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Community of Inquiry Resources

Organizations that would be learning organizations develop from a solid understanding of related concepts: appreciative inquiry, the community of inquiry, and community of practice.

The organization as a community of inquiry is a facilitated group of people who work together on a consistent basis trough inquiry into matters of importance to them. As such, it is characterized by its structure, processes, culture and skill sets.

In terms of structure, the organization as a community of inquiry is a facilitated democracy and free market in ideas in the pursuit of the truths it needs to survive and thrive in a changing, evolving world. The community of inquiry simultaneously develops the skills, knowledge, understanding and attitudes of its members through inquiry into matters of importance.

In terms of process, the organization as a community of inquiry is a dialogic, open, and facilitated pursuit of truth it needs to survive and thrive in a changing, evolving world. Skills, knowledge, understanding, and attitudes of the community are expected to develop through good thinking, good communicating, and cooperating well in inquiry and action.

In terms of culture, the organization as a community of inquiry is characterized by:

  • Leaders and members alike embracing the community's core purpose and values, and adeptness at preserving them while stimulating progress;
  • Leaders and members holding themselves responsible-and others accountable-to high standards;
  • Leaders encouraging members-and members welcoming/accepting the opportunity-to participate in organizational/community affairs;
  • Leaders and members having access to the knowledge they need, when they need it; and
  • Conflict and mistakes made in good faith being seen as opportunities for learning and growth.

In terms of skill sets, the community of inquiry develops, maintains, and employs the essential human capacities of thinking, critically and creatively, communicating feelings and ideas, and cooperating in inquiry and action. Employing these capacities requires openness to outcome, generative listening, finding value in others, surfacing assumptions, balancing advocacy and inquiry, and suspending judgments.

An organization, as overlapping communities of practice, develops sets of skills together. Through application of reason and experience they expand the knowledge they need to meet the challenges of the world of which they are a part to create the lives they truly want to live.

Melding the notion of a collective pursuit of truth embodied in the community of inquiry with the philosophical approach to knowledge known as appreciative inquiry provides a solidly grounded concept for the learning organization.

There are few really good resources about the community of inquiry available on the Internet. The ideas are best developed in the field known as philosophy for children (P4C), but its central concepts are well-developed in a number of works, especially those written or influenced David Bohm, especially Peter M. Senge. Here are the Internet sources I have found and used:

The concept of the Community of Inquiry

Inquiry is no mere conversation (or discussion or dialogue): facilitation of inquiry is hard work!

Materials useful for assessing progress in a community of inquiry

Selections from Peter Senge's book, The Fifth Discipline Fieldbook, on facilitation

Tools and environments for high-performance communication

Tenets of Democracy: Thinking Together and Making Meaning

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