Learning from our peers – Peer Academy training

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By Alex Roberts – June 5, 2015. Click here to see the original article.

How do you best transfer tacit knowledge – the understanding that comes from practice, experience and application in a real world environment – to other people?

This is an issue we often deal with when talking about innovation. Innovation is a big concept. One word, ‘innovation’, represents a large body of knowledge and practice. How do we best get people across it? It’s something that a lot of people learn about through experience – but how can we help cut that learning time down?

I believe this applies to a lot of other practices (e.g. behavioural insights, design thinking, horizon scanning) where there isn’t a strict recipe for how to apply a methodology, and where it can be hard to codify everything that is involved.

At the same time, agencies are keen to take advantage of the existing expertise within their organisations. How can we unlock that knowledge, as well as looking to external training providers or more formal learning and development programmes where appropriate?

Basically – how can we speed up the process of sharing knowledge and expertise within organisations?

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Peer Learning

These questions led us to test the services of Peer Academy, a new start-up based in Melbourne applying a peer-to-peer model for learning.

What’s a peer-to-peer model for learning? Well, we are currently seeing the growth of the ‘sharing’ or collaborative economy. Platforms are providing a means to connect those with spare resources or capacity with those who have a need. The peer-to-peer learning approach is about connecting those with knowledge and skills with those who would like to learn more – and doing so on a collaborative basis.

So on Wednesday 27 May a group of interested public servants, many of whom are in the process of planning events for Innovation Month 2015, undertook a ‘How to Host a Deep Dive’ session facilitated by Kylie Long, one of the founders of Peer Academy to learn more.

The all-day session was about how to host a peer-learning event, one where you share your knowledge and expertise with your peers. As Kylie explained, the approach is about recognising that people are increasingly looking to learn from each other in a collaborative fashion as peers, rather than within the traditional context of a student/expert dynamic. Peer Academy is looking at how such an approach can be made scalable and how to connect those wanting to learn with those willing to share their tacit knowledge.

Kylie took us through a fast-paced day with a lot of design thinking elements. We rapidly developed ideas around putting together an event, prototyped event ideas, worked on identifying our target audience(s), and learnt about facilitation and structuring an event to reinforce and emphasise key points. We also worked on identifying what we were trying to achieve as event hosts, and encouraged reflection to help improve our events in the future and to ensure that we learn from holding events, as well as helping others learn from us and from doing.

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I personally found it a great day and I learnt a lot (more) about putting together events that are relevant and useful. I also learnt a lot about the skills involved with facilitation and aiding people in connecting their ‘head, heart and hands’ (knowledge, passion and skills) and using the diversity of a group to get better discussions.

I also found it very interesting to think about how such a model might apply more broadly within the public service.

One of the challenges that I think might hinder such an approach in the public service is that we, as public servants, can often take shelter behind our professionalism. It can be uncomfortable to take off the ‘expert’ hat, and be willing to put forward knowledge as a peer and as something that is incomplete/not perfect. But then, as Kylie noted, we need to collaborate, and collaboration is often messy.

As ‘recipients’ of training or learning and development, I also think many of us tend to put a lot on the trainer – we expect to evaluate them and what they have taught us, without necessarily really thinking about our role and our commitment to learning. In a peer learning context it is a different dynamic.

To borrow one of the examples used on the day – event hosting is a bit like hosting a dinner party. The host has a lot of responsibilities – but so do the guests. It is different to going to a restaurant, where you are the customer and you can rate the restaurant. I suspect that change in dynamic will take a bit of getting used to for many of us.

In terms of what peer learning might offer in the public service, I definitely think that peer learning has a lot of potential, as well as fitting with the general direction that we’re heading in in terms of how things are done. I think that peer learning models can offer a lot in terms of scale, speed and effectiveness for sharing knowledge and skills throughout an organisation and/or across networks.

Of course, just as with any other emerging practice or innovation, this is a practice that is still evolving. It will be interesting to see how peer learning might develop as a component of the wider ‘sharing’ economy, and how we apply such thinking within the Australian Public Service.

