Action Learning Associates working with the African Prisons Project (APP)

The African Prisons Project is a charity whose aim is to support prisoners and staff to use their resources to help others. Those that take part are real change makers who will inspire and motivate others to improve their lives.

Action Learning Associates has been involved in a secondment programme, most recently the fifth one which has been organised by the UK-based charity, alternating between Kenya and Uganda.  The organisation’s mission is to facilitate penal reform in Africa.

Three Kenyan senior prison personnel came on a three-month secondment to this country to explore what is working and not working in our prison system, examine their relevance back home and to develop their leadership skills.

Our contribution was to facilitate fortnightly active reflection sessions for the secondees to focus on what methods might be transferable to their own institutions and to stress-test these emerging ideas.

A key objective was how to overcome perceived resistance and obstacles to change. The development of leadership skills was critical to spearheading new thinking and steering change. The three prison officers reported that the active listening, open questioning and feedback techniques they have developed through action learning will be invaluable in relating to both prison staff and prisoners back home.

Action learning also enabled them to stress-test how they would deal with presenting a new approach to their superiors, their colleagues, to those whom they line managed and to prisoners. For these presentations, the presenter framed each person in a particular role or a generic one within the questioning circle.

These roles gave them the freedom to put forward questions, objections and obstructions that felt authentic to the presenter. It raised the stakes and the confidence levels, as the presenter was able to assert a strong case and maintain a calm exterior!

If you would like to find out more about the African Prisons Project, please take a look at their website, and in particular this video which explains in more detail how the secondees have been able to improve life in prison since returning from their time here in the UK.

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