If enterprise social networks might help us remake organizational learning, what is our pedagogy?

In Why Start with Pedagogy 4 Good Reasons, 4 Good Solutions, Cathy Davidson writes: “If your goal is equality in a world where inequality is structural and violent and pervasive, you can at least start with your classroom as a place in which to model a better way...Be an activist in the realm where you have control. You can change to a pedagogy of liberation today.”

This past week was a big week of reminders about structural inequality in the U.S. Although Davidson’s post appeared as many of these reminders were unfolding I don’t believe it was timed as a response to any recent events. My sense is that it is part of her on-going response to just…what is.

But her call to be an activist, to exercise influence in situations where you have influence, is an appealing point of reflection at this particular point of time. How might we nudge toward inclusiveness when we design, lead, facilitate or moderate the spaces in which we learn? Formal classrooms are one. Another, for me, is the space defined by the boundaries of an organization’s enterprise social network (ESN). I see ESNs as a way to remake organizational learning.

What is our pedagogy of liberation for the ESN case?

Davidson’s post describes four effective techniques for modeling inclusiveness in the classroom. Each is a great example of translating vision and intention into action and provides inspiration for making similar translations for the ESN case.

Among the four techniques I particularly love “everyone raise your hand,” which resets the norm for in-class discussion. A question gets asked by the instructor. Everyone must raise their hand. Someone is called on to comment or answer. If they don’t have a comment or answer they say “I don’t have an answer, but I’d like to hear what [names another person] has to say.” And the question is passed forward. The point: You establish a culture where everyone is important enough to say what they have to say, whatever that is.

“Everyone raise your hand” is a great example of a designed nudge. And one with an intention of nudging us toward inclusiveness, to ensuring that we make effort to hear diverse voices.

The ESN case, of course, differs from a physical classroom. Maha Bali’s post Inevitable Exclusion – symbols, hashtags and networked spaces puts a finger on some of the critical challenges that arise when we start to think about inclusion in networked environments. Especially in large, open networked environments. Some challenges have to do with the affordances of social media technology. I can raise my hand on Twitter, but unless I’m using the proper hashtag no one in the classroom may know I am there. The classroom may not even be on Twitter.

Many other challenges exist and, as her blog headline suggestions, her point is that exclusion is inevitable. But inevitable exclusion is different from intentional exclusion.

Let me quote from Maha’s last two paragraphs directly. It’s a great summary of the dilemma and the mindset that will help us lead through the dilemma:

“But all this to say that… exclusion in real life and social media is inevitable. It’s not because facilitators of a space don’t try to be inclusive; it is not because participants are intentionally excluding others… it just is. Some people will speak out about ways it is glaring and can be overcome and that’s wonderful. Others will lurk. Others will leave. Others will say bad things about you behind your back. It’s inevitable. As Dave Cormier once said, every “us” is “not them”.

And that’s OK. As long as we’re not intentionally ostracizing people for no reason. As long as we’re doing our thing and trying to be open (and we don’t always have to be open; it’s OK to sometimes want to be with our friends!)”

So back to my question. How might we nudge toward inclusiveness when we design, lead, facilitate or moderate ESNs as organizational learning environments? What is our pedagogy of liberation?

For ESNs we make design choices about access (who is in/out), what functional capabilities are available and how we relate to each other in virtual groups, communities and networks. And as community managers we facilitate within the boundaries defined by those design choices.

Whether we admit it our not – we are present in the design. We are also present in the way in which we facilitate activities. And whether we admit it our not, this presence is an expression of our philosophy, our assumptions about what the ESN should “be.”

I’d like us to strive to make ESNs more inclusive by intention. To facilitate a culture where everyone is seen as important enough to say what they have to say, even if it’s just “I’d like to hear what someone else has to say.” We need a pedagogy for that.