In recent articles, I have explored the relationship between a Learning Community and a Transformative Community. “Learning Community” is a term used in both academic and professional organizational contexts to describe the ongoing process of development necessary for growth. Richard DuFour lists the three basic principles of an educational Learning Community as "a commitment to ensuring that students learn, a culture of collaboration, and a focus on results." These principles are used in other circumstances as well.
I have applied these principles to the concept of Transformative Community in the context of religious communities. Transformative Communities co-create with God by providing a safe emotional container for engaging in dialogue, envisioning the future, and creating collective capacity for growth and development. Many contemporary religious communities experience this concept as a transformative process in pursuit of their charism and mission. These entities establish their internal cultures in a Shared Leadership and Learning Community framework and engage in ongoing discernment.
As an active Learning Community, the group explores emerging questions and growth areas that open the window to developing the next steps.
"Shared Leadership in the context of a Learning Community fosters shared purpose, interdependence, and growth. These traits establish the backbone and fiber of the organizational culture."
The Learning Community and Shared Leadership model allows the community to become co-creators with God in offering its gift to society. Shared Leadership is a structural concept that fosters the members' commitment to achieving a bold vision. The dynamic of group ownership through Shared Leadership unleashes the community's creativity to innovate approaches that benefit society's welfare. This energetic force maximizes both individual and collective contributions. The graphic below depicts the ongoing dynamic tension between Shared Leadership and the Learning Community.
Transformative Communities experience Shared Leadership not as a role or position, but rather as a response to critical concerns. An individual or group recognizes the need for a different or new solution and takes the initiative to uncover a resolution. The current pandemic has been an excellent example of the power of shared leadership. News reports have consistently shared testimony to this reality as nurses, front-line workers, and many others without positional leadership roles saw a challenge and responded. They committed to risking, experimenting, and exploring new innovative remedies or solution within their own areas of influence.
In the gospel of Mark 4:37-39, Jesus and his disciples were in a boat crossing the lake. "A violent squall came up, and waves were breaking over the boat so that it was already filling up." The disciples panicked, but Jesus “…rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, ‘Hush! Be still!’. "
Our societal boat is experiencing hurricane-force waves that challenge existing mental models, systems, and societal norms. The pandemic has created a laser-focused on longstanding societal afflictions simmering under the surface of the lake. Like lightning in a violent storm, the pandemic illuminated such issues as societal discrimination, environmental catastrophes, an overwhelming number of migrants, and expanding global economic inequality.
These mounting ailments have led to personal and societal discomfort and periods of social paralysis. This individual and collective tumult has led to communal vulnerability. Yet, society is moving forward because Transformative Communities pushed aside their panic and established new mental frameworks, relationships, and opportunities.