The Collective: A New Culture of Learning pt. 2

In an earlier post, I introduced Douglas Thomas and John Seely Brown’s book  A New Culture of Learning: Cultivating the Imagination for a World of Constant Change, asking how youth leaders actually get at the internal motivation that, married with access to an unlimited source of information, drives learning.

Here’s another key idea in the book: the collective.

“As the name implies, it is a collection of people, skills, and talent that produces a result greater than the sum of its parts. For our purposes . . . they are defined by an active engagement with the process of learning.

“A collective is very different from an ordinary community. Where communities can be passive . . . collectives cannot. In communities, people learn in order to belong. In a collective, people belong in order to learn. Communities derive their strength from creating a sense of belonging, while collectives derive theirs from participation.

“[Collectives] are content neutral platforms, waiting to be filled with interactions among participants.”

What if youth ministry were viewed in a particular context as a constellation of collectives? What if, instead of The Youth Group, where one Youth Leader was trying to expose all participants to Scripture study, service, spiritual practice, worship, community building, etc., you instead had a collective of students who were participating in service and a collective that was focused on Scripture study, and any number of youth collectives engaging any number of things?

A student could choose to participate in whichever collective appealed to her. She could form a collective of her peers around forms of participation that don’t yet exist at the church.

In our congregation this year, a particular student has gathered a collective of her peers around her to engage issues of hunger. She recruited them to raise money for and participate in a walk. She got them to do the 30 Hour Famine. What that collective does next I don’t know. But I’m sure they’re not done.

I like what the collective suggests. What are the limitations, though? Does this appeal to you as much as it does to me?