Reflections on Learning Circles: The Nonprofits’ Journeys

reDirect has used Learning Circles as a strategy for collaborating with nonprofits experimenting with Supportive Environments for Effectiveness (SEE) within their organizations. The organizations have taken different journeys—some have dabbled in several areas of SEE applications while others have focused on just one. Here are a few of our takeaways.

SEE is about culture change.

Light bulbs turned on all year as participants realized that incorporating SEE relates to their entire organization and how it does its work. It has implications for how people think about themselves, their interactions with others, as well as how they approach their work. They said this in so many different ways: “SEE is not a project. SEE is becoming part of our DNA.” “SEE relates to how we do our work, not the what.” “It has become the litmus test for how we think.” “SEE is a verb – we SEE things.” “When we asked folks at staff meetings how they used SEE, we used to hear crickets. Now, folks have examples!”

As organizations have reflected on SEE as culture change, they’ve shared some other realizations:

  • Helping people get their heads around SEE takes time, intentionality, and multiple experiences. reDirect has supported many touches with the organizations’ leadership and will be encouraging additional opportunities to engage with staff.
  • SEE helps build a shared language that takes the “personal” out of conversations. People can step back from their egos/sensitivities to work together and see others through an “assume best intentions” lens.
  • SEE provides a robust framework for applying other tools (eg DISC, Emergenetics, Strengthsfinder). This is a really interesting hook for organizations because they often flounder at the “now what do we do” stage with these tools. Having a SEE-informed mindset has helped them implement some strategies for using the insights they gained from these tools.

The power of having a small experiment mentality.

The notion of small experiments has been instrumental in helping participants overcome inertia and start doing something tangible. It gave organizations and individuals permission to try things, to play with ideas, and to be ok if something did not work out.

Less is more.

What a liberating concept this has been for some folks. It is so hard for people to really believe and act on this principle and so effective when they do.

The physical environment matters.

We made a point to remind grantees to be mindful of how the physical environment impacts their work experience and effectiveness. While infrastructural changes are harder to figure out (e.g., changing an open cubical space), participants talked about the positive impact of instituting walking meetings, being more comfortable defining their need for quiet space, and being intentional about how they set up their desk/workspaces.