Youth CI Learning Circle: What we’ve learned, and what’s next

April 20, 2016

March may not have brought spring weather to Ontario communities, but it did bring a great group of Youth CI participants together at the Foundation House for the first Youth CI Learning Circle.

What is a Learning Circle and why are they important for adaptive learning?

A Learning Circle is an opportunity for community members to come together to share feedback and learnings about an experience. It helps all stakeholders learn from one another and adapt what they are doing for the better. We thought this would be a great way for Youth CI to put our approach to the test.

Youth CI has been running for a year and a half, and will soon  launch a third round of the program in May with information sessions in communities across Ontario. So far, we are supporting 25 collective impact initiatives through their journeys toward improving specific outcomes for youth in Ontario communities. Youth CI works with these collaboratives in many ways, one of which is pressure testing – helping them validate their assumptions about their strategy by engaging external voices and evidence.The Learning Circle was our opportunity to pressure test the Youth CI program itself, to see if we are supporting groups in the best way possible, and to help them learn from each other and strengthen their ongoing work.

What did we Learn?

Participants and program users from all cohorts of Youth CI engaged in enlightening conversations with our team and program coaches, including members from London, Toronto, and Hamilton who are respectively working toward improving graduation rates, reducing incidences of cyber violence against women, and achieving healthy birth weights in their community. Our discussions centered around 3 themes, and small groups of participants had the opportunity to partake in all three conversations:

  1. The Youth CI process (What pieces of the process are helpful? What pieces can we improve upon?)
  2. Our approach to Collective Impact (Does our prioritization of elements of the Collective Impact approach resonate?)
  3. “A-ha” moments (What big learnings have come out of the Youth CI experience so far?)

A full day’s discussion brought forward many interesting ideas. Here are five of the big “a-ha’s”:

  • The coaching process is effective and highly valued. It provides an objective perspective, helps move groups forward, maintains momentum, and holds groups accountable. We need to build on this success and make coaching even more available and effective.
  • The strong upfront focus on the intended impact of a collaborative (i.e. what change will be made for youth) is crucial to success
  • Making Collective Impact language simpler to understand will allow for better engagement amongst new participants and particularly youth, who the program is designed to serve
  • Providing more examples from collaboratives moving through the process is helpful to new groups as they begin their Collective Impact journeys, and allows groups going through the process to see they aren’t alone
  • The Youth CI team should continue to share learnings about Collective Impact as they emerge so that groups can grow and adapt as we learn more

The Youth CI team is grateful to the participants who came and shared their time, experiences, challenges, and successes with the group. We are excited to use these learnings to improve Youth CI as we grow.

Join us in May as we put these learnings to use in our next round of information sessions!