Interest in managing change has been accelerating over the past decade, with rapidly changing social and environmental conditions. The scope of the changes has advanced from incremental ones in existing systems to ones involving transformations in the system itself.
The authors outline how to work with the collective learning spiral in a wide range of situations, including those where people wish to:
• develop their own thinking
• work on team building
• initiate whole-of-community change
• restructure an organisation
• offer professional development
• take part in policy development.
In Part 1: Instructions: Collective Learning for Transformational Change, the authors, drawing on the experiental learning cycle developed by David Kolb, provide an outline of the theory and practice of collective learning. This process follows the rules of open space learning, dialogue and valuing diversity. They also provide a detailed description of how to work with the collective learning spiral and how to navigate the learning stages:
• clarifying aims
• finding the facts
• generating ideas
• putting the ideas into action
• reconsidering the original aims.
At each stage, Brown and Lambert show how the key set of interests in the proposed change come together under conditions that foster open dialogue. Examining the findings of over 300 study sites, they identify the decision-making set as:
Part 2: Case Studies: Celebrations of Collective Learning explores examples of collective learning having led to transformational change in a wide range of contexts, from cities, to councils, to organisations.
Part 3: Resources: A-Z of Collective Learning offers 32 activities on which the program designers can draw in the course of guiding transformational change.
Ultimately, Collective Learning for Transformational Change is a resource that will be immensely valuable to researchers, students and professionals working in the fields of organisational change, organisational behaviour, management education, and sustainability training, education and leadership.
Reviews of Collective Learning for Transformational Change: A Guide to Collaborative Action
‘This “Guide to Collaborative Action” is a systematic and accessible resource – providing direction and inspiration for current and future change agents. Decades of experience have been synthesized in an innovative, integrative and invaluable guide that opens new and creative pathways toward transformational change.’ Margot Parkes, professor, University of Northern British Columbia, Canada;president, International Association for Ecology and Health
‘The Collective Social Learning process is simply outstanding. We have found that the framework energises participants, leads to individual and collective action and is transformative. Collective learning has become one of our key change processes in our city’s sustainability journey. We have also used the guide to conduct collective learning programs around Australia, and in the USA, New Guinea and Ethiopia.’ Greg Bruce, executive manager, Integrated Sustainability Services, Townsville City Council, Queensland, Australia
‘As a consultant in the field of international development, I highly recommend this book for everyone who is facilitating intentional transformational change. Based on concepts of collective learning, it brings together clear exercises and an A-Z of essential tools. The many case studies demonstrate how the collective learning spiral can be a vehicle for transformational change in a wide range of cultures.’ Sara Cummings, international consultant, Integrated Knowledge Management Emergent, a European aid development initiative;editor, Knowledge Management for Development Journal
Emeritus Professor Valerie A. Brown
Local Sustainability Project
Fenner School of Environment and Society
Australian National University