[O] Learning communities: Hypothetical Learning Scenarios

Learning Community: Hypothetical Learning Scenarios

The volunteers in your organisation have a lot of experience and knowledge, especially when you’re able to compile all of it. Make use of this power! Organise sessions where people can contemplate and talk to each other about different themes.

If you give people the opportunity to consider the structure and workings of your organisation, they get more involved and will strive towards a mutual goal.

People will learn from each other and use their new knowledge in practice.

Two times a year volunteers in the same department can talk to each other about their activities. They can share experiences and discuss certain problems. This makes them stronger as a group, and as individual teachers/volunteers. They are more open to feedback and less uncomfortable about asking questions of each other.


When signing up to become a volunteer in Studenterhus Aarhus, the volunteers decide which group they want to be a part of. These groups each have different responsibilities within the organization. In Dinamo it could be different teacher groups, language teachers, art teachers, crafts teachers. In Aarhus it is groups responsible for organizing activities within culture, activities for international students, activities for students seeking a job, students seeking experience with communication and marketing. New groups are also created on the go, as new ideas or new interests emerge. All these groups work within a very broad framework given by the organization, and the principles for learning as a community of practice are therefore very relevant when it comes to how these volunteers learn the skills required to fill out the responsibilities of their group. First of all there are very few rules: budgets need to be approved by the paid group coordinator and there has to be a certain activity level. But the specific activity level as well as what these activities – within the field – can be are decided and developed entirely by the volunteers themselves. They are required to choose a group leader, who functions as the link between the organization and the activity group, but this is the only task that is predefined. How and what to organize within the group is something the group members develop and learn on their own. The paid staff is there to serve as a “human library”, an “experience bank” that the group members can tap into for resources, previous experiences etc., but the groups are also free to bring in methods of working, themes to work with, new activities as they like. Most activity groups organize between 1-3 activities pr. week(!) whereas the paid staff mostly functions as facilitators and are free to perform other tasks in the organization.

Results for the organisation
It requires a lot of trust, courage and a positive, constructive mindset for an organization to implement this kind of structure. Speaking from an appreciative management mindset, the starting point is the belief that everyone has something constructive to bring to the table. And this bravery is often rewarded by an abundance of creative activities for the activity program, as well as a volunteer staff group that keeps developing new skills and performing on an increasingly higher level, both professionally and on a personal level.

Results for the volunteers
The volunteers who go through a development process in one of these groups gain a lot of self confidence from having taken part in solving a challenge or developing a new activity. They achieve a sense of accomplishment based on their own agency, more than that gained from having “simply” performed as you were instructed.

Letting the volunteers have a certain degree of freedom in working out how to do things promotes ownership and empowermentand creates a feeling that their contribution is recognized and valuable.


World Café is an easy-to-use method for creating a living network of collaborative dialogue around questions that matter in service to real work. Cafés in different contexts have been named in many ways to meet specific goals, for example Creative Cafés, Strategy Cafés, Leadership Cafés, and Community Cafés. World Café conversations are based on the principles and format developed by the World Café, a global movement to support conversations that matter in corporate, government, and community settings around the world.

Steps in organising a World Café session
Seat four (five max) people at small Café-style tables or in conversation clusters.
• Set up progressive (at least three) rounds of conversation, approximately 20 minutes each.
• Engage questions or issues that genuinely matter to your life, work, or community.
• Encourage participants to write, doodle and draw key ideas on their tablecloths (and/ or note key ideas on large index cards or placemats in the center of the table).
• Upon completing the initial round of conversation, you may ask one person to remain at the table as a “table host” for the next round, while the others serve as travelers or “ambassadors of meaning.” The travelers carry key ideas, themes and questions into their new conversations, while the table host welcomes the new set of travelers.
• By providing opportunities for people to move in several rounds of conversation, ideas, questions, and themes begin to link and connect. At the end of the second or third round, all of the tables or conversation clusters in the room will be crosspollinated with insights from prior conversations.
• In the last round of conversation, people can return to their first table to synthesize their discoveries, or they may continue traveling to new tables.
• You may use the same question for one or more rounds of conversation, or you may pose different questions in each round to build on and help deepen the exploration.
• After at least three rounds of conversation, initiate a period of sharing discoveries & insights in a whole group conversation. It is in these town meeting-style conversations that patterns can be identified, collective knowledge grows, and possibilities for action emerge.

Conducting an exciting World Café Conversation is not hard—it’s limited only by your imagination! The World Café format is flexible and adapts to many different circumstances. When these design principles are used together they foster collaborative dialogue, active engagement, and constructive possibilities for action.

It is a method that can be applied as many times we want it for a number of purposes and different groups in any environment.

“…I really enjoyed, I got into thoughts on how to apply it in my classroom so that all students to participate… after implementing in my classroom I noticed that event he shy students involved and through the several rounds it was possible students to discuss with others who were not their friends… in that case nobody felt excluded… For sure I will apply it when possible in my classroom because it offers ground for inclusion” (Volunteer participant – Teacher in CYCLISIS world café trainings)

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