The Wallace Foundation’s Education Leadership Professional Learning Communities

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The Wallace Foundation’s Education Leadership Professional Learning Communities

The Power of Learning: How Learning Communities Amplify the Work of Nonprofits and Grantmakers

This executive summary is excerpted from an internal research report commissioned by Grantmakers for Effective Organizations and produced by NYU Wagner's Research Center for Leadership in Action in 2012.

For further information or to request a full copy of the report, please contact Leonor Alfonso at

Grantmakers for Effective Organizations (GEO) is currently undertaking a multi-year initiative, Scaling What Works, to support the success of the Social Innovation Fund and "to expand the number of grantmakers and public sector funders across the country that are prepared to broaden the impact of high-performing nonprofits." As part of this effort, GEO is interested in gaining a deeper understanding of "learning communities," especially how grantmakers can employ them to support collective learning among their grantees.

GEO selected the Research Center for Leadership in Action (RCLA) at New York University's Robert F. Wagner Graduate School of Public Service to conduct a study on learning communities (LCs). The study addresses questions about different types of LCs, their design elements, the common challenges they face and their role in helping scale effective practices as well how they define success and common elements of success in facilitating learning to change practice.

About Grantmakers for Effective Organizations

Understanding that grantmakers are successful only to the extent that their grantees achieve meaningful results, GEO promotes strategies and practices that contribute to grantee success. In 1997, a handful of visionary leaders saw a need for a place where grantmakers committed to improving organizational effectiveness could convene to share knowledge and best practices, and inspire their colleagues to act. Today, GEO is a powerful coalition of more than 2,700 individual members representing 360 grantmaking organizations committed to building strong and effective nonprofit organizations. GEO helps grantmakers improve practices in areas which, through years of work in philanthropy, have been identified by innovators in the field as critical to nonprofit success.

About the Research Center for Leadership in Action at NYU Wagner

RCLA is a research center founded at NYU Wagner in 2003 with support from the Ford Foundation. As the hub for leadership research and practice at NYU, RCLA faculty teaches courses at the undergraduate, masters and executive masters levels. In addition, RCLA works across the diverse domains of public service to build knowledge and capacity for leadership that transforms society. The Center's greatest asset is its unique ability to partner with leaders to create collaborative learning environments, translate ideas into action and build knowledge from the ground up. As a result, RCLA contributes breakthrough ideas to the worlds of scholarship and practice. The Center does this work with the conviction that today's pressing social problems require moving beyond the traditional image of a heroic leader to facilitating leadership in which people work across sectors and boundaries to find common solutions.

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