I, WE and ALL OF US, a pedagogy for sustainability and responsibility
Carlo Giardinetti, a GRLI Guardian and “educational hero” at Business School Lausanne, is fully engaged in transforming business into a “force for good”. In this article he explores how to create a fully engaged community of learners.
Are you interested in having your community of learners fully engaged? A good start could be to spell out the purpose of the education you want to be part of.
For us at Business School Lausanne (BSL) the purpose of education is to support and foster responsible leadership and sustainable business. Responsibility and sustainability are in no way similar to the typical functional business and management education areas such as finance, marketing, human resources, strategy, operations or others. In fact they add a layer of learning — even more than a layer. You can think of it as part of the DNA of the learning. How can you learn about business and management if you want responsibility and sustainability to be in the DNA of the learning you design?
I think most of us have experienced some great learning in our life. If such learning has stayed with you for a long time,and has somehow helped your transformation, evolution and/or development, it may well have been what I call three-dimensional learning. The three dimensions I am talking about are the I, WE and ALL OF US. What does this mean?
It means that transformational learning can only happen when we discover how what we are learning is connected to the three dimensions:
The I — How is this relevant to me? What are my own struggles with the topic? What is my emotional connection to it? Do I have personal experiences?
The WE — Who are the main stakeholders related to the topic? What is their perspective? What do they know and how do they use their knowledge? Are there competing or collaborating views, or both? How do I work with them so that there is not them, but only we?
The ALL OF US — What is the systemic use and impact of the topic? What scenarios does the topic create? How does it impact our world in some or all four dimensions — planet, society, economy and governance?
Learners that are taken through the three dimensions develop a comprehensive understanding of the topic from the systemic level (ALL OF US) down to the personal relevance (I), through the application in the relevant communities (WE).
Learning through the I dimension ensures that the learner explores and uncovers the areas of personal relevance of the topic. Here some suggestions for learning designers/facilitators who want to ensure a good dive into the I space:
- Using blocks of three or more hours of learning experience ensures the right variety of activities can take place, including reflective spaces.
- Being a role model in the “I” space and finding the balance with neutral facilitating energy.
- Organizing regular self-awareness gatherings for faculty and students (breakfasts, lunches, drinks, walks, etc.)
- Circle sharing of personal check-in into the session/lecture/course with questions like:” What do I expect from this session?” (one minute per person).
- Trio-walks where oneperson in the middle has five minutes to share his/her personal reflections around the topic and two people on the side are listening and providing two minutes of feedback each (total 10 minutes).
- Pair talks around deep questions where strangers get to know something very meaningful about the other (15 mins each). Each will then present the other in front of the audience (up to 90 minutes).
- Speed dating with a few personal questions with one minute per exchange (30 mins)
- Journalling activities to support acknowledgment of learning and walk-aways (ongoing).
- Storytelling where a person stands in front of a semi-circle and shares an insightful personal story around the topic (10 minutes per story + 10 minutes Q&A).
- Group brainstorming using post-it to gather what each individual expects to learn and then cluster learning macro-areas.
- MANY OTHERS!!!
Learning through the WE dimension ensures that the learner understands the complexity of the topic by exploring the different interests and perspectives of the multiple stakeholders relevant to the topic. The learner also understands the optimal ways to interact in the community. Here some suggestions:
- Role play, where each group of three learners must impersonate the role of one different stakeholder. 1 hour is dedicated to researching key information to understand the crucial points of this stakeholder perspective. The facilitator uses the following hour to host and moderate a debate around key targeted questions among the stakeholders. Finally an additional hour is dedicated to reflection activities and harvesting the complexity of the topic. (three hours)
- World café with different tables for different stakeholder perspectives, and teams rotating to ensure maximum contribution and learning from the different perspectives.
- Running Collaboratory dialogues inviting different representatives from all the various stakeholders.
- Certainly this is the space where business is learnt from a customer perspective, service provider, product manufacturer and so on. Most of the more “traditional” learning happens in this space
- Business simulation, gamification, etc.
- MANY OTHERS!!!
Learning through the ALL OF US dimension ensures the learner can see the systemic dynamics that the topic triggers. Dimensions like planet, society, economy and governance are explored in their interconnections and relevance to the topic. Typical activities that a facilitator can run include:
- Watching documentaries that beautifully show the complexity and interconnections of our world.
- Working with interactive scenario simulations.
- Connecting via Skype or other platforms with other learners from very different areas of the world where the topic is experienced in radically different ways and exchange experiences in forms of reciprocal questions.
- Using Issue Centered Learning where the starting topic is always a major issue of the world that can be picked, such as www.gapframe.org, a very useful tool we developed at BSL. Learners are then invited to explore their personal connection with the issue. Business is then looked at as being part of the solution and/or part of the problem. Functions of business and management are then identified as instrumental to drive the shift from being part of the problem to being part of the solution. Business is then understood and appreciated for what it is, an incredible generator of solutions and — unfortunately too often, problems.
- MANY OTHERS!!!
Clearly all the above introduced dimensions and activities can be complemented with other forms of active and passive learning. Expert views and lectures can and should still happen but should be well integrated in the three dimensions and serve the broader purpose of each dimension. When designing learning spaces you can start thinking of different roles that should be present in the space. For instance:
- The Expert. These can be faculty, researchers, entrepreneurs, citizens, or students who have a deep expertise relevant to the topic.
- The Facilitator. These are skilled facilitators who can ensure learning continue to evolve from activity to activity in the best possible self-organized way. Facilitators refrain from interfering with opinions and expertise: it is not their role.
- The Coach. Learning happens so differently within all of us and often encounters barriers on its way. Coaches can be peer learners who have simply earned some skills to support others in their individual learning journeys. Coaching is about asking the right questions in these cases, and also offering a listening partner.
- The Participant. You can think of this category as the one closer to the typical student. Yet, there is no way a participant would be engaged in passive learning. Learning is participative and contribution is expected. The great opportunity is that participant can switch to coach, to facilitator or to expert at any given opportune time.
So, how do you feel, having read this? Did it move something inside you? Do you also think it is time and it is possible to redesign modern learning spaces that can help us to take care of ourselves and our beloved world? If you are curious to know more and join a vision for a new business and management education, go and visit www.50plus20.org.
Let me know what you think and I would love to engage in conversations around reinventing education together.