We talked about the new version of our framework in the last blog post.
Here is a video where we provide an overview this new version, along with an example of its applicability. Going through each cycle of the framework, we describe how it can be used for developing social learning and its ability to transform practice. We are writing this up, but this video gives you a preview of what’s to come.
Let us know how you think you can use this.
Below is the text of the video…
We’re living in a time when things are moving fast. The rules of the game are changing. Science is changing. Technology is changing. Geo-politics is changing.
Learning fast is the only mode of survival. But here’s the crazy thing: our models of learning have not kept up.
Old learning models
For many people learning starts with something that’s known. It’s then transmitted to someone who doesn’t know it.
But for the projects we’re involved in this simple view doesn’t work. In the real world things are too dynamic. And complex.
Need for new model
Knowledge doesn’t sit still. You’ve got to be on your toes – you’ve got to improvise, solve problems, strategize, jump on opportunities. And bring others along.
Learning that matters today is social, in real time, and inventive.
More often than not, what we need to learn is not yet known. And that’s why we need a new learning model.
Importance of learning models
Most people don’t think about the learning models they use. But it matters a lot.
Reward me for being good, punish me for being bad – you’re using a behaviorist model. You think that learning is molding behaviour.
Give your students a long explanation – you’re using a cognitivist model. You want this explanation to become a cognitive structure in their head.
Help your kid work out a question for herself – you’re using a constructivist model. You think it’s best people construct their own knowledge.
These are just a few examples. And most of us use multiple models. But they are important because they guide how you think you learn, how you foster learning, and how you evaluate it.
Let’s look at our framework which we use to address complex twenty-first century learning. It’s driven by data about what’s creating value for different stakeholders – and it’s responsive to a changing and unpredictable environment.
For us learning starts with a joint activity – conversation, design, problem solving, benchmarking – you name it.
This framework focuses on the value produced by social learning. It distinguishes between different types of value and models learning as the dynamic flow among them.
For us learning starts with a join activity. A conversation, design, problem-solving, benchmarking… you name it.
You meet others who understand you, talk shop, think together, have fun, get to know each other, feel inspired.
You get value from just participating. We call this immediate value.
All going well, this activity gives you confidence, new insights, good ideas, new perspectives, unexpected solutions, a new contact …
You might even produce a document – like the people on this photo did.
We say that these things represent potential value, because they may – or may not – end up being helpful to you.
For many people learning ends there. Not for us.
Let’s imagine now that you try one of those good ideas when you get back. You change your practice. Collaborate with someone you met.
In a traditional learning model this should be unproblematic since you already have the knowledge.
But putting something into practice is very creative. It involves a lot of learning and generates new knowledge.
We call this applied value.
As a result of all this chain of events, you would hope to see some improvement in performance. Your own or your organization’s.
This we call realized value.
Of course, it doesn’t always work. It might lead to nothing, or it might lead to a disappointment. Whether it’s a success or a failure you need to feed that back because it’s an important piece of information that will lead to further learning.
This feedback creates loops that are a key dimension of the model. Learning has to go all the way into practice and then back. And then into practice again.
It’s these learning loops that make the learning relevant, adaptive and dynamic.
We’ll take a pause here to walk through these cycles with an example from a recent project where this model was used.
This is Honorable Zitto,the Chairperson of the Public Accounts Committee in Tanzania.
The role of a public accounts committee is to hold the government to account for its use of public funds.
The project I was supporting brought together the Chairs of these committees from seventeen countries across Eastern and Southern Africa to learn together in different ways.
Hon Zitto was at one of the project workshops where he had some interesting conversations with other members about good practices in procurement.
We would say that enjoying these conversations with his counterparts from other countries gave him immediate value.
At the workshop he picked up something about the role of the National Audit Office that they didn’t do in Tanzania. It was that the Audit Office needs to scrutinize the procurement process before it’s completed – and not just afterwards.
Picking up an idea like that is a good example of potential value.
