What We’re Learning About Learning: Emily, March 2020

Posted on March 9, 2020

online learning

What I’m Reading: Jane Jacobs’ The Death and Life of Great American Cities
(for #CityHallShelfie on March 19, y’all, don’t miss it!)

What I’m Listening To: The Ghost of Paul Revere, lately.

What I’m Stoked About: OMG y’all, I love my job at ELGL and it’s about to be spring. As in, NOT WINTER ANYMORE. What could possibly be better than that?

What We’re Learning About Learning is a short blog series sharing what ELGL staff members are working on (and learning) from cohort-model learning programs that have been piloted or are being developed this year. Our staff is working with ELGL’s membership to discover what works, what doesn’t, what’s needed, and how we can best meet those needs across departments, expertise areas, and topics.

Hey y’all, Emily here. It’s been a whirlwind of a year on the programming side of things here at ELGL.We heard you loud and clear about the need for accessible, affordable, relevant, efficient professional development opportunities – across every department and in every field – and have spent several months throwing paint at the wall to see what sticks for you. 🙂

As someone who spent inordinate amounts of time and money in school (because I loved it so much and am such a nerd) and who still enjoys teaching on the side, getting to dive into the cohort learning model for ELGL has been a wonderful adventure.

And it has been an adventure, to be sure. We dived in headfirst knowing that sometimes the only way to learn is to do (a key philosophy of mine, and of Kirsten’s, which is why we’re such good work wives). We launched our first cohort-style learning program in June 2019 with the Small Places, Big Ideas Innovation Cohort; launched a second Innovation Cohort in January 2020 focusing on Community and Economic Development; and just launched a Rapid Cohort in partnership with Apolitical for the Equity Ambassadors Program. And we’ve got more quarterly, annual, and rapid cohorts planned for the coming year with some of the best local gov partners on the planet.

What I’m learning about learning right now is, like a lot, y’all. If I shared it all with you in this post you’d be here til tomorrow. But here are a few of the most important ones I’ve distilled down so far to shape our work going forward:

  • Y’all are hungry. Like, seriously. Ready to learn and dive in on all kinds of topics and to share with each other what you know.
  • ELGL is literally the best place to pilot learning models like this. Between everyone who’s excited to learn new things, and everyone who’s excited to share what they already know, we have the absolutely delicious problem of narrowing DOWN all our options for topics to share.
  • Making it work for everyone requires flexibility and a willingness to try new things. We’re pretty much total dorks about learning ourselves, and we totally get the “work-life-balance-OMG-when-do-I-find-the-time-to-learn-new-things” cycle. So we’re trying a ton of options – from five- and eight-week programs, to six-month programs, to annual programs – to see what works best for all of you.
  • Social connection is sometimes just as important as the learning itself. We have a ton of members! They’re all in different states! And timezones! And no one has money to fly to dinner somewhere in between! We’re examining how to best create connection and authentic relationships among our cohorts – through new technology, different approaches, and social meetups online – to make sure that peer-to-peer learning works across all those barriers. It’s a little different than a traditional academic setting, but we’re learning a lot from our university partners and past research. Plus, we have an awesome team from UNC MPA working on helping us evaluate how the first cohorts are going and what we can do to improve this year.
  • Quality professional development matters, and should be open to all. It’s incredibly important to me – and all of us at ELGL – that our learning opportunities are accessible to everyone, no matter what size your agency is, no matter where you are. We are lucky to have the kind of private-sector partners who believe in supporting affordable access to these opportunities, and we’re dedicate to continuing to make these programs as free of barriers as possible for you.

I’m excited to keep sharing our ideas with you – but mostly, I’m excited to hear your feedback, your ideas, and your suggestions. We’re building these programs to support you, and we want them to not just work for you, but to bring joyful jazz-hands excitement to your work!

Hit me up on Twitter or email me if you have ideas – I’d love to have you help shape the future of ELGL’s educational programming.

Until next time,


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