Peer Academy: Disrupt, Educate and Transform by The Verb

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A great write up on the value of Peer Academy for Not-for-profits. Click here to view the original article.

By Mim DiNapoli | March 18, 2015.

The world has tried to tackle climate change through the UN and businesses, but others are responding to the need to better equip those working in the space. Enter Peer Academy.

The brainchild of consultant and change maker Onur Ekinci, Peer Academy has emerged as a cost-effective skills-sharing workshop hub. Operating principally from three locations, The Henley Club and Peer Lab in Melbourne’s downtown and The Village in the Docklands, the initiative has caught the attention of the non-for-profit sector.

Peer Academy describes its business model as “disruptive”, a new break in the tired landscape of professional development.

Where Peer Academy differs from other professional development programs is what makes it interesting. For one, there’s the uber-sleek layout of their website, where individuals and organisations can browse the offerings. Classes on offer range from graphic design to Twitter politics, team mediation to prototyping. A veritable pic’n’mix. The market is demand-driven; individuals come to Peer Academy with their workshop idea, and, if enough show interest, they can host a session out of the spaces available.

Today, organisations seek out those whose skills are interdisciplinary. In turn, Peer Academy is one savvy response to the changing needs of the activist community. It is no longer viable to rest on a degree alone. Instead, people understand the advantage of having multiple areas of expertise

Ekinci says that while the initiative is still in pilot-stage, Peer Academy hopes to expand to the point where there will be a constant rotation of people in and out: “Essentially, the building will become simply a shell for the activities going on.”

Collaborative Consumption’s ‘Collaborative Pioneers’ Interview

(To view the original interview with Collaborative Consumption, please click here)

Onur Ekinci is the co-founder of Peer Academy, a Melbourne-based professional development company that brings together innovators and collaborators who are passionate about accelerating change in their organisations. In this interview Onur explains the evolution and thinking behind this new peer to peer learning model with Darren Sharp.

Why did you and co-founders Kylie Long and Mark Hogan start Peer Academy?

Currently, many education models aren’t keeping up with the pace of job or career changes. As people change jobs more frequently the need for new skills will change in variety and pace. The collaborative economy is also allowing more people to participate in the creation of ideas and innovation. We are seeing this with the Rise of the Intrapreneurs. Organisations are witnessing the value of staff who think and act like entrepreneurs to create value. That means, there will be increased lessons to be learnt from our peers. So as we enter into the collaborative economy, people will demand flexible and peer to peer learning.

What does peer to peer learning have to offer?

People learn best when they are active and responsible for their own learning. Many of us want to move beyond the expert vs student paradigm and would rather learn from peers who have gone down the tricky path we are venturing on. Learning from someone who has been through the same issues and challenges as you and can genuinely share their failures as well as their success makes the learning authentic, immersive and practical.

When you consider this in combination with the future of work, we saw an opportunity to build a new professional development model fit for the 21st century.

What is Peer Academy?

Peer Academy facilitates the exchange of skills, tools and knowledge for professionals across Corporate, Government and Not-For-Profit. We team up with inspiring change makers to host a wide range of interdisciplinary topics focused on 21st century skills that are on-demand, low-cost and practical. Topics range from Design Thinking, to moving from debate to dialogue, to storytelling for change, to increasing your influence through social media.

Peer Academy differs from other learning platforms such as Skillshare or WeTeachMe as we facilitate face to face learning focused on professional skills and not lifestyle or leisure-based skills.

The Peer Academy concept has evolved from the creation of a network of Intrapreneurs in Melbourne in early 2014. As the network doubled and then tripled in size in the space of just a few months, it became clear that there was an opportunity to make peer to peer learning more readily available.

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How does it work?

Sessions tend to go for two hours and are hosted by peers who have a story to tell and a skill to share. Sessions are designed to be collaborative and informal to help peers connect, have a more meaningful experience and most importantly have fun!

