Ideas for reflection
The final stage of the peer learning process map emerging in A&M involves diffusion (or scaling) of lessons learned from peer engagements back to host organisations, sectors, and communities This is the stage where peer learning at the individual level is ratcheted up to impact actual reform progress—and hence where the practical tacit knowledge gained from peers helps improve the success of reforms. Unfortunately, there is limited evidence that this kind of diffusion happens very often. The following ideas will assist those designing peer learning engagements (or engaging in such) to diffuse more often.
- Effective diffusion starts with some knowledge of what is being diffused. Organisations that know what learning they are trying to facilitate tend to have a better chance of structuring an appropriate and effective diffusion process.
- In order to ensure diffusion and scaling of peer learning, both the peers and the organisations in which they work need to be considered (see the table below).
|Keys to successful diffusion and scaling the peer learning of individual peers|
|Getting peers to ‘share forward’|
|Ensuring home organisations are open to learning|
- Not all home organisations are open to learning. The peer learning initiative needs to ensure that home organisations are actually wanting their peers to learn and return home with new ideas. This can be done by contracting with the home organisation, and requiring the organisation to support the peer learner and provide her with opportunities to share her learning.
- Individual peers are more likely to share forward into their organisation if they are aware of this as a requirement up-front, and if methods of sharing are established by the home organisation.
- Peer learning can diffuse from individuals to organisations through networks; these can be constructed in various ways, including as mimics of the outside peer network where the peer individuals are accessing new lessons. Building local peer networks is thus an interesting strategy to promote diffusion of learning (see the figure below).
Diffusion of peer learning through horizontal connections
- There are other tools that can be used to create links between the home context and the learning environment; the appropriate tool should be chosen for each situation.
- Learning in groups is an effective way of ensuring diffusion of peer lessons; group-based learning involves people from the home organisation working alongside colleagues who have benefited from external peer learning. They work together on the job and this gives opportunities for diffusion to the colleague who has been through external peer learning.
- Coalitions are very effective means for diffusing lessons, especially when these lessons involve tacit knowledge transfer. Governments should invest in coalition building skills among both those who benefit most directly from peer learning and those who are targeted as secondary beneficiaries.
- Diffusion of peer learning gains may be enhanced if it is actually measured. This is difficult to do, but could be possible and influential if organisations are clear about the kinds of lessons they expect to come from the peer learning and how they expect these to impact home organisations and scale into reform impacts (as will have been identified in any theory of change).