What is peer learning?

What do we mean by peer learning?

  • Peer learning is a potentially powerful way of sharing knowledge about doing public sector reform.
  • This learning involves individuals exchanging knowledge and experience with each other, and potentially diffusing this learning back to their organisations to ensure an impact—at scale—on reform initiatives. While peer learning entails complex organisational logistics, it avoids the risk of focusing on process rather than product. It recognises that ultimately learning takes place between individuals and it facilitates interpersonal interchanges that are well-matched and that are based on trust and commitment.
  • Peer learning can be evaluated based on whether peer engagements and sustained individual contacts produced the right learning outcomes for the right individuals to achieve changes which matter.


Examples of Peer Learning

Peer learning, in its simplest form, is the diffusion of knowledge between those implicated in public sector reform. Practitioners learn together from each other and maintain contact to ensure long-term learning.

International Peer Learning: Botswana

Anticorruption reforms in Botswana, which benefited from sustained peer learning with Hong Kong’s anticorruption agency, have enjoyed considerable success rates, whereas similar reforms elsewhere were less successful.

Botswana’s comparative success is due, at least in part, to the sustained contact between peers, a key feature of peer learning initiatives. Rather than engaging with Hong Kong’s anticorruption agency through short-term consultants, peers were integrated into Botswana’s anticorruption agency as part of the management team over several years.

Botswanan authorities also adapted the idea of Hong Kong’s anticorruption agency to local circumstances. In Hong Kong, the impetus to fight corruption originated solely in the police force, but Botswana’s anticorruption campaign by necessity involved a much wider variety of delivery agencies. Thanks to the tailor-made nature of Botswana’s reform, the benefits of peer learning were able to diffuse throughout the government more broadly.

Local Peer Learning: Bangladesh and Kyrgyzstan               

Peer learning can occur not only across national boundaries but also within a single country.

In Bangladesh, the Horizontal Learning Program creates a space for local government officials to congregate as peers and brainstorm solutions to shared problems. Thanks to this open dialogue across local government offices, ideas and innovations can spread and be adopted by peers facing similar problems elsewhere in the country. The programme’s budget allows for new peer engagement opportunities to ensure that peer learning extends beyond a single exchange, which encourages sustained learning between a wider variety of peers.

In Kyrgyzstan, a World Bank-led initiative has also helped diffuse local solutions throughout the country. Evidence began to emerge that local governments in Kyrgyzstan were outperforming the national average thanks to local innovations, and that these innovations were not being adopted by other local governments despite their proven efficacy. In response to this, the Transparency and Accountability in Budgeting Peer Assisted Learning Network was formed to encourage the diffusion of ideas throughout the country.

The network takes its inspiration in part from a broader regional project active in Central Asia as well as Central and Eastern Europe, the Public Expenditure Management Peer Assisted Learning (PEMPAL), and is being combined with other activities to encourage reform throughout Kyrgyzstan.