"We can't solve our problems ​using the same kind of thinking we used when we created them." Albert Einstein 

This quote was posted throughout The Wexner Foundation’s 30th Anniversary celebration in April.  While it’s easily accessible on the surface, the truth within this statement is quite profound, and deeply complex.  It is worth our attention as leaders to understand its implications for our leadership.

As leaders in the Jewish community we have invested our time, energy and talents in building organizations that are the foundation of Jewish life.  But all the research tells us that today’s generations are increasingly wary of institutions.  They are empowered to organize on their own, coordinate action outside of institutional settings and create entirely new economies such as Uber and AirBNB.  There is something for us to learn from this reality.

While Jewish organizations are not a problem in and of themselves, being overly invested in them may be.  I have become increasingly interested in the spaces between organizational offerings and in the people who are Jewishly curious and active, even without affiliating or engaging with organizations.  As suggested by Leslie Wexner in his closing remarks at the 30th, there must be a fresh way to design programs and even our institutions that would be based on a social architecture that connects people, encourages depth and builds community.

While only a small percentage of Jews participate in formal adult education or chevruta-style learning, a much larger percentage of them participate in meaningful social experiences such as book clubs and other discussion groups.  What is it about these clubs that attracts individuals, creates a feeling of belonging and provides the kind of structure necessary to engage deeply with one another?

Together with a coalition of funders I am looking into these questions to learn from the actual behavior of people to better be able to design opportunities for Jewish learning in those spaces in between, for example in people’s homes and public spaces.  The concept is not to develop a new organization, but rather to design a platform or a set of open source tools that can support people who want to organize, lead, collaborate and participate. If you are in a book club, or have thought about joining one, I would appreciate you taking a few moments to answer a short survey.  You can share your experience here by filling out a brief survey – we’d love to hear from you.  Do you know of book or film clubs already happening in the Jewish community? We are interested in learning from the models that already exist and would love to hear from you (via email).

Lisa Colton is the Chief Learning Officer for See3 Communications and the Founder and President of Darim Online.  She is leading a project to explore opportunities and design criteria for building relationships and community through media clubs.  You can reach her at lisa@see3.com or @lisacolton.