How times of crisis can provide the perfect classroom
The illiterate of the 21st Century will not be those who cannot read and write, it will be those who cannot learn, un-learn and re-learn.” Alvin Toffler
This importance of learning and adaptability could not be truer right now. As we try to navigate through uncertainty and upheaval, life is offering us the perfect classroom, with so many opportunities to innovate, learn and grow on a daily basis– both individually and as organisations.
Over the past month, the Academy has been on its own learning, un-learning and re-learning journey…
Stage 1 - Learn
This journey started with learning about the communities we serve: engaging with our partners, clients and learners to listen, understand their needs right now and reflect on what role we should play. From these conversations we learnt that many of our organisations and communities are working extensive hours– trying to survive and at the same time serve those they are set up to support.
Some felt paralysed initially with so much uncertainty and a cut in their potential funds and income. Many told us it feels confusing, lonely, tiring and at times scary. There were also inspiring stories of those stepping up and making extraordinary efforts to keep their teams and organisations together so they can continue to operate.
However, one common theme emerged: there was a strong sense that leadership is even more critical now than ever.
People are asking for opportunities to come together (virtually) to learn from each other, and to be supported in purposeful discussion around what they can do and their current leadership and enterprise challenges. They are looking for spaces to explore and share ideas and solutions for a different future. This is a time for Bold and Brave leadership and entrepreneurship, innovative solutions and collaborations.
Because of this, our purpose at the Academy remains: To facilitate learning to change the world. To help turn experiences into purposeful insights and learning. To make it easier for our social entrepreneurs and our communities to get through this and come out stronger. To strengthen the practice of leadership and entrepreneurship.
Stage 2 - Unlearn
Whilst our purpose still holds true, the world is a different place. We asked ourselves – how do we adapt to meet current needs and circumstances, whilst retaining our unique value?
What do we need to do differently, and what can stay the same? How do we challenge the status quo?
This has required some unlearning and shifting of mind-sets.
Initially there were plenty of concerns about not being able to do what we’ve always done – deliver our programmes in person. We’ve had to challenge our team and facilitators assumptions about what is or isn’t possible and review our foundations that we can build from.
We often talk about ‘bringing our programmes to where learners are’. Whilst we can’t be in the room together, we’re now even closer. We can bring our programmes to their kitchen, their spare bedroom, their study, their attic, their canal boat, their garden...wherever they have an internet connection!
Focus also shifted to what happens when we’re in the room. What is it that we do that enables us to achieve impactful learning? For this, we went back to first principles. What kind of learning experience is core to the Academy ethos and approach?
We deliver learning that is:
As we tested each principle, we realised this is all possible to do in a virtual setting. And more importantly, we deliver what our partners, clients and learners were asking for.We can still reduce our leaders’ and entrepreneurs’ sense of isolation and create safe spaces for them to share and learn together. We can still support them to build connections, reflect on their experiences and make sense of them. We can help them identify new ideas and opportunities together and strengthen their own personal resilience. We can enable our leaders and entrepreneurs to think differently and imagine different possibilities and options right now – maintaining and increasing their ability to serve their beneficiaries.
We’re not changing what we do, just how we do it.
Stage 3 - Relearn
To help make this change to how we do things, over the past couple of weeks we’ve focussed on upskilling our international network of teams and facilitators to deliver our programmes online. Not only are they learning new technologies and tools, they are having to relearn some of the basics of facilitation – how to connect with learners, how to manage group conversations, how to read body language online etc.
We’ve had to review all the different learning needs across our network. People’s response to change is different so our approach to support them through this needed to be flexible. Some of our most experienced facilitators are the most nervous about delivering online, whilst some of the least experienced are very tech savvy. Many are pairing up to share strengths and skills to enable us to relearn how we do what we do.
Throughout this learning journey there been lots of first times, lots of frustrations, but also lots of learning! And there will be plenty more to come no doubt.
We’re learning by doing.
To make sure we’re continuing to learn and grow through this, both personally and as an organisation, we’re making sure we build in plenty of feedback loops and time to reflect on our experiences. We need to remind ourselves and our teams stop, reflect and look at look at how much we’ve grown in only a few weeks.
What are you having to learn, unlearn and relearn in this period of change?
How can you make this learning process easier for yourself and those around you? What reflection and feedback mechanisms do you need to build in? Tweet us at @SEA_Worldwide and let us know!
For more info on how we can support you and your organisation during this time, please get in touch with your local Social Enterprise Academy hub team.