Back in Tanzania he heard something that now raised a red flag. The National Electoral Commission had procured election equipment – but the company that had been awarded the tender was the same company who had prepared the tender documentation.
A chance to apply what he learned.
Armed with examples of good practice from other countries in the region, he convinced his Auditor General to carry out a pre-procurement audit.
He also shared the story with the media — another good practice from the network. This added pressure on the Auditor General’s Office to take action.
See how creative this is. It involves combining multiple insights and seizing the opportunity. This is why it makes sense to call it applied value.
Within a month, as a result of the The Auditor General’s action, the tender, which was valued at 126 million US dollars, was cancelled and re-advertised.
OK, so the story reached realized value. Some money was probably saved, but more important, a transparent process was put in place.
Was this fed back into the community?
We collected many stories like this as part of the ongoing project evaluation – and shared them with network members.
A bigger picture
This story brings another important point about social learning: it doesn’t happen in isolation. A story like this is embedded in a broader context — a context that involves many different stakeholders.
This project’s been going on for several years. It includes networks of Public Accounts Committees in Eastern and Southern Africa, their clerks, the World Bank, the German Development Agency and various local organizations.
A key factor in the learning potential of the project was the quality of the conversations among stakeholders to fit their activities in a bigger picture.
The quality of these strategic conversations is an integral part of social learning and one that’s often neglected. We call it strategic value.
There’s another one that’s often taken for granted. It’s the learning of the project support team and community leaders.
Yes, it couldn’t happen without a lot of support and leadership – logistical, coaching, facilitation, technology, agenda design…a lot of learning there.
It’s a key aspect of the learning process. We call it enabling value.
Learning is not limited to an improvement in performance. It can also generate new perspectives or new definitions of success.
It can even trigger broader cultural and institutional transformations.
We call this transformative value. It doesn’t always happen. But there is always the potential that it might.
And when it does, it’s often the most dramatic aspect of learning….
and – potentially – the most contentious.
Another story from the same project but from a different member shows this transformative value and its potential to disturb the status quo.
If you had been in Zambia last year and happened to turn on the T.V. you might have seen government ministers being questioned about the use and mis-use of public finances.
What you might not know is that Hon Mwale, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee in Zambia had been inspired by some other countries in the network to have these hearings televised. It became a very popular series.
Here we see learning even transforming the broader political culture.
Yes, BUT they became a political hot potato. Suddenly the broadcasts were stopped and the director who had set it up was in danger of losing his job.
Yes, transformative value often upsets existing power structures.
While there is still controversy about how and whether these broadcasts should be continued, another unexpected outcome has been a sharp increase in the number of whistle-blowers contacting the Public Accounts Committee.
That’s a very interesting story – transformative in many ways and very useful to other network members when it gets fed back.
Multiple pieces and a dynamic flow between them
For us all of these pieces need to be in place and with a dynamic flow among them if learning is to make a difference in today’s world.
Uses of the framework
People are using this framework in many ways.
The value-creation cycles show you where to focus your attention.
And value-creation stories like the one we just told you explain how your project is making a difference.
If you are planning a project you can use the framework to structure conversations with various stakeholders – set aspirations and decide what conditions need to be in place.
If you are running a project, you can use the cycles to design activities and stories to create ongoing feedback loops.
If you are evaluating a project, you can use the framework to structure your data collection and analysis. You can follow indicators at each cycle and use stories to attribute outcomes to project activities.
We find many people – across sectors – struggling to integrate learning in all phases of their project – from planning to implementation to evaluation.
Unfortunately, learning remains a side-show in many projects – a bit of training, knowledge-sharing, a piece of research, an evaluation report. But today embedding social learning has to be a strategic part of any innovative project.
Our framework does just that. It acts as a shared language for negotiating aspirations, for framing the design, and for driving the learning through ongoing feedback loops and data collection.
Many of our clients are placing it at the centre of their initiative. This gives us hope. It shows we can change the discourse on learning to one that is going to address the challenges of today.