I spend the majority of my working life now training people in action learning facilitation and I love it. I love the depth of connection people make with each other; their willingness to open themselves to new learning; the quality of feedback they get from peers; their excitement as they see the potential for incorporating and adapting action learning to their work or their organisation.
I have just returned from working in Sydney, Australia and a particularly special action learning facilitation training. This was the culmination of a number of years working with the ACCELERATE programme. ACCELERATE is a leadership programme for indigenous leaders working in the arts in Australia – theatre makers, writers, dancers, visual artists, architects, designers. They share an indigenous identity either from aboriginal communities or as Torres Strait Islanders. Their experience as they grew up is incredibly diverse – rural or urban; knowing their indigenous heritage from birth or discovering it; experiencing daily racism or choosing to declare their indigenous identity.
The programme, which is funded by The British Council (Australia) and The Australia Council (equivalent to Arts Council England) brought people together for leadership development and gave them the experience of visiting cultural institutions in the UK. Action learning was an element of the first four years of the programme – enabling peers to use time together with the discipline of action learning to process their experience in the UK, to learn from each other’s experience and develop their leadership plans for the future. They then continued to work as a virtual action learning set – meeting across thousands of miles. The outcome has been a powerful peer network of indigenous leaders with the potential to transform their own communities and the cultural landscape in Australia.
The facilitator training programme this July in Australia was especially significant because I was working with such high calibre indigenous leaders who saw the potential for action learning and were keen to learn the skills of facilitation.
They also explored really big questions:
- Leadership within indigenous communities
- The contribution of indigenous arts to Australia and how to ensure it could take up its rightful place within the arts world
- The future of First Nations collaboration across the world; arts leaders from First Nation communities in Taiwan, New Zealand and Canada were meeting the following week in Australia to explore creative leadership and cultural practice.
It was a huge privilege to participate in their questions and to see their growing understanding of how action learning could contribute to further exploration. They experienced for themselves how action learning offered far more than discussion or dialogue and that its power was in its relationship to action. They had exciting and innovative ideas for how they might use action learning.
I will continue to work with these leaders through virtual action learning sessions and they will receive an accredited award in action learning facilitation with the Institute of Leadership & Management.
In their own words, this is what some of the participants had to say about their experience:
The three days with Ruth were very significant: taking out three days to learn a new skill set, and gain insight into myself and my peers has been profound. I have been able to make decisions because I have been in a place of safety and wisdom and conclude training with a newfound sense of confidence and peace. Thank you!”
Erica McCalman, ACCELERATE Programme Manager, British Council
The last three days were immensely important to me in refining where my future direction can go in terms of the next step in my professional career. The experience, knowledge and skills that I have developed have left me with a hunger to further define and develop action learning to become a key skills set. To be employed in the role I can see myself playing in leading and reshaping the indigenous cultural and creative landscape of this country.”
Peter White, First People’s Cultural & Creative Development
Action learning training with Ruth has opened up further options to implement into my daily work life and practice. Action learning has illuminated for me the need for further investigation into how I listen, provide space and support for colleagues and peers (even family). It has also gifted some very handy tools in terms of negotiating difficult issues and subjects where safety and equality are key to successful conclusions or possible ways forward. Action learning has given me a plan to implement into my current circumstances at work where listening and collective investment and care are required, to work toward building successful and respectful relationships.”
Jacob Boehme, Creative Director of Melbourne Indigenous Arts Festival
As a 2013 ACCELERATE participant introduced to action learning as a “tool” then, I was nowhere near ready enough to take on its possibilities or factor in its potential!
Now: as someone who has come out of the uncertainty of the last three years, I find I am in an excellent place to consider action learning and its ramifications for how I will continue to do business with others!”
Ron Bradfield (Junior), Yarns R Us