribute their ideas to develop collective knowledge. 
                    • Creating a space to bring together diverse perspectives and ensuring participation by individuals that can help facilitate the change.
                    • Helping to build an asset-based mindset and confidence in the knowledge of the community. 
                    • Growing a better understanding of the research, including the CEI’s approach of community-based/ practitioner-based research which is formed on the tenets of action research; focusing on any course corrections, if needed. 
                    • Ensuring that conversations inform and lead to actions.  
                      What are some questions to consider when reflecting on the experiences of Collaborative Learning Communities?
                      • What meaningful activities did you take part in?
                      • What specific insights did you gain?
                      • What new connections/relationships were built?
                      • What access to useful information or materials?
                      • What difference did it make to your performance? 
                      • How did this contribute to your personal/ professional development? 
                      • What are the stories and firsthand experiences that were shared that you found inspiring or helpful? 
                      • Has this changed your or some other stakeholder’s understanding of what matters? 
                          What are some best emergent practices for Collaborative Learning Spaces?
                          • It is important to consider the approaches you take when creating these learning spaces. For example, when creating these spaces, you may consider taking a trauma informed approach. How could this look like for these collaborative learning spaces?
                            • Facilitators can pose questions in a non-judgmental manner
                            • Being compassionate and open minded 
                            • Being culturally competent and informed 
                            • Facilitators should be aware of how trauma impacts people 
                            • Be open to learning and asking questions in a respectful manner 
                            • Be aware that everyone has diverse ways of being and knowing 
                            • Acknowledge people’s lived experiences 
                                • Aligned with taking a trauma-informed approach, it is important to be intentional about the kind of space you create so that people can respectfully and honestly come together to learn from each other. Here are some things to consider:
                                  • An ethical space is one that is created by differing perspectives of the world and speaks to the idea of a neutral meeting place between entities, cultures, identities and ways of being. In an ethical space, participants are respected in recognition that their identities, cultures, education, life experiences will inform their worldviews, perspectives and contributions.
                                  • A safe space: a space that at one point may have been “safe” for someone can feel “unsafe” based on who enters or who takes up that space as well as how one’s identity shifts in relation to that space.
                                  • In a brave space individuals engage in uncomfortable conversations (e.g., racism) while allowing the discomfort to occur to facilitate learning.  
                                • Recognise that people are experts in their own experiences.  
                                • It is essential to make space for those with firsthand experience to lead 
                                • Encourage people to be their authentic selves and offer space for people to speak freely without fear of being judged. 
                                • It is essential to have respect for all people participating in these learning spaces. 
                                • Listen to others and give them time to tell their story in their own way and words.
                                • Participants will have a sense of ownership over the CoL and feel safe, welcome, and empowered to bring their questions, concerns, or ideas.
                                • It is important that facilitators of these learning spaces have the skills and knowledge needed to navigate and mediate differences respectfully.