What makes learning communities self-governed & fun? – Question 4 of 10 on ‚learning by sharing’

October 1, 2014 in Freedom to innovate, Freedom to learn by Balthas

Frank Ilugulilwa - IT Trainer in Tanzania / Copyright:  Frank Ilugulilwa

Frank Ilugulilwa – IT Trainer in Tanzania / Copyright: Frank Ilugulilwa

Frank Tilugulilwa is an IT trainer in Tanzania. He teaches local IT companies how to build services and revenues around so-called “Free and Open Source Software”. Such software can be copied and modified by every company and every individual client. Frank has written a training manual with over 80 other IT trainers and experts throughout Africa (and from elsewhere in the world) in an example of a community-generated learning content. His experience with commons-based peer production started back in 2008 when almost no training materials rooted in an African context were available.

Frank and other African IT and business experts developed over 250 pages of practical, open-licensed, modular training material. This has also resulted in a vibrant community of trainers who have a strong sense of ownership of their subjects and who know and trust each other. They are sharing their knowledge amongst themselves and their trainees, local IT companies across the continent. Again, we see the power of peer-to-peer learning centered around a knowledge commons: the process began as a capacity building program called ict@innovation launched by German development agency GIZ. The project aimed at creating business and learning opportunities with free and open source software in Africa. Now it is a community of more than 1,200 co-learners, co-producers and businesses (UNCTAD 2012: 65f).

This example can serve as a starting point to provide good practice measures on how initiatives can structure learning around peer-production processes.

The following points are guidelines for those who wish to initiate or participate in cross-border commons-based learning communities – incorporating own experiences, recommendations of the “Peeragogy Handbook” of 2013 and other sources. It looks at how community empowerment managers can foster global “participatory cultures”, as media scholar Henry Jenkins has put it.

Good Practices of Organizing Learning in Peer-Production Across Borders (Table 2)

Participation and self-governance:

  • Let peers handle the co-facilitation of learning
  • Foster self-election of roles based on merit or other community values
  • Support different commitment levels that accommodate newcomers and facilitate the ‘migration to more demanding roles’
  • Value and respect mentorship and meritocratic leadership, give it visibility
  • Gear self-governance and infrastructure governance towards openness, freedom and autonomy
  • Document participation and self-governance processes and provide them as step-by-step guides
  • Focus on communication, provide explicit discussion prompts, build feedback loops
  • Set only a minimum of rules to let room for emergent behavior
  • Seed and grow the community through open calls Frank Ilugulilwa – IT Trainer in Tanzania
  • Provide a thoughtful sequence of learning events and spaces
  • Address quality and certification issues through learner created assessments and badges 1

 

Motivation and cross-border trust:

  • Make it fun to contribute
  • Encourage, reward and recognize contributions
  • Stay close to real-world practical knowledge of contributors: turn their working environment into the learning environment
  • Create relatedness, empathy and trust across boundaries
  • Break language barriers through accurate translation
  • Address cultural differences in collaboration styles, recognition systems, norms
  • Provide for multiple perspectives on common problems and challenges
  • Use an open license, which is in line with the business or non-market goals of participants

Sources: peeragogy.org (2013: 31ff, 53ff); Fischer (2011: 46, 52); Bacon (2012: 126, 151ff); Hagemann/Seibold 2013; Ahn et al. 2013; Jenkins 2006; Fuster Morell 2010; Zhang et al. 2012; Wenger et al. 2011; and Preece/Shneiderman 2009

 

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Any questions on the issue above? Or answers? Please comment below!

About  ‘learning by sharing’

This blog is part of a series of 10 questions that I have extracted of my article “Learning by Sharing  – „How global communities cultivate skills and capacity through peer-production of knowledge“. The piece has been released in June  as part of the GIZ Online- Series „10 trends in open innovation. How to leverage social media for new forms of cooperation“. It discusses the following issues:  Sustainable human development needs solutions that scale, empower, benefit, and increase ownership. Peer-to-peer learning is a potential game changer: the trick is to build learning processes around open, commons-based peer production. Only then may one achieve more freedom to know, more appropriation of tacit knowledge, more self-sustainability of demand-driven learning systems, and more ownership. In addition, the inherent fairness of an open “knowledge commons” provides opportunities for unfettered open innovation and the scaling up of development solutions. Commons-based peer learning offers a trigger to enhance skills, competencies, connections, capacities, and the agency of people and their organisations on a global scale – from the global peer-to-peer university to the community of biogas digesters producers. It provides the freedom to learn – by sharing the world’s wealth of knowledge.

–> Article on the Alumniportal / Group on “Digital Society”:
http://10innovations.alumniportal.com/learning-by-sharing.html

–> Article personal blog – Here, you can comment, “like it” or RSS it there as well
http://www.knowledge-commons.de/en/learning-by-sharing/

Previous Questions:

Further readings? Here.

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Note: This text was first published on the blog of Balthas Seibold at the Alumniportal Germany (www.alumniportal-deutschland.org/en/). Check the blog ( register or login first). All blog entries represent the personal views and ideas of Balthas Seibold.

  1. For more on quality assurance, measurement of accomplishment, skills, quality and certification in peer-learning, check Mozilla et al. (2012), Schmidt et al. (2009) and peeragogy.org (2013, p. 74ff, p. 115ff).