The political and economic turmoil of the past couple of months has been hugely damaging for public services and those who rely on them most. All of us who are in the business of trying to help public services become more collaborative, holistic, adaptable and upstream can see how much harder this becomes with ever greater strains on funding and ongoing uncertainty. However the determination and creativity of people who design, commission and provide services of all kinds was in full display during the first ever Human Learning Systems week, which we hosted from 10th to 14th October. Over 700 people looking for courage, inspiration and connection registered for 25 free online events exploring how to work differently in complexity to enable support and services that are human-centred, adaptable and collaborative. Along with 50 speakers over 32 hours of content and conversation we explored the practice of Human Learning Systems in all its diversity and a variety of settings - from specific services to entire communities. This is remarkable for an approach that has only developed over the past 7 years.
HLS Week could not have happened without the event hosts and speakers, the support of the Tudor Trust and all the participants. Thank you all for your support.
So what did we take away?
A key theme throughout the week was the need to develop support that recognises our interdependence and need for connection as human beings. We heard many great examples across different places and sectors of relational approaches in all different parts of the system, the most embedded of which are rooted in collaborative cross-sector approaches that put collective purpose, not single organisations, at the heart. This included recognising the important role of communities within systems that support people, and we explored what HLS practitioners can learn from community development approaches.
Another theme was the importance of recognising that inequity is ‘baked in’ to our systems and to even start to dismantle that we need to use language and thinking that doesn’t dehumanise and ‘other’ people, speak with and not for people, and create opportunities for connecting across our differences. We heard a lot about the need to unlearn old habits, let go of the illusion of control, and intentionally shift and share power and resources, supported by enabling leaders who encourage us to learn and improve together. This will require us to create new infrastructures and cultures of open discovery, underpinned by genuine curiosity and listening.
Human Learning Systems as a practice is spreading, and a key takeaway has been that there is no one way or place to start - start somewhere and don’t wait for permission!
We’ll be sharing videos of all the recorded events over the next few weeks. To access resources and find support, join the Human Learning Systems community here.
Naomi Diamond, Head of Practice