Diving into two fascinating approaches to community work – Theory U and Action Learning, European Summer School in Berlin by Ahmed Mohammed

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Taking part in the European Summer School Programme ‘Towards Resilient Communities’ in Berlin was a great experience. I had the privilege to learn about and dive into two fascinating approaches to community work, ‘Theory U’ and ‘Action Learning’.

 I am a young person and Employment Adviser for Tottenham Hotspur Foundation, and my role involves engaging with the community and supporting individuals to better their lives. The training allowed me to build new knowledge around the engagement with peers, colleagues and the wider community, both in a work and personal context. The courses took place in a friendly and safe environment, which allowed the group to feel comfortable and open enough to take in the new learning.

My first experience, and introductory course to Theory U, was a powerful tool for self reflection and the development of new listening skills. Practising the theory made me begin to question if people with power or leaders within an organisation ever actually take time to self-reflect and to consider if things are moving in the right direction. The course encouraged us to do exactly that via specific learning cycles, different paradigms of thought and four different levels of listening.

The course made me see the vital importance of self-reflection in every aspect of life and the importance of listening without judgment to really see what is happening around us, in our communities and beyond. They say “the success of any piece of work depends on the internal condition of the worker”. This is the precondition of any new, imagined, better future we want to reach through our work.

Having finished the first training, I moved straight into the the second course, Action Learning. Designed for a small group of only 7 people, it gave me the opportunity to work with new people I haven’t had the chance to interact with before.

Action Learning is a group process that enables people to come up with solutions to challenges without passing judgment based on their own experiences. Personally, I have often asked for advice before taking action, and I am very familiar with people using their experience or opinion to advise me rather than listening and asking me questions.

Action Learning is very much about asking questions. We live in a society where many people believe they have the knowledge or experience to advise people on what they should do. That is how they gain influence about other people’s decisions. Action Learning is a way to counter-balance that. The power of language plays a big role in this and allows us to make people feel comfortable, for example by responding to questions rather than defending an argument. Open questions are a great way of getting people to give more in-depth answers.

I am very grateful for the opportunity to learn with a group of inspiring people and to open myself to two new and impactful methods of working. I really believe that this will change the way I engage in my work with others….

by Ahmed Mohammed

Yvonne Field