The social learning cycle is based on ground-breaking work on the political economy of knowledge by one of IFF’s founder members, the late Max Boisot. See the figure below. The two axes represent the codification of knowledge and its diffusion. The knowledge cycle generates new ideas at bottom left (not well codified, not widely shared), codifies them, is then able to broadcast and disseminate them to a wider audience, and that knowledge is then translated into action, absorbed into practice. Scanning that new practice, the new features in the landscape, can generate new ideas (bottom left) and so the cycle starts again.
This is a learning cycle. It most commonly breaks down with the difficulty of translating theory or policy or new ideas (the red arrows) into practice (green). By paying attention to the cycle IFF helps manage this transition. We call the process ‘convergence’ – the convergence of ideas and action.
IFF works in both spheres: ideas and action. Typically in complex circumstances there is a mismatch between the way we make sense of the world in context 1 and context 2. Context 1 is the world of policy making, decision taking, priority setting. Context 2 is the world of action and delivery, the ‘coal face’, the ‘real world’. IFF’s processes, guided by the learning cycle, seek to:
This is a key use of the IFF’s resources in terms of international personnel, the perspectives from futures research, and our experience of diverse innovative projects around the world. Typically IFF will organise a learning journey early on in a project – to broaden the participants’ horizons, to introduce learning from experience alongside abstract policy-making, and to give a novel but collective set of points of reference which help the group develop its capacity to see the world differently. This is a powerful way to kick start the learning cycle.
Paying attention throughout our work to managing the learning cycle delivers the following benefits: