(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.
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.
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.