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The International Foundation for Action Learning - UK ChapterDecember 2011 
in this issue
News and Notices
IFAL Conference Report
Article: Principles & Key Features of an Effective Set
Article: A Knotty Issue: Puzzles & Problems
Resource File: Books
Adverts: Sets and Services
next Action Learning News
quick links

It's nearly the end of another year - and we have much to look forward to in 2012.  There are the Olympics of course - and there are also plans for some AL-related events which we hope you'll find interesting, including a screening of films of Reg Revans which IFAL has recently acquired and a session on facilitator skills.  We'll be announcing dates shortly.
IFAL-UK has a new Committee: Antony Aitken, Moira McLaughlin, Mark Russell, John Heywood, Peta Sweet, Tom Boydell, Janie Wilson, Linda Keenan, Jane Sandwith and myself.  Committee members are volunteers who support IFAL in addition to their 'proper' work - and I'd like to express my appreciation for their unfailing commitment and good humour. 
We hope to see you soon and we wish you Season's Greetings and all the very best for a happy, peaceful and successful New Year.
Best wishes,

Sean Cunningham
Acting Chair

Contact us for details of how to join IFAL and how to contribute to the newsletter.

News and notices


IFAL-UK Executive Committee

Members of the Executive Committee for 2011/12 are Antony Aitken (Transition Partnerships), Tom Boydell (Inter-Logics), Sean Cunningham (Dept Social Protection, Ireland), John Heywood (JP Heywood), Linda Keenan (Independent consultant), Moira McLaughlin (McLaughlin Associates), Mark Russell (AVN Picktree), Jane Sandwith (3D Coaching), Peta Sweet (Sweetie Consulting), Janie Wilson (Action Learning Centre).


'Innovation: Deming's Secrets'  1-Day Workshop

Do you work with a sustainable organisation?

Sustainable organisations use both continual improvement AND innovation. This workshop is an opportunity for Quality, Business Improvement Professionals and others to work with five secrets that underpin Deming's approach to innovation, applying them to stimulate innovation in their own workplaces. These will also be linked to a Model of Sustainable Organisation (MoSO) developed by the CQI Deming Special Interest Group.


On Thursday 1st March the Group will share their findings at an interactive workshop in central London.  The format combines short high impact presentations, including a keynote from BT, with input from attendees working collaboratively in groups exploring and supporting one another, with plenary sessions sharing the contributions from the groups.


Please book through the Chartered Quality Institute, telephone
+44(0)20 7245 6722.


The journal 'Action Learning: Research and Practice'

Reduced rate subscription for IFAL members 

The journal Action Learning edited by Mike Pedler and Kiran Trehan publishes articles which look to advance knowledge and awareness, and assist the development of practice through the processes of action learning. As well as publishing original research articles, it also looks to publish accounts of practice, which work through real-life examples and experiences of action learning. For more information, please visit the journal's homepage at  www.tandf.co.uk/journals/actionlearning.


For IFAL members, a special discounted rate has been arranged for you to purchase an annual subscription to the journal for just 36 for UK subscribers (non UK subscribers please ask for rates for your country), which is a reduction of nearly 60% on our standard personal subscription rate. To subscribe to Action Learning at this discounted rate, please contact the Routledge team via  email quoting ZC06906W and your IFAL membership number. Alternatively, we can be contacted on the following telephone number +44 (0)20 7017 5543. 

Event Reports: IFAL Conference

By John Heywood


IFAL aims to offer its members practical, relevant and experiential events; cross-cultural networking opportunities (academic, consulting, third sector, public sector); and opportunities to explore, share and develop their action learning practice.  


The IFAL 2011 Conference provided an opportunity to join other action learning practitioners to explore current practice and growing trends in virtual working. 


Article: Action Learning: Principles and Key Features of an Effective Group or 'Set' 

By Chris Ragg, Centre for Organisation Analysis


Action Learning is used in a wide variety of different settings but always through an Action Learning group or 'set'.  The whole practice is given a great richness through the wide range of practitioners who contribute and share their experience and innovations.  This has made it even more valuable and timely to refresh and summarise those principles and features which seem to both accord with the principles of AL as originally described by Reg Revans and continue to lead to useful and satisfying outcomes for all involved.


Article: A Knotty Issue: Puzzles and Problems

By Tina Cook and Laurie Smith, Ethical Management Consulting

Why problems, not puzzles for action learning?  For an action learning set to work well it is important to work on problems and opportunities that can't easily be discussed and solved elsewhere. When devising his model for action learning, Reg Revans divided issues into two groups - Puzzles and Problems. Puzzles are the kinds of issue that have a straightforward or specific answer and therefore do not need to be resolved through dialogue. Problems are more complex and are likely to have more than one answer. Problems are the 'right kinds' of issue for an action learning set. 



3rd International Action Learning Conference 

The Impact of Action Learning: What Difference Are We Making In The World?

