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Creating a Learning Community for Inclusive Innovation

What is a learning community? We believe that the complicated challenges emerging for scientists and society in the 21st century require us to go beyond traditional educational structures, and that fostering a welcoming learning community is one way we can address these challenges. For the purpose of our hackweeks, we define a learning community as a group of individuals who, motivated by an inherent curiosity and commitment to seeking the truth, freely choose to work together on something they care about.

Learning communities thrive when their members adhere to the following guidelines. We invite you to help us create a healthy learning environment by returning to these guidelines throughout the week.

Listen for understanding

Listening to others is one of the best ways we can build connection and community, but there are many ways to listen. Listening to understand others first – and not for how to craft your response – will leave space for new ideas and connections to emerge.

Speak your perspectives in ways that respect other people’s perspectives

It is important to create an environment where everyone is free to speak openly so that learning can occur. But speaking one’s perspective does not mean interpreting, correcting or debating what others say. Before speaking, think about what it is that you want others to know. Use “I” statements with an awareness that what you are saying represents your perspective only.

Experience discomfort

At hackweeks we challenge ourselves and others to explore new dimensions of learning and team dynamics. This can be a messy process that pushes us outside of our comfort zone. We support you in taking risks and leaning in to challenging conversations, knowing that innovation and growth often emerges from uncomfortable situations.

Expect and accept non-closure

At times we may succeed in resolving a conflict with another person, but more times than not, it will feel unfinished. Sometimes you will have to circle back to reconcile differences, and other times you will have to sit with non-closure.

No fixing

It is human nature to want to fix other people’s discomfort, particularly when they are clearly distressed. However, it’s important that we let people experience their emotions without offering unsolicited advice.

Stay engaged

Discomfort and anxiety are normal parts of courageous conversations. When you start to tune out, return to the topic. Resist the urge to change the subject or make a distracting joke when you are uncomfortable. Instead, ask questions from a place of genuine curiosity.

Recognize contributions

Traditional academic metrics may not fully recognize the many ways individuals contribute to our learning community. In tutorials, projects, group presentations and code repositories, set up a mutually-agreed upon system for attribution of ideas and effort. When in doubt, ask each other if they approve of the ways in which you plan to use and build on their ideas and content.