Walking the unknown road

In the transition to a circular economy, we face the challenge of getting closer to the dot on the horizon, while the way there and the roles in the team are still unknown. So how do we get started together? How do we learn during the process without hindering realization? And what does that require? Leading up to the Circular Skills Meetup, we faced just such a challenge. We'd like to take you through our process, where we asked questions with a group of people and created the answers together. And where we adapted the purpose, route and speed in the process to the context and reflection on whether what we were doing was still meaningful. In this process we leaned, sometimes consciously and sometimes unconsciously, on the theory of task-based team learning.

It started with the desire to bring people together. Everyone working on the transition to a circular economy and the skills needed to do so. But ... we wanted more than just an inspiring meeting. We could still let the form of this completely emerge. This led to the invitation to a diverse group of people, from Katapult, KplusV, CINOP and Leren voor Morgen, to work with this challenge to turn this meeting into something lasting and bigger. The challenge had an emergent character: it had no form yet and could thereby emerge during the process.

But how do you realize such a thing? Based on the idea that a traditional way of organizing would probably not lead to the desired results, we decided to do things differently. We decided as individuals, with personal qualities, insights and beliefs, to embark on this adventure. To achieve shared perspective, we started without fixed frameworks. Instead of focusing on a concrete program, date and location, we began by sharing our vision in drawings, images and music. We had open conversations about learning in transitions. This approach led to a sense of shared commitment, ownership and the freedom to create together. As we all developed and felt ownership, curiosity arose, we dared to embrace the unknown, and we recognized our work in the context of the transition as a whole. The first phase of this process was searching in the abstraction level of thinking. On the one hand, we were working on vision development about the big picture and what is meaningful. On the other hand, we were also inclined to make things concrete in fixed patterns.

Collective learning led to a somewhat more concrete dot on our horizon: creating a connecting and generative meeting, where together we gain new perspective and form a picture of where we stand in the transition. The goal was to make connections, generate energy and thus create movement to really move forward together. Although this resulted in an initial program line, the date of the Meetup was fast approaching and there were few registrations. We decided to take the pressure off and postpone the event until after the Christmas break. In retrospect, this had been a key moment in our process. It provided the space after the period of being able to slow down, set the clocks right and develop ownership to shift to concreteness in the form of a schedule and division of responsibilities. After delaying, we had time to translate our vision into a concrete program that aligned with our goals. This enhanced the quality of the event and made a significant difference in creating energy and movement at the Meetup.

This was also the time when one of us provided clear direction and efficiency was scaled up. The roles within the team and our personal strengths also became increasingly clear. For example, some were in their strengths in setting the content lines and vision, others in shaping the learning process and harmonization in the team, and still others in taking action and accelerating with efficiency and solution-oriented. By allowing everyone to shape their own role and putting each other in that strength, together we arrived at a final result that we all look back on with a sense of ownership and pride.

On February 10, professionals from education, business, research institutions and governments came together at 't Hof van Cartesius. In interactive, in-depth sessions we explored together what themes are at play, how we can move forward by learning, innovating and connecting and what are the next steps we can take. Throughout the day, we continuously saw new connections between attendees, stories that were exchanged, we clarified the transition we are working in and created new perspectives with the entire room. The atmosphere was approachable and open and energy was generated by the conversations among ourselves.

Our team achieved the dot on the horizon and looks back positively on the road to it. We tried something new: a different way of working and a route without fixed frameworks. As far as we are concerned, it delivered things we would not have achieved with a "normal" way of working. Both in our team and at the meetup there was genuine connection, interest and exchange. Through the conversations and energy, we created a common set with all involved and developed new perspective on where we stand in the transition and what role you take in it. And...learning together in this way is incredibly fun as far as we are concerned!

Want to learn more about collaborative learning in educating for an inclusive, sustainable future? Check out the Sustainability Skills program!
Sustainability Skills


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