Learning Collaborative and Meeting Facilitation

a path through two trees drawing

Successful Learning Collaboratives have a structured format modeled after the World Café design principles of conversational leadership knowledge sharing. This format requires preparation and presentation by all participating centers and commitment to implementation of learned tactics.

McAlpine Consulting for Growth, LLC (MCFG), provides curation, overall facilitation, and coordination of the Learning Events. A Steering Committee, composed of leaders from member organizations and coordinating staff from MCFG, handles the planning for the Learning Collaborative and provides oversight of all activities. Learning Events can include a combination of virtual and in-person events in accordance with public health guidelines amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Peer-to-peer shared learning is a powerful way to engage in making big change.

Building from the design principles of the World Café model, McAlpine Consulting has developed a methodology for designing, launching, and coordinating multi-year learning collaboratives in partnership with our clients, starting with our first formal learning collaborative, the Chicago Safety Net Learning Collaborative. Now in its eighth year, the Safety Net Learning Collaborative, and all of the other learning collaboratives that MCFG has subsequently designed and coordinated, features a special environment to enable to study of questions raised by participants. This has become the cornerstone for peer-to-peer shared learning, a powerful way to engage in making big change. 

“We’ve been able to see how we’re more alike than different, yet we have different services our patients need to access. When we talk with people at other organizations, it makes for better care, and that’s what the Collaborative has done—built relationships.”

– Chris Carroll, former CEO, Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4)

“It can feel hopeless when you’re in a room with a client who has so many issues. It’s easy to feel like you want to give up. But at the Collaborative events, there’s light, there’s positive energy, there’s laughter. People feel hopeful.”

– Kathy Calderon, former Associate Director of Children and Adolescent Services, Community Counseling Centers of Chicago (C4)
A dog and a pig play with a green tennis ball
Many of the Learning Collaborative members have never worked together before.

Core Design Principles for all Learning Modalities

A core component of each learning collaborative, which may have other learning modalities, are Learning Events. This is where participants prepare information on the given topic in advance to bring to the event for deeper exploration with peers. With opportunities for large group presentation, small group discussion, and the ability to move about the room (or in virtual breakout rooms) to engage with as many people as possible, Learning Events allow people to bring forward key insights learned, highlight remaining questions yet to be answered, and meet with their colleagues to discuss strategies for innovation that they can implement at their organizations.

Clarify the Context

Working with a core group of staff leaders from the membership organizations of the learning collaborative to design and execute each Learning event, we clarify the context by setting the topic, purpose, and best use of time by all participants in the meeting and make sure to give participants enough time to work with their center staff in advance to submit the information they want to share in the meeting.

Create Hospitable Space

Create a room that people want to come into, that has an openness and lightness in its quality to match the need for staff to feel comfortable to engage in open and innovative sharing. Food, music, beautiful views all matter, along with comfortable seating and table space with creative materials to keep them focused in the meeting, reducing their urge to use their cell phone or laptop for other work, and keep them engaged in the creative work they have the chance to do at the Learning Event.

Setting Group Agreements

Make sure to set intentions for the learning that will help participants feel confident to share the personal and professional challenges that are blocking forward momentum for them and their agency. Encourage them to set aside the impulse to only present what they already know or already do well. If they can feel comfortable and be themselves, they will be most excited to engage in creative thinking, speaking, and listening.

Explore Questions that Matter

Rather than rush to find the “best practice” or the right answer to a vexing question, give the participants time to continue to probe each question with more questions, to get to the level of the problem that attracts collective energy, insight, and action. Encourage people to understand that by sharing the questions and information everyone came into the room with, the creative answers will emerge for them, leading to the design of strategies to implement back at their organizations.

Encourage Everyone’s Participation & Connect Diverse Perspectives

All participants have something to offer, particularly if they are encouraged to use a mix of presenting, dialoguing, and listening. This happens best when given structured opportunities to find people they don’t know, or don’t know well, and explore big and small questions designed to fit the Learning Event objectives. As participants move through various conversations, hearing fresh perspectives triggers “ah-ha” moments of clarity and insight.

Gather What is Learned and What Comes Next

Giving the group time at the end of the Learning Event to discuss as a large group what they have just learned allows them to feel and share their newly energized connection to their peers. Reflecting and listening to each other share their “ah-ha” moments, as well as the questions that have now emerged, they are able to express gratitude to each other and express commitment to on-going conversation on the topic at their organization and with peers they have met at the Learning Event.

Since the launch of the Chicago Safety Net Learning Collaborative, we have gone on to create and implement seven learning collaboratives, including the Behavioral Health-Primary Care Integration Learning Collaborative, the Domestic Violence Leaders Learning Collaborative, the Chicago Medication Assisted Treatment Learning Collaborative, and the Mental Health Action on College Campuses Learning Collaborative.

Meeting Facilitation

Take the “bored” out of required meetings. We help you plan and facilitate meaningful, engaging non-profit meetings. 

Two lambs dancing in a green field

MCFG can offer your organization a robust menu of services for meeting planning. This list is not comprehensive, and we will work with you to choose which services will best benefit your organization. We have extensive experience in planning and facilitating non-profit events for large and small groups, including:

  • Staff and/or Board Retreats (Single and Multi-day)
  • Task Force/Coalition/Advisory Board meetings
  • Meeting and Training Series
  • Learning Events

We listen to our clients and tailor our work to fit an organization’s unique needs. We can assist in the planning and facilitation of both in-person and virtual events, including how to adapt a meeting, retreat, or learning event to an alternative format.

Organizing & Planning

Meetings, Retreats, and Learning Collaborative Learning Events

  • Overall coordination of the Learning Collaborative or event planning process 
  • Creation of Learning Collaborative or event planning timeline 
  • Meeting, Retreat, or Learning Event Design
  • Participation in and facilitation of Learning Collaborative or  event planning meetings 
  • Outreach and Registration 
  • Evaluation development

Logistics and On-site/Virtual Assistance 

  • Coordination of A/V equipment
  • Assistance with Menu planning
  • Room Set-up
  • Venue Liaison/On-site Point Person
  • Set up and operation of virtual platform
  • Registration management
  • Note-taking 

Facilitation and Evaluation 

  • Development and curation of materials
  • Dissemination of preparation instructions and materials
  • Development of outreach plan and invitation lists
  • Pre and post event communications including registration announcements, reminders, and meeting evaluations
  • Coordination of speakers and presenters 
  • Facilitation and note-taking at the event
  • Evaluation analysis  
  • Debrief facilitation 
  • Report Writing
A happy pig walking on a beach

Looking for Learning Collaborative Support, Meeting or Retreat Facilitation?

Contact us to find out more about our Learning Collaborative philosophy and facilitation or consulting services for meeting/retreat planning and facilitation. 

Or, call 773-728-0271.