This week John Hitchin, CEO, writes about learning, giving feedback on another organisation’s place-based work and writing board papers.

Birds sitting on canoes on the lake in Victoria Park, Hackney London.

What is learning?

My colleague Alice Thornton spoke with a few different people, including with Keira Lowther at Dartington Service Design Lab, about what a learning partner is, and what it means to do ‘learning’ in the social sector.

A lot of people are using the terminology of ‘learning work’ and ‘learning partnerships’, but they don’t seem to be the same thing all the time, and while they have something to do with evaluative practice, they also have quite a lot to do with organisational development. Sometimes new concepts are just washing of old ones, but sometimes they are trying to get into new niches.

Learning is an important part of our strategy at Renaisi, we learn about the different things that we do (service delivery, consultancy, facilitating systems change work) then try and improve one by sharing learning from the others. We have strategies for that, but it’s not always easy, and on a bad day the different bits of our social enterprise can pull apart rather than come together.

Alice will be exploring this more during the year. It’s an important vein of thinking. You can read more about our learning partnerships offer here.

Meeting prep

I have two big upcoming meetings that I had to finish off papers for. It was a lot of work, but hopefully it will be worth it. So much of writing papers is to do with trying to get your understanding of a situation to be shared by others, but that can be hard when understanding is contested or uncertain. Let’s see if the papers, and the discussions, can successfully move on our shared understanding.

Feeding back

I spoke with Ciara Devlin and the place-based working team at Crisis. We used their work in Newcastle as a way to further our understanding of what it takes to do this kind of work and building on our framework how to better learn and improve. I spent an hour with the team, feeding back and sharing thoughts about where they were at, with the rounded view we had collected. It’s so important to do, but it can be quite hard to give feedback to an organisation, especially when you’re used to doing it as a paid consultant.

The team are doing really important and interesting work, and so I hope I did it justice, and I am excited to hear about where they take it next.

Reading, listening and watching

I watched The Dig on Netflix, and completely loved it. I’ve not read the John Preston novel it is based on, but knew a tiny bit about the Sutton Hoo story. The Dig reminded me of Graham Swift’s Waterland, and the focus on landscape and a  kind of rural person and knowledge in Thomas Hardy (particularly Return of the Native). The Dig is a story of time, history and landscape, and what it takes to know who we are, what it is that holds us in this world, and what it means to accept both our fragility and fleeting natures, but also our permeance as part of a longer story.

These are all stories built on landscapes and, I’m afraid to say it, but place.

John Hitchin CEO