Community Classroom

Learning about leading

A group of people sit at a table, all holding copies of the same book
Author: Dr. Evan Hoffman, VIU Faculty of Management Professor

Why your organization should join a reading circle

What happens when leaders of non-profit organizations come together to exchange ideas, discuss experiences and connect with one another? The result is shared insights, collaborative learning and strengthened connections.

Over the past few months, representatives from Volunteer Nanaimo, Nanaimo Child Development Centre, Vancouver Island Economic Alliance, Nanaimo Art Gallery, ClayTree Society, the Men’s Centre, Nanaimo Association of Community Living, Yellow Point Drama Group and Literacy Central Vancouver Island have met for regular discussions. These gatherings are co-sponsored by the Faculty of Management at VIU.

In these sessions, participants take turns leading discussions about different chapters of a non-profit management book. Together, we explore practical applications of the ideas presented. The reading circle is an opportunity to strengthen the relationships between VIU and local leaders. Together, we discuss new concepts, common challenges and ways to deal with challenges.  

Jennifer Fowler, Executive Director of Clay Tree Society, appreciates the diverse perspectives shared.

“I like the idea of people from different backgrounds and experiences coming together to read something. I get so much more from the text when I hear other perspectives and thoughts. It can also be hard to feel a part of a community at times. Reading circles foster community.”

Some topics discussed during reading circle sessions include:  

  • crafting compelling vision statements,
  • setting ambitious goals,
  • and measuring organizational capacity for change and growth.

Ken Hammer, a VIU Professor Emeritus, says reading circles have many benefits. “These include the collegiality and connections with like-minded community members, and sharing perspectives and learning with others. Finally, it gives me the opportunity to read books I might not pick up on my own!”

This reading circle model is easily replicated. All that is required is an organizer to bring people together, a meeting space and a facilitator to guide discussions. Participants choose the book, meeting frequency, location and approach to discussions.

It’s also important to include diverse viewpoints and perspectives when establishing a reading circle to help enrich the discussion. For VIU, the benefits have been many.

“This is an amazing opportunity to engage with the community and exchange perspectives, which will foster collaborations. This will ultimately strengthen our relationships with the community and create more opportunities for our students and faculty to enhance applied learning and teaching experiences,” said Dr. Sungchul Choi, Dean of the Faculty of Management.

If you are a leader looking to make connections, learn from peers and explore potential collaborations, joining a reading circle could be a transformative experience for you and your organization!


Dr. Evan Hoffman is a professor in the Faculty of Management at Vancouver Island University. With more than two decades of global experience in various educational and professional roles, Evan is a skillful trainer, consultant, negotiator and educator who has conducted workshops and training sessions for a wide range of individuals, from community leaders to government officials.


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