Friday, September 19, 2014

Learning about Learning with East meets West

"In the WASH sector there is a plethora of information, but not always the ability or willingness to learn, both as organisations and individuals. Effective knowledge systems requires organisations to embed knowledge and learning in day to day work in a way that achieves goals and empowers staff. Additionally they require reflective professionals motivated to learn and equipped to build knowledge and learning into their programmes"

It's always reassuring to find someone else apparently whose thinking overlaps closely with your own. This quote from a training session at the 2014 WASH conference in Brisbane captures well the balance between knowledge and learning that informs the KM project we're doing with a group of organisations. We've based our plans partly on the argument that, in common with other development sectors, there is an over-emphasis on Knowledge products and outputs and not enough emphasis on the reflection and learning processes that produce sustainable change within projects and organisations. Given that we're arguing that we need to make time for learning and reflection I want to 'work out loud' as we go along, sharing process and progress using social media - blogging and tweeting, mainly. Hence this blog, the first of a series based on a visit to East Meets West in Hanoi, recently re-branded Thrive Networks.

Knowledge to Action to Change

How to strengthen the link between Knowledge and Action is one of the design principles that emerged from the consultation with the organisations about how to improve KM within the programme. It's also the theme of a workshop we're doing at the annual WEDC conference. East Meets West (EMW) is lead organiser and we've planned the session with Kathy Harries, who is the Knowledge and Learning manager of the DFAT funded Civil Society WASH programme. (Kathy was one of the authors of the quote above). To help keep the workshop practical EMW suggested we focus on action that leads to change.

Looped learning

We introduced the triple loop learning model as a useful model for understanding knowledge and learning processes to the group of organisations at their annual workshop early this year.

The kind of learning we're interested in links knowledge to action - the reflective and analytical process that involve processing Knowledge, whether research results or personal experience, and identifying what practical steps will improve performance and outcomes.  And in terms of sharing and institutionalising learning and change we're particularly interested in social learning based on critical reflection processes.

We're story telling in the workshop later today, asking people to give examples of changes they have experienced and tell us the story of how that happened. We'll be capturing and sharing those stories, and reflecting on what we're learning about learning in later posts