Why Simplicity Matters

Since the very beginning of my own quest to find a way for people to learn together as well as we are able to learn individually, I’ve quietly held one rule (hypothesis) in mind that I seldom talk about. As the field of Emergent Learning evolves, I feel the need to make my thinking visible. … Read more

The “Product” of Emergent Learning (and why it plays well with others)

What is the product of Emergent Learning? Many of the organizations that are beginning to adopt Emergent Learning (EL) are accustomed to thinking about products as concrete results that, ideally, can be measured. Our EL practitioners can find themselves struggling to make the roundness of EL fit into that square hole. The product of Emergent … Read more

Learning at the End of Things: Post-Mortems, Project Retrospectives, and AARs

Marilyn Darling and Sam Moody (2016) Sometimes the biggest challenge we face in getting our organizations to invest in learning is finding a source of motivation that’s great enough to overcome the inertia of the status quo. And sometimes that source ends up being something that is seen as “a failure,” and our motivating urge … Read more

Board Members: Think like smart investors

Past performance is no guarantee of future results. What does it mean to serve in a governance role as a board member in the social sector during tumultuous times? What should you be listening for? Asking for? We worked with a Colonel in the US Army — a cavalry officer — who had a good … Read more

Redefining what we mean by “Learning Agenda”

Language is so fundamental to how we engage with the world and with each other. We mostly choose the words we use to convey an idea, to coordinate our understanding of a thing, or to connect with other human beings. But in the process, we may also either reinforce or challenge existing biases, habits, and … Read more

Learning our way through this defining moment

Like many of our colleagues, friends and fellow citizens, we have been dismayed by recent incidents of violence against innocent people that have gone unchecked and not brought to justice yet again. We are heartened by the overwhelming public yet peaceful outcry against these acts, against the prejudice and systemic racism that underlie their existence, … Read more

Returning Learning to the System

When a honey bee finds a patch of nectar-rich flowers, it returns to the hive, deposits its find, and does a “waggle dance” to let fellow bees know the direction and distance of those flowers from the hive. According to Complex Adaptive Systems theory, this is what a system needs to do in order to … Read more

When should you invest in an emergent approach?

The core idea of emergence is that it is nonlinear; it should create a whole that is greater than the sum of its parts — a compelling idea to funders who are striving to create a sustainable impact on complex problems with relatively modest investments. As we announced in a 2016 post here on the CEP blog, … Read more

The journey is the reward

Our research into the role of emergence in complex social change is finished . . . sort of. In fact, it’s really just a step on a longer journey that we talk about in our cover letter for the report (p. 4), which you can now download from our website: www.EmergentLearning.org. When Steve Jobs and his … Read more

Complex Adaptive Systems: a definition

As we launch our new sponsored research project, Exploring Emergence in Complex Social Change Initiatives, we realize that the field of work on which it is based might be new to many of our colleagues. While much has been written about the field of Complex Adaptive Systems, much of it is written for scientists and often … Read more