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The Learning Conference 2011

June 6–7, 2011

Baltimore, MD

B1: Designing a Participatory Learning Agenda

Tuesday, June 7, 2011 at 10:30 AM–12:00 PM EDT
Tuscan Room (Third Floor)
Session description

Identifying common learning themes and impact trends across portfolios can be challenging, especially for grantmakers that support projects as they emerge from grantees without requiring them to fit into an overarching grantmaking strategy. As a responsive grantmaker, Firelight Foundation has designed a learning agenda with broad questions to help identify and track community-based actions regardless of the particular focus of the grant. Hear from those working with key stakeholders to successfully implement Firelight’s learning agenda across a variety of types of grants and grantees. The session will employ audience polling to engage attendees on key questions.

Participant learning goals

• Use a simple framework for categorizing organizations'’ learning orientations
• Hear and react to an analysis of one example of a ‘learning agenda.’
• Learn about how a responsive funder imposes structure on its data and discipline in its thinking, without telling its grantee partners what to do.
• Consider what a learning agenda looks like from a grantee partner’s point of view, and what the implications are.
• Consider valuing working hypotheses more and indicators somewhat less.
• Engage in thoughtful discussion about what is valuable, and what needs strengthening, in Firelight’s responsive, qualitative approach.

Intended learning level

Exploration — exploration of ideas you’ve probably heard before in a way that builds further knowledge and understanding


Susan WIlkinson-Maposa, Independent researcher based in South Africa
Web site
Speaker Biography

Susan Wilkinson-Maposa is an independent researcher based in South Africa. She advises a number of foundations and philanthropic initiatives. Susan was a former program director for the Centre for Leadership and Public Values at the University of Cape Town and has worked for numerous international development agencies in Africa and Asia. She is the author of The Poor Philanthropist: How and why the poor help each other (2005), has a book chapter in From Clients to Citizens: Communities Changing the Course of their own Development (2009) and was part of the editorial team for the special issue of the Vulnerable Children and Youth Studies Journal (2010) on children in Africa.

Zanele Sibanda, Firelight Foundation
Web site

Speaker Biography

Zanele Sibanda leads the development and implementation of Firelight Foundation’s grantmaking, organizational learning, capacity-building, and national-level advocacy programs. A native of Zimbabwe, Zanele joined Firelight in 2006 as program officer and advocacy coordinator. Previously, she worked with informal community groups to develop income-generating strategies and care for vulnerable children in Zimbabwe. Zanele has also served as the director of education and public policy at Chicago United, and had worked for the Chicago Public School system and the University of Chicago-affiliated Chapin Hall Center for Children. Zanele holds a bachelor’s degree from Grinnell College.

Peter Laugharn, Firelight Foundation
Web site

Speaker Biography

Peter Laugharn is executive director for Firelight Foundation. Prior to joining Firelight in 2008, he served for six years as executive director of the Netherlands-based Bernard van Leer Foundation. Laugharn worked for more than 11 years in a variety of roles for Save the Children USA, with much of his experience focused on Africa. With Save the Children he helped develop the “Village Schools” model to promote access to basic education, girls schooling and community participation, and he provided technical assistance for programs in 10 countries in Africa. A graduate of Stanford and Georgetown Universities, Laugharn holds a Ph.D. in education from the University of London.