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Communicating is an active process comprised of three dynamic and mutually reinforcing actions. Learning follows listening, but is equally important. Both listening and learning are prerequisites for sharing.

Once your organization has realized its brand, embraced its culture and weighed its strategic choices, you are ready to lean into the most active stage of the communication process.

Learning is an integral part of the listen/learn/share communication cycle. It requires you to exercise a different set of organizational muscles than listening, but is of equal importance to the strategic communication process. Learning is about internalizing what you hear and engaging in true self-reflection before proceeding with any outbound message. Learning requires individuals and organizations to be mindful of cultural norms, political trends and other external circumstances that can effect how they are perceived and received by their audiences. It cannot happen unless you are paying close attention and are receptive to what an audience can teach you.

It's also important for communicators to remember that there is much to be learned from internal audiences. Often times your colleagues, peers, and partners can shed insight on assumptions in ways that external audiences cannot.

Learning also takes time — lots and lots of time. Many of the issues we work on in the social sector (take marriage equality, for example) have required decades of communication and advocacy work with very little demonstrable progress, before a tipping point is reached and change begins to spread more quickly.

by the numbers


Percentage of survey respondents who wish they had more data to prove that communication investments are worth making.


Percentage of survey respondents who say their organization always or often communicates to share learning about what has and has not worked.


Number of years it took to go from one state where marriage is legal for all couples, to 19.

tips and insights

A “learning organization” is the term given to a company or organization that facilitates the learning of its members and continuously transforms itself for higher levels of impact and effectiveness.

Capacity for learning depends directly on an organization’s size and complexity. Research shows that 150 employees represents a general breaking point, after which knowledge sharing reduces due to increased complexity, weaker interpersonal relationships and lower trust, decreased connective efficacy, and less effective communication. (Sorenko, Bontis, Hardie)

Public attitudes toward marriage for same-sex couples have shifted rapidly. Even so, it has taken 10 years since marriage was legalized in Massachusetts for marriage equality to reach 19 states. Social change takes time.