In an attempt to understand why informal learning experiences often resonate deeply with—and contribute to the development of—community leaders, this research project aims to investigate what role place has in shaping the learning experiences most influential for developing community leadership skills. Taking the form of an auto-ethonography, I will examine select community leadership roles I have assumed between 2007 and 2017 through the act of critical reflection, focusing on elements from each of the following categories: snapshots, artifacts, and metaphor (Muncey, 2005).

Findings will be situated in the context of scholarly literature to build a greater appreciation regarding the learning experiences most influential in developing the skills essential to lead communities, and to what extent place helps to foster such skills. In appreciating how culture, context, time, and place have shaped my own experiences, the findings of this research project will be used as a basis for a broader understanding of how community leadership skills are fostered, whereby my personal stories are representative of a larger group.

This research will build upon existing literature related to the importance of experience (Lindeman, 1982), space and learning (Gruenewald, 2003; McKee, 2014; Shor, 1992), and community leadership (Brookfield & Preskill, 2009; Schweigert, 2007; Wheatley, 2009). When complete, this research project will fill to a gap within existing literature regarding the relationship between place and learning (Gruenewald, 2003; Nesbit & Wilson, 2010), specifically the connecting of spatial elements to adult education for community-based action (Foroughi & Durant, 2013).

Research Period: 2017–2020
Areas of Investigation: Informal Learning, Community Development, Leadership, and Place
Research Partners: Good City, St. Francis Xavier University


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Foroughi, B., & Durant, C. (2013). Spaces of community development and adult learning within diverse urban settings. In T. Nesbit, S. Brigham, N. Taber, & T. Gibb (Eds.), Building on critical traditions: Adult education and learning in Canada (pp. 215–224). Toronto, Canada: Thompson Educational Publishing.

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Lindeman, E. (1982). To put meaning into the whole of life. In R. Gross (Ed.), Invitation to lifelong learning (pp. 118–122). Chicago, IL: Follett.

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Nesbit, T., & Wilson, A. (2010). Class and place in adult and continuing education. In C. Kasworm, A. Rose, & J. Ross-Gordon (Eds.), Handbook of adult and continuing education (pp. 389–397). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications Inc.

Schweigert, F. J. (2007). Learning to lead: Strengthening the practice of community leadership. Leadership, 3(3), 325–342.

Shor, I. (1992). Empowering education: Critical teaching for social change. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

Wheatley, M. (2009). Turning to one another: Simple conversations to restore hope to the future (2nd ed.). San Francisco, CA: Berrett-Koehler Publishers Inc.