Creating an Organizational Culture of Learning

by Carrie Bornstein, Acting Executive Director

A few weeks ago, I had the honor of representing Mayyim Hayyim at Slingshot Day in New York.  Recognized as one of their “Standard Bearers” for ongoing innovation, impact, strong leadership, and organizational efficacy, Mayyim Hayyim is in good company with other fabulous organizations.  Slingshot convened representatives from each of the 60 organizations, along with funders, foundation professionals, and federation executives to spend a day exploring the possibilities of sustainable impact.

I love this sort of thing, for lots of reasons.  First, having two small children, I’ll take just about any chance I can get for a solo trip to Manhattan.  I also got an “A” in Jewish Geography, so put me in a room full of hundreds of Jewish professionals, and I’m happy as a clam.

But really, I found the time professionally useful too.   I spent the morning in a private session for organizations listed in Slingshot’s most recent guide, learning from one another and sharing best practices.  The topic, led by Dr. Karen Abrams Gerber and her colleague Dr. Andrea Jacobs, was on creating an organizational culture of learning.

I had lots to share.  Ours is truly a learning organization.  In addition to annual performance reviews, regular staff and board retreats, and actively participating in social media, we evaluate just about everything.  Under the guidance of our talented evaluation consultant, Dr. Christine Pizer, we send satisfaction surveys following education programs and immersions.  Our guests give us the gift of their feedback, inviting us into their world.  We learn what makes a person’s experience meaningful, and where we may have missed the mark so we can improve in the future.

I share a few of these gems with you:

“I appreciated how welcome my husband and in-laws were made to feel while they waited for me during my conversion. My mother-in-law is a non-practicing Jew who is very ambivalent about mikvehs and what they traditionally represent, and she came to Mayyim Hayyim with many negative notions about what would happen there.  My Mikveh Guide and others made her experience positive.  She said it made her more open to the choice that my husband and I made to be engaged Jewishly and to raise our future children as practicing Jews.”

“My first time I mentioned that I felt uncomfortable with the amount of the suggested donation and I was told when I made my appointment this time that it was only a suggestion and to feel free to give any amount that worked for me.  I was impressed by your ability to file, save and use this feedback, and the manner in which I was spoken to.”

Along with lots of other useful data, we’ve also learned that 100% of those surveyed would recommend immersing at Mayyim Hayyim to a friend.

Beautiful.

And, with everything we’ve learned thus far, we know there’s much to continue learning from others, too.  Slingshot Day provided additional ideas for learning and growing.

How do you see organizations create a culture of learning?  What would you add to the list?

Carrie Bornstein is Mayyim Hayyim’s Acting Executive Director.  Follow her on twitter@carolinering.

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About mayyimhayyim

Mayyim Hayyim is a 21st century creation, a mikveh rooted in ancient tradition, reinvented to serve the Jewish community of today
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