Case Study A New Direction – action learning to develop cultural education network

“ The power of the set has been extraordinary – at the beginning I didn’t think I’d stay ”

A.N.D’s Cultural Education Progression Group started in January 2013 with four action learning sets of emerging leaders from the wider cultural sector including libraries, museums, arts, heritage, film and archives. The sets, which were facilitated by ALA Senior Associates, met between January and July 2013. Following the success of the first phase of the programme, a further set of leaders within the cultural education sector has been recruited and started meeting in October 2013.

A.N.D carried out an in depth evaluation of the programme and a copy of the full evaluation report is available to download here. One of the key indicators of success was the fact that participants continued to attend even though they are all working in highly pressurized environments and have chosen to continue to meet as self-facilitating sets.

One participant commented:

“I used to think I was too busy for Action Learning, now I realise I am too busy not to [do it].”

The evaluation showed that taking part in the programme would make fundamental changes to how participants approached the way they worked. During the programme one person was successfully promoted to CEO and felt her presentation to her set was a factor in her interview success.

A.N.D concludes that the combination of cross sector grouping and action learning led to an environment conducive to learning, collaboration and progression. For the participants, their organisations and the sector it has created:

  • new ways of thinking; freedom from the usual structures
  • insights into the commonalities and differences of the different art/cultural sectors, at a time when they are most needed
  • self-sustaining cross-sector cultural education networks
  • leadership progression for mid-career cultural education professionals
  • actions that address the challenges of current cultural education challenges in London with a united voice.

“Taking part in this programme has felt like going from one small room where I feel a bit alone with my joys and frustrations to an opulent hall, where they are many other people doing the same thing and we can all feel free to share our triumphs and concerns; laughing, crying and talking all the while. In this hall, there are corridors leading to other halls, where other people from different fields are discussing their challenges and achievements and there is much swapping between rooms and halls and corridors. The doors are all open and the exchanges are ripe for the picking.”

A copy of the evaluation report is available to download here

Main photo: National Youth Theatre’s Prince of Denmark – photo by Helen Maybanks
Inset photo: Luis Dominguez, Communications Assistant, A New Direction.