How can we get hold of the knowledge that's developing in grassroots environment groups right across Victoria, and share it easily and quickly?
Technical knowledge moves quickly through rural networks, but social knowledge doesn't move so easily. We all have our heads down working in our patch - we need ways to pick up how others are handling the business of organising community action, collaborating and influencing others.
CLEA is a project of Landcare Victoria Inc. (LVI) that's finding out how to support peer learning and mentoring between grassroots environment groups. The project is funded by the Natural Resources Conservation League and LVI, and out core belief is that if the volunteers and staff in community groups have opportunities to think and talk and share what they are doing, community action will stay strong and keep evolving.
Peer-to-peer at three levels
At grassroots level, committees of management use CLEA’s Questions Without Easy Answers sessions to focus their inquiry as peers and find ways to break new ground for their group or Network. CLEA supports with facilitation and helping to document their learning so others hear what they are doing.
At regional level, CLEA targets Network Weavers, those people who are happy to share their connections and who move expertise and support through the Landcare community.
At State level, CLEA helps LVI's Landcare Forums to share knowledge and solve problems peer-to-peer, and sets up discussion between community groups on issues held in common.
An action research approach, learning as we go
CLEA tests out ways to support peer-to-peer learning. We watch what works and what doesn't, then do more of what works. We have learned a lot - here are some highlights.
What Landcare Leaders think gives themes from early interviews with community leaders in Landcare.
Discussion Paper #1 looks at what supports and limits peer-to-peer learning in Landcare, proposes two central concepts for CLEA - moving from tacit to explicit knowledge, within a community of practice:
"People need places where they can talk with their peers about what they are doing and struggling with. Purposeful reflection articulates the thinking behind actions and suggests what is needed next."
CLEA Lessons Year 2 is from a report to our funder NRCL on what CLEA learned about building capacity in the community environment sector:
"Capacity building around social knowledge is constrained by the old imaginary of Landcare as planting trees,) weak institutional support for social knowledge in natural resource management, and the isolation of social innovators in Landcare."
Where to with CLEA summarises progress to the end of 2017, and sets some big challenges for the future:
"Community organisations report to funders what they are doing on-ground, but there’s a lot more to community action than this.... we need to find ways to document and communicate what groups are learning, what they are doing differently, and the impacts this is having. How do we support localised audio, video and image making to tell these stories, and get this out quickly to those hungry for this knowledge?"
Learning like crazy: Prototypes and practices for social learning is a keynote address at the 2017 Landcare Conference in Nagoya, Japan. It shows how CLEA's peer-to-peer learning within the Landcare movement is a way to link local self reliance to global resilience:
"People join Landcare groups to hear what people just like them are doing and thinking, to talk about their own ideas and plans and get other peoples’ opinions. In Landcare in Australia, we’re good at facilitating landholders learning about land management - we are not so good at facilitating our own learning about how to organise in communities. We have failed our commitment to care for the land by not moving our social knowledge beyond the localities where it develops."