Thursday, 23 September 2010

Learning networks or social movements? Which is best for large scale change?

I'm not sure there is a specific answer as to whether learning networks or social movements are best for large scale change.  However, my personal preference is for learning networks and these are my reasons:

  1. learning networks connect the people who are interested in solving the problem, and they do so in an interactive, participative and empowered way. In comparison social movements have the image of someone wanting to make something happen and in manipulating the joining in process and to an agenda they have set.
  2. learning networks are about the exchange of information, discussion and both personal and group learning. Personal behaviour may change as a result of learning about something new from within a peer group. When a group discovers new knowledge and feel the creative process of doing so, they may become quite committed to then implementing changes.
  3. learning networks can be direct and specific. They can be topic based or professional grouping based.
  4. there is a sense of an output with learning networks. Social movements are useful in that they are purpose driven, however, learning networks to me are more concrete, pragmatic and easier to associate with outcomes and results.
  5. we know learning networks work in healthcare while social movement theory is in its infancy. I am a proponent of using the existing knowledge we have to best effect.
This doesn't mean social movements are not useful, rather that I am sceptical about their ability to deliver results, especially when we know learning network can have an impact.

There is an excellent paper on Learning networks for sustainable, large scale change which is worth a read. 


dee said...

Hi Sarah,
I have experience of using social movement theory to mobilise a learning network. Learning was the goal but spread of the learning network required the sort of passion and drive a social movement brings. They are not mutually exclusive.

Sarah Fraser said...

Hi Dee, I agree they are not mutually exclusive. I do feel that passion is not enough - action is what counts. Also passion etc is not exclusive to social movement theory - most leadership and transformation models include it.