Action Learning – a Favourite Day

By SSE Fellow, Melanie Glass, Founder Devenishgirl Bakery@Devenishgirlb

“What day is it?” asked Pooh.

“Today” squeaked Piglet.

“My favourite day” stated Pooh.

Within the School for Social Entrepreneurs Programme, many of us had a favourite day – ours was called action learning day, which took place every two months. Take six social entrepreneurs – at different stages of developing their enterprise and add in the pressures of building their business, mix with a host of ever present problems, a dose of self-doubt and lack of confidence and you have the perfect recipe for a great action learning day! And let’s not forget our action learning facilitator – Claire Thayers – who provided input, support, encouragement, and a huge dose of belief in each of us.

At the start of the session we each arrive with an issue relating to our business. Some of the issues I have brought have included: how do I survive with no income? How do I get volunteers? What am I – and my skills – worth and how do I market that. After spending a few minutes providing the background to our issue, Claire then gently pokes and prods by asking a few questions in order to help us unpack the issue until we settle on the actual question we want to ask. By so doing, she ensures everyone has the whole story – as well as the context – and that we have agreed on the issue to be addressed.

Now that we have framed the issue as a question, the rest of the group get to ask their questions in a way that helps offer a different perspective to the issue, produce fresh ideas and help me see how to implement solutions. In our group we have individuals from varied backgrounds, experience and skills sets so this always allows for a wide range of comments and input – however, at this stage they can’t give advice but must, as my granny would have said, hold their tongue and not say what they really want to say!

After about 15 minutes of others in the group asking question, each person can then make one statement offering their viewpoint based on what has been discussed and what they think the key issue/outcome is. This is always the interesting part as they no longer need to ‘hold their tongue’ but, rather, can get off the fence and can tell us what they really think – in a constructive and supportive way!

On reflecting on  what others have said, I then have the final word to say what I have learnt, what I will take away from the session and how it has helped me to move forward. They say a problem shared is a problem halved – I would say that, through action learning, an issue shared is an issue sorted!

Our sessions have been brilliant – we have laughed, cried, raged, questioned, doubted, believed – but, more than anything, we have felt supported, valued and that we are not making this journey alone. Thank you to my action learning group – Claire, Simbi, Selina, Rebecca and Martin for all their input and support and, of course, to our amazing action learning facilitator Claire Thayers for making action learning days our ‘favourite day!’

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