Learnings about learning – reflections on the lab environment

Something quite profound happened in last month’s ‘Tackling complex challenges through effective collaboration’ workshop. In addition to gathering feedback from those who participated, we have made time to reflect and learn from this experience ourselves.

Some of our learning has been the reinforcement of what we know and a deepening of our conviction about the power of experiential learning to really enable behavioural shifts.

Here are some of our insights:

  • By designing and working experientially we ensure that everyone can access the learning, regardless of how much or little experience they have.
  • The art of doing this well is allowing enough time for reflection and unpacking of the experience so that people can individually and collectively harvest the insights from the experience.
  • We add our stories, practical techniques and theory into the sessions at the points when they become pertinent to the group rather than determined by a predefined agenda. This makes it much easier to digest.
  • The beauty of experiential learning workshops is that everyone learns from where they are, unlike traditional training which tends to reduce to the lowest common denominator i.e. the person with the least experience or knowledge determines the agenda.
  • In this type of learning the facilitators also benefit from learning with the group.
  • It creates a truly shared learning environment where everyone’s experience is valued as adding to the mix.

One of the most profound learnings came from the rich mix of participants in the group. We had a wonderfully diverse group; culturally from Asia, Africa and Europe; we had a rich mix of different educational disciplines from Psychology, Engineering, Law; plus we had a mix of private sector, non-profit sector and independents.

Back in September 2019 we did some work in India in which we experienced the saviour mindset of corporate CSR. The pervasive belief seems to be that because corporate organisations have the power of money making, they have all the answers. In our view, this does not leverage the potential for corporates to learn from the things their non-profit partners do well – for example, the way they connect so well to purpose that people will work for them for free! Since September we have been speaking to Corporate Foundations and CSR leaders but have not yet found anyone in the corporate sector with the appetite for mutual exchange through peer learning between corporate and non-profit organisations.

As we witnessed the March workshop unfold we realised that we had created an environment in which participants from all sectors were sharing and learning from each other as peers, in a way we do not see in CSR. Connecting private and non-profit sectors is dear to our hearts, as we see the fragmentation of these parts of our society as unsustainable.

We are delighted that the group from our March workshop have decided to create an online community and we hope that others will join us, as we have now set the dates for our 4-5th September workshop, also in London.

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