Social Learning: what it is and what it isn't


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Presentation held at the Social Learning Workshop gathering evidence that social learning approaches are working and can be used to support research and development projects.
Held by Liz Carlile, International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED). Learn more:

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Social Learning: what it is and what it isn't

  1. 1. Social Learning What it is, What is isn’t Liz Carlile, June 16, 2014 CCSL Evidence Gathering Workshop, London
  2. 2. How others have described it • Devaux – social learning brings about a shift from “multiple cognition” to “collective cognition”. Individuals involved in social learning processes begin with quite different perceptions of their current situation and the potential for change; as they interact, they develop common, shared perspectives , insights and values • Koelen and Das – Social learning is defined as the process through which groups of people learn, by jointly defining problems, searching for and implementing solutions, and assessing the value of solutions for specific problems • Keen – Social learning as the collective action and reflection that takes place amongst both individuals and groups when they work to improve the management of the inter relationships between social and ecological systems. • Reed – “a change in understanding that goes beyond the individual to become situated within wider social units or communities of practice through social interactions between actors within social networks • IDS/IIED – “Social learning approaches help facilitate knowledge sharing and joint learning experiences between stakeholders… through working together to better understand their situation, news shared ways of knowing generated” • Waddel – “When formalised into new patterns of working together – often through the creation of new umbrella organisations with participants from diverse parts of society – these mutually beneficial outcomes represent societal learning” Thought about…. Talked about….
  3. 3. What it is…. How we describe it • Social learning approaches facilitate knowledge sharing, joint learning and co-creation experiences between particular stakeholders around a shared purpose, taking learning and behaviour change beyond the individual to networks and systems. Through a facilitated iterative process of working together,with dialogue, exchange, learning, action and reflection, and on-going partnership, new shared ways of knowing emerge that lead to changes in practice. Iterative Co- creation Dialogue, exchange, learning, action, reflection…..
  4. 4. Looped learning • Continuous, iterative • Reflective • Combines knowledge • Learns from experience • Individual to networks to collective institutional action
  5. 5. Social learning – Armitage 2008
  6. 6. What it isn’t…. Just another word for participation
  7. 7. We believe that…. • if research is to genuinely result in changes in behaviour, policies and institutions, research outputs need to be better informed by and engaged with the process through which individuals, communities and societies actually learn and adapt their behaviour in the face of change
  8. 8. its not just about learning together • its not just about learning together – social learning approaches attempt to spread lessons, experiences and knowledge widely through networks or communication channels such as radio, TV, and social media. They aim at seeing changes in, and understanding, behaviour beyond the individual, to wider groups through networking and social interactions. These interactive exchanges could help kick-start behaviour change, while assisting research to move from theory to practice, i.e action on the ground. This is what puts the social into “social learning”.
  9. 9. Social learning approaches offer an opportunity • Social learning approaches offer an opportunity and not a panacea, and our commentary suggests that it is time to work together to build up a better body of evidence about both the benefits and costs of these approaches. And it provides a framework for doing so along with a ‘call to action’
  10. 10. Our chance to learn together