Welcome to the Summer Camp Leadership blog. For those of us who lead summer camps, making a positive difference in the lives of young people is our passion. Turning that passion into a reality, however, takes more than the ability to lead songs, teach archery or plan craft projects. Creating camp experiences that truly transform lives takes leadership. Leadership that creates a vision for the future, leadership that inspires and engages others, leadership that remains focused and stays the course. My hope is through this blog you'll find ideas, inspiration and tools to help you be a great summer camp leader.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Camps as Learning Organizations

Is your camp a learning organization? What exactly is a learning organization? Is it a concept that you can apply to your camp? If so, how can you make your camp a learning organization?

David Garvin his 1993 Harvard Business Review article Building a Learning Organization defines a learning organization as "skilled at creating, acquiring, and transferring knowledge, and at modifying its behavior to reflect new knowledge and insights." A learning organization is one that proactively and continually seeks out factual knowledge, shares that knowledge within the organization and then uses that knowledge to guide its future behavior. 

Garvin identifies five key activities of learning organizations. These include:
  • Systematic problem solving
  • Experimentation with new ideas and approaches
  • Learning from their own experiences, both good and bad
  • Learning from the experiences and best practices of others
  • Transferring knowledge quickly and efficiently throughout the organization
Let's look at how you might create an element of a learning organization at camp. Imagine that in your crafts program you asked for a simple written evaluation from campers each week. Pick four or five attributes (fun, easy to do, etc.) and have campers score them on a scale of 1 to 5. Tabulate those evaluations each week and share the results with you staff. Have the staff discuss the results and suggest ideas for addressing any identified weaknesses and building on the identified strengths. Implement those ideas and then repeat the process next week. If an area shows consistently low scores consider also contacting some other camps to see what they're doing. That's a learning craft program.

Now imagine an entire camp where systematic feedback is regularly gathered on key facets of the program, that feedback is shared and discussed with the staff, new ideas are implemented based the feedback and then the process is repeated over and over again. That's a camp that's a learning organization.