comment 0

Learning on the run

As learning partners for Better by Design we have an interesting and important challenge. How do we encourage 15 voluntary sector organisations, immersed in their day-to-day business and trying to make space to redesign their services to take time out to reflect and learn? How can we all learn from our experience in Better by Design as we go and distill that insight into the programme on an ongoing basis?

This matters because we need to understand what interventions make a difference to organisations, and what is it about design-led processes in particular that make the difference?  How are these processes similar or different from comparative approaches to organisational change? What is it about it that is truly innovative? The answers to these questions will help the existing 15 organisations and other voluntary organisations to replicate the process in the years to come.

What we know about learning is that paying attention to learning has to be a conscious and deliberate process. So to help us all do that…

We’re asking you to stop, think and share:  we know that if learning is to be identified and made available to others, it needs to be recognised first by those most closely involved.  Being asked to share in this way can be the trigger for insight – those ‘light bulb’ moments when you see something more clearly and feel confident about saying ‘yes, this feels true for me’.  That puts you in a better place to talk to others about your experience and helps them to see what might also be true for them.

We’re going to test things out:  The best learning is that which is tested out for real – this helps us to distinguish ideas that ‘look, sound or feel good’ from those which actually work.  A great strength of Better by Design is that learning that emerges in at one time or place can be tested out later or elsewhere – and in the process, no doubt, will be refined, adapted, customised or otherwise altered.  Then we’ll know more about how things work and in what situations.

We want us all to develop an appetite for evidence:  we’re confident that feedback helps us all to do better work.  If we’re testing out ideas and new ways of working, we’ll need some evidence about what is effective.  If you think it was helpful to try a different approach with your customers or clients, it’s reasonable to ask whether that assessment is yours alone or also based on the views of those most closely involved or affected.  So we all need to keep inquiring; asking for wider feedback that gives the information you need to sustain or change your efforts to make the impact you seek.

We want to know what’s working well:  a good first question is to ask people what works well.  You may find this hard – the question itself may surprise people – but we want you to take the risk and ask it all the same.   This kind of question gives you helpful information about what to keep doing – and is an important source of motivation to keep going.  A great follow up is to ask:  what could we do together to make it even better?  This is an invitation to share ideas and contribute to the next steps.

We call this learning on the runIt’s a bit like evaluation – but perhaps not as you may have experienced it before.  We have designed a learning on the run framework – it’s a series of prompts to remind us all what we’re looking for here:  this can be tweaked for each organisation, but the basic ‘prompts’ are:

Learning on the Run
  Knowing more about me in my role

  •   What new insights do I have into:

– how I tend to see things?
– what I take for granted?
– how I typically act?

  Knowing more about people and organisations that matter to us

  •   What new insights do I and others have about:

– how other people that are important to this organisation tend to see things?
– what they take for granted?
– how they typically act?

  Ideas for what might change

  •   What new ideas do we have for things we can each:

– do for ourselves, and
– do with each other
to help us achieve our goals as an organisation?

  Real change in the way we do things round here

  •   What new ways of working are we now using that help us achieve our goals as an organisation?
  Positive impact of BBD

  •   What are the most important ways in which this organisation is changing as a result of Better by Design?
  Fairness and balance

  • How do we know that this process is inclusive and fair?
  • Are we listening to those people that are seldom heard around here?


We think that this framework can become part of the language of Better by Design:  something we all understand and talk about – that we use to check-in how we’re doing and make sure that what we learn is well grounded and valuable for us and others.

Cathy Sharp and Jo Kennedy  6 January 2014

Filed under: BLOG

About the Author

Posted by @ResearchforReal

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s