The impact on me

14 September 2015

So, the big question after the conference has to be – what impact did it have on me? Having spent two days thinking about, debating, listening to a variety of views and hearing about some great projects, there is a lot I have taken away. One of them is that being clear, brief and punchy is a really useful way of making an impact, so I will try to achieve that in this blog.

I will take away four key lessons and one big dose of energy and enthusiasm to do more to promote our work. 

Lesson 1: We need to do more research in adult learning

This is true across the board, and particularly true when it comes to research which moves beyond describing what is happening. We need more analysis and insight into what works, why it works, how it works and what the most conducive circumstances are for it to work. 

Lesson 2: We need to then use this intelligence more at the front-line

That means more space for teachers, tutors, lecturers to be able to experiment, to trial, to test and to innovate. We all know that learning is very personal, social, builds on self-motivation and no two learners are really alike. That means we need to provide the flexibility for personalising and for co-creation but we need to do that within the bounds of what works best.

Lesson 3: We need a variety of evidence types in order to influence

We tend to think about influencing in terms of persuading governments to spend more on what we do. That’s part of it, but equally important is the need to influence people to get into learning in the first place, to take the plunge. We also need to persuade employers to invest better in their staff and other agencies, such as in health, to invest through learning to deliver their outcomes.

Lesson 4: We all need to be more self-critical, questioning, inquiring about the work we do

This might just be the most controversial lesson, and of course we are all committed and passionate, but that’s not enough. We need to pursue a better understanding of the impact we have in order to do our best, to truly maximise the outcomes of the work we do with the scarce resources we have. This would be easier if lessons 1 and 2 were followed up by policy makers, of course, but we can still do more with the resources we have. 

These four simple lessons will stay with me for some time and will guide my thinking about how we follow this up. The most important impact of the conference though, is that I came away energised and enthused about the work we are doing across the UK, with a whole range of inspiring partners. The impact forums (which I hope will become in reality true action platforms) have great potential to make a difference and I look forward to supporting them over the next couple of years.

It was a very good couple of days with inspiration, insight and energy, all of which had a great impact on me and, from the feedback, on many others too. I can’t wait for the next one!