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Friday, March 08, 2013

Social Learning in an IDS Knowledge Exchange


Carl Jackson, Ewen LeBorgne and I co-facilitated a knowledge exchange at IDS entitled, "Acting on what we know and how we learn for climate and development policy' Andy Newsham of the IDS Climate Change team, the lead organiser, blogged on the genesis of the workshop, as did the IDS Director, Lawrence Haddad, on the context.

The three of us were were co-facilitating as part of our work for the Climate Change and Social Learning (CCSL) project, a stream of work in the Climate Change for Agriculture and Food Security (CCAFS) programme. We wanted to weave the social learning approach into the IDS Knowledge Exchange, partly because we believe that it provides an interesting methodology to address the issue of how to move from learning to action and partly as part of our own social learning about Social Learning.

This first blog describes the approach and the programme, developed by the three of us together with Andy Newsham and Geoff Barnard of the Climate Development Knowledge Network (CDKN), one of the event sponsors.

This event brought together four different strands or ‘framing cases’ (1) which all related to an overarching learning theme in relation with the focus of the event: ‘acting on what we learn for climate and development policy’. We wanted to integrate ‘social learning’ activities into the event to reflect on the relationship between individual and collective learning, seeking to identify what circumstances encourage the collaborative learning and action at scale necessary to engage with Climate Change.

The social learning experience was based on the triple-loop learning approach:
  1. Instrumental learning: acquiring new knowledge
  2. Communicative: understanding/reinterpreting knowledge through communication with others
  3. Transformative: examining underlying assumptions leading to change in attitudes and social norms and collective action, ideally
This table lays out some differences between these three learning loops


This event has to bring together four different strands or ‘framing cases’ which all relate to an overarching learning theme in relation with the focus of the event: ‘acting on what we learn for climate and development policy’. To make this conference an even stronger and memorable event that leads to effective change, we propose to integrate ‘social learning’ activities into the event to weave the reflections and actions together and tap into the transformative potential of social learning. We aim particularly to reflect on the relationship between individual and collective learning, seeking to identify what circumstances encourage the collaborative learning and action at scale necessary to engage with Climate Change.

The social learning experience will use the triple-loop learning approach:
  1. Instrumental learning: acquiring new knowledge
  2. Communicative: understanding/reinterpreting knowledge through communication with others
  3. Transformative: examining underlying assumptions leading to change in attitudes and social norms and collective action, ideally
This table lays out some differences between these three learning loops:


First loop
Double loop
Triple loop
NatureInstrumentalCommunicativeTransformative
Use of knowledgeAcquiring new knowledgeUnderstanding / reinterpreting knowledgeExamining assumptions behind (particularly dominant) knowledge
Focus (also temporal)Efficiency (now)Effectiveness (next)Dynamic relevance (over time) / adaptive capacity
Key questionsWhat are we doing now and how can we improve this?
WHAT IS
What could we do to improve the pursuit of our aims?
WHAT COULD BE
What should we do to improve the way we think about improving our approach?
WHAT SHOULD BE
Approach followedStatic, unilateral information flows e.g. dissemination of case studies etc.Participatory communication, bilateral knowledge flowsDynamic experience building, multilateral knowledge flows
As the event unfolded we planned activities gave participants opportunities to go through these three loops by examining successively:
  • existing experiences: what are we doing now? 
  • opportunities to integrate and improve our collective approaches: what could we do together? 
  • reflections about how we are learning about our effectiveness in climate change work: what should we do to learn more effectively and remain relevant over time, build our adaptive management and critical thinking capacity to influence collective social learning and action at scale?
In a second blog I'll add my own learning about learning from the event.
1. Four thematic strands:
  1. Whose knowledge counts? Locally-held knowledge for climate change adaptation (IDS & CCAFS) PC/AN
  2. Brokers, translators and intermediaries: new roles and challenges for putting knowledge into practice (IDRC, IDS, USAID) BH
  3. How to learn from climate change evaluations in and between organizations (CDKN & GEF EO) ELB
  4. 4. Extreme events and disaster risk reduction: what are we not learning? (IDS) CJ

2 comments:

Jaap Pels said...

Hi Pete, Ewen and ... This is a handy overview / post. I will G+ it and reference to it. Nice! Jaap

Jaap Pels said...

Comments on https://plus.google.com/u/0/102870881095444804282/posts/fCRxGGrJk5t