Principle 7 – Foster Participatory Learning

Collective learning is at the very heart of any MSP.  This is the process that enables different stakeholders to understand each other, explore common concerns and ambitions, generate new ideas and take joint action.  The very reason for an MSP is that people are ‘stuck’.  There are conflicts, problems or missed opportunities because old ways of thinking and acting no longer work and new ways of thinking and acting have not yet been created. The learning process is what makes change possible and the quality of these learning events is often what differentiates successful and failed MSPs.

In order to see new possibilities for change, different stakeholders need to learn together from their respective experience.  Such learning can be enabled using ideas such as experiential learning and single, double and triple loop learning, and drawing on participatory methods that enable creative, open, emotionally engaging and analytically sound interaction between stakeholders.

To facilitate collective learning, MSPs and workshops need to be designed around the experiential learning cycle. This means first exploring the situation without judgement, then analysing the implications from different stakeholder perspectives, before making decisions and finally taking action. Jumping to snap decisions or taking action prematurely, will undermine the learning process.

Stakeholders need to be engaged in deeply questioning, exploring and sharing their underlying assumptions about the problems they see, and why they suggest particular strategies for action. Experts can often make valuable contributions, but what is really important is the exploration, thinking and analysis done by the stakeholders themselves. 

Finally, MSPs need to be designed in alignment with how humans work. Purely rational processes will only produce certain sorts of understanding and not necessarily transformation. Facilitators need to aspire to involve the ‘whole’ person and design processes which are emotionally, creatively and intellectually engaging