How action learning is supporting the decarbonisation agenda

In November 2020 the Northern Housing Consortium (NHC) held its annual Housing Summit.  Attended by a broad range of housing providers and organisations and individuals associated with housing in the north, its theme was the role the sector can play in achieving net zero carbon by 2050.

Lord Deben, the chair of the Committee on Climate Change led a plenary session and spoke powerfully of the way the climate is changing in the UK, with spring arriving 22 days earlier than in the 1960s.  He described climate change as “not about extreme temperatures, rather the whole system by which our wonderful world is rejuvenated and made fertile is upset. Add to that the serious issue of the ever increasingly number of extreme events.”  He went on to say:

“Climate change is the symptom of what we have done to the world, it about the loss of biodiversity, loss of fertility in the soil, it’s about the emissions of greenhouse gases, it’s about the way that some have been impoverished and some have been dispossessed and about the attitudes that we have increasingly found the greed of so many and therefore we have to deal with the disease itself, not the symptoms of the disease.”

One way in which the NHC sought to progress the decarbonisation agenda was to offer action learning to senior leaders across the sector with a responsibility for designing and driving forward the work.  Action Learning Associates (ALA) held taster sessions in the summer of 2020 before starting the pilot programme in November.

Issues brought by the senior leaders included:

  • Business planning and budgeting around decarbonisation – what should be built in?
  • Developing a zero-carbon strategy and action plan
  • Where do I start? And how do I get buy-in across the organisation, so decarbonisation doesn’t feel like just one person’s job?
  • How do we begin to engage customers in this agenda and, ultimately, offer them a viable proposition?

All those involved found action learning to be a powerful way to listen and learn together.  The workshop created a safe place for members to share and they developed trust quickly that grew as leaders openly shared plans, polices, strategies and ideas to help progress their goals for net zero carbon.  The commitment to the wider agenda unified leaders and developed collaborations and new connections.

The pilot has demonstrated the value of offering themed action learning to other NHC members who are working on similar issues, progressing shared projects.

Having space and time away from the ‘day job’ provided individuals with time to think and plan the action they want to take, supported and challenged in their thinking by peers. Participants were asked what they gained from the session:


“New contacts, the Action Learning approach (love it!), giving myself the time to do the sessions.”

“New working relationships, fresh ideas, a refocussed approach.”

“Everyone is in the same position, there is support out there, be honest and open as you get more out of things.”

Providing independently facilitated thinking space for senior executives working on complex challenging issues, has been key to sharing and disseminating knowledge. The action learning approach helped by building confidence and implementing actions to progress the decarbonisation agenda.  The NHC is hoping to run further decarbonisation sets for its members later in 2021.

Photo by Nadiya Ploschenko on Unsplash

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