Our Learning Labs

Networks and communities can be an effective tool for addressing big challenges collectively

Still, the necessary competencies have only recently entered the philanthropic and social-impact field. The development of these competencies, such as systemic and network
thinking, requires situations of learning and the experience of impact.

Best practices, learning from peers, planned inspirations as well as sudden moments of serendipity are pivotal aspects in this process.

To provide for this, we designed our highly versatile Learning Labs.

The two-day workshops are guided by five principles:

  1. Honesty: Enquiring genuinely into the partner’s lived practices and questions.
  2. Creativity: Giving safe space to think differently and to have the “new be” explored.
  3. Strategy: Building on own cases yet thinking beyond the single organization.
  4. Lightness: Making the time together inspiring and enjoyable.
  5. Openness: Sharing joint reflections and insights with the philanthropic community.

The late 2020 Learning Lab on “Impact of Networks” exemplifies this approach. It featured speakers with diverse backgrounds, who were able to contribute a wide range of perspectives.

  • Gerald Wirth, president and artistic director of the Vienna Boys Choir, opened the lab with warm-up exercises that built human connections through song.
  • Peter Vandor, a senior researcher and manager of the Nonprofit Organization & Social Entrepreneurship Competence Center at the Vienna University of Economics and Business, provided insights on network impact from recent academic research. The entire study is available online.
  • Margaret Wheatley, co-founder and president of the Berkana Institute, contributed her unique experience as a consultant for leadership, culture change and organizational forms based on living systems. Her impulse is available online.
  • Werner Binnenstein-Bachstein, director of the Porticus Community Arts Lab, shared practical experiences from the development and work of the Community Arts Network. Substantive information is available online.
  • And finally, Vinzenz Himmighofen, a coordinator of the Bosch Alumni Network at iac Berlin, was joined by Peter Vandor to discuss the structure and culture of the network, and how they evaluated its impact based on a non-linear understanding of impact measurement. The entire study is available online.

Participants called the lab an invaluable opportunity to go deep into topics that are challenging for many network-builders. Feedback on the content and the learnings created have been strong and highly positive.

To sum up the respective Learning Lab, a dedicated reader has been compiled, providing summaries of the resources used during the lab as well as links to additional materials shared by the participants:

Since its foundation, our Learning Labs successfully brought together executives, strategists and network-builders from leading foundations across Europe to trigger new insights and develop new solutions for the successful implementation of networks for creating sustainabl solutions for the most pressing challenges.

Do you want to experience a Learning Lab with us as well?

It will provide you and your peers with new competencies and a heightened understanding of complex network questions. And it will feedback into the philanthropic world and our mutual understanding of how to address big challenges collectively.

Get in touch with:

Vinzenz Himmighofen

The Learning Labs are a central format of Connecting Networks