Having fun has to be one of the most important things about your experience at Peer Academy. If you want to create lasting change, people need to overcome their fears. The best way to do this is to make the ‘new’ more fun than the ‘old’. Otherwise people easily revert back to what they know and feel safe with.

Another key point of difference is storytelling. As peers tell stories of their own experiences, others get to clearly see what their skill or knowledge looks like in practice. We see this as an important difference from academic learning which can often be difficult to put into practice.

Finally, as we all know, most organisations are feeling the pressure to be lean and adaptive, making us more responsive to change. These trends also need to be reflected in the way we learn. We believe in the model of ‘lean learning’, where learning happens in shorter bursts but more frequently. For example, attending a two-hour session once a month is likely to be more effective than a two-day course once a year. ‘Lean Learning’ also helps keep people in a learning mind set, which makes you more malleable and embracing of change. The concept of ‘lean learning’ has been at the heart of the design of Peer Academy.

What’s next for Peer Academy?

Our vision is a world nestled in a learning culture. Where change is accelerated as a result of sharing skills, tools and knowledge. Where we overcome competition through collaboration. Where we work together to address the complex challenges of our time. Therefore we’d love to make Peer Academy a global platform and preferred destination for professional development. With requests to start up in a number of cities across the world, we’ll be looking at designing a business model that will allow us to scale.

We’d love for people interested in Peer Academy to contact us or to follow our journey on Twitter @Peer_Academy or Facebook.com/PeerAcademy.


Interview with the Changemakers Festival

(To view the original interview with the Changemakers Festival, please click here)

interview with a changemaker: onur ekinci of peer academy

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Introducing Onur Ekinci and Peer Academy

Onur Ekinci and Peer Academy are offering Changemakers Festival attendees the first glimpse at their new way of enabling professional development through peer networks. There are 15 Peer Academy pop up session happening throughout the Changemakers Festival! The topics include: Engaging more people in your cause via digital campaigns; Storytelling for change; Co-Design in Government; Innovation, Values, Culture – How to underpin high performance.

Q1: Introduce yourself to the Changemakers Festival audience, please!
A: For the past five years, I’ve dedicated myself to develop as a facilitator. I’m passionate about holding good processes for collaboration. Knowing that the complex challenges of our time require us working together across sectors, I’ve been focused on designing the conditions for wide-scale collaboration.

Q2: Tell us about the Peer Academy events at Changemakers Festival!
A: We’re excited to be launching Peer Academy as part of the Changemakers Festival. Peer Academy is a new and disruptive education model, focusing on 21st century skills and cutting-edge practices for any workplace through peer-to-peer learning.

During this years Changemakers Festival, professionals across sectors will be hosting a number of sessions, ranging from: Getting started: Engaging more people in your cause via digital campaigns; Storytelling for change; Co-Design in Government; Innovation, Values, Culture – How to underpin high performance!

Q3: How did you get on this path? Was there a significant person or event in your life that sparked your desire to work towards social change?

Peer Academy was born from the need for more dynamic, practical and collaborative learning. Founded in Melbourne, the idea behind Peer Academy is supported by a community of professionals across Corporate, Government and Not For Profits who are tired of existing education and training models.

People are really enjoying learning from each other, which is growing collaboration. They’re becoming more activated and immersed in their own learning, and it’s transforming organisations. Additionally, we believe that many education delivery models are not keeping up with the pace of job or career changes. We need a new education paradigm for professional development. One where learning happens on-demand, is low-cost, practical and peer-led.

Q4: What kind of Australia (or world!) do you want to build over the next 20 years?

Imagine a world nestled in a learning culture. Where change is accelerated as a result of sharing skills, tools and knowledge. Where we overcome competition through collaboration. Where we work together to address the complex challenges of our time. We hope Peer Academy can be a vehicle for such change.

Q5: Why are you attending the Changemakers Festival?

The Changemakers Festival is a great time to showcase and celebrate all the amazing things happening across Australia. The Changemakers Festival couldn’t be a better time for us to introduce Peer Academy to the world. We’re excited to help build a movement of 21st century changemakers.