Organised by the Editorial Team, Action Learning: Research & Practice 

2nd - 4th April 2012 at Ashridge Business School, Berkhamsted, Herts, UK

Fee: 475 +VAT incl. 2 nights' accommodation and meals

We invite all practitioners, academics, researchers, managers and leaders to the third international conference to share ideas and to advance the practice of action learning worldwide.


Following successful events in 2008 and 2010 at Henley Business School, this conference will interest all those concerned with action learning for personal development and systems improvement in commercial, public service, "third sector" and community contexts. We will use interactive methods of working and have a delegate limit of 120 people.

More details of the Conference...

ALF (Action Learning for Facilitators)
Next meeting: Marketing and Selling Action Learning led by Christine Garner and Mary Maybin
Venue: central London
Tuesday 20th March 2012 from 10.30am to 4.30pm (coffee from 10.00am) 
For details and to go on the mailing list for future events, please contact Janie Wilson 

What is ALF?

ALF Days are for people who are familiar with an action learning format and skills and who facilitate sets. They are an opportunity to meet other facilitators, have feedback on our skills, explore challenging issues, share tips and try out new ideas for working in sets. In the morning we explore a particular theme or themes in action learning. This session is facilitated by ALF members. We spend all or part of the afternoon taking turns to facilitate and present in sets and practice with the issues explored in the morning.  The fee for attending is simply a share of the venue cost - typically 22.


ALFS (Action Learning for Facilitators - Scotland)

Following the IFAL Conference held in Scotland in 2009, a group was formed so that those with an interest in enhancing their AL practice could meet with and work with other facilitators.  Since that date the group has met regularly at various venues in Glasgow and we have had many stimulating and worthwhile meetings.


ALFS meets 5 times a year and next meeting dates are:

    • January 10th 2012
    • March 13th 2012

at 1pm to 4pm.  The meeting will focus on our professional development and IFAL members and non-members are warmly invited to come along. New and innovative ideas in developing action learning practice are always welcome.


If you are interested in joining the group and/or coming along to the meetings, please email Glyn Jones.


ALAW (Action Learning Across Wales)

If you would like to receive information, please contact Noreen 

What is ALAW?

ALAW is a group of people who have experience of AL, either as set members or facilitators and who meet every six weeks to discuss their experiences of setting up, facilitating, and participating in action learning sets.  At each ALAW session, a member of the group draws on their own experiences to lead a workshop on a theory, technique, or model which they find interesting or useful in facilitating action learning; this is often an opportunity for participants to explore new ideas and experiment with models form different disciplines in an action learning environment. This workshop is followed by a reflective discussion on ways in which other group members might implement the model in practice. We reserve time for action learning sessions at each meeting, and this enables us to engage with the process of action learning as set members and to experience new ways of facilitating action learning meetings.



Is there an AL-related event which you would like to advertise here?  Please contact us with your copy.

AL in Practice Resource File 

'Action Learning in Practice' edited by Mike Pedler (4th Edition, Gower 2012)


Previous editions of Action Learning in Practice established this authoritative overview of action learning around the world. Over the last decade the move towards action-based organizational learning and development has accelerated, and action learning is now an established part of the education and development mainstream in large and small organizations.


Fully revised and updated, this fourth edition covers the origins of action learning with Reg Revans' ideas, and looks at their development and application today.


For more information, see Gower


'Engagement in Practice' and 'Evaluation in Action' by Dr Gillian Squirrell (Russell House 2011 and 2012)Books Gillian Squirrell


These two books illuminate the pitfalls of engagement and evaluation, helping the reader to make informed, ethical choices about whether these become powerful tools of change, or simply the tools of the powerful.  They aim to help you to help others, in government, communities and organisations to support democratic innovation and creativity; focus on the people involved and their emotions, fears and aspirations; encourage discussion about power, focus on shared and differing values and stimulate change and enable organisational and action learning.


For more information, see Gillian's website, Gillian's page on Amazon or Russell House

AL Adverts: Sets and Services 


Action Learning Set Facilitator training

This simple and effective one day course provides an excellent introduction for those new to Action Learning and development for those with some experience. Learn how to facilitate Action Learning sets so that you can start to facilitate them in your workplace or organisations where you work.


Venue:              The Space Centre, Kings Cross, London

Dates:                Thu 23 February 2012, Wed 23 May 2012

Cost:                   500 + VAT for companies, 350 + VAT for public sector organisations and charities, 250 inc VAT for sole traders and clergy

Bookings:          Call 01462 483798 or email info@3dcoaching.com to register your interest.

"...this workshop set out to meet the needs of the participants and to serve the higher aims of Action Learning Sets and put both of these objectives before the commercial interests of 3D Coaching. As a small group we had a real experience of Action Learning and learnt a great deal. Masterful facilitator."  Gill Smith


Looking for a Set to join? 

If you are looking for a Set to join, or if your Set is looking for new members  SetMatch is a free service which helps you to find or form a Set near you.  We also have a directory of experienced AL facilitators.
Would you like to find or join a Set?  Is there an AL-related service which you would like to advertise here?  Please contact us with your copy.
next Action Learning News...
Action Learning News is issued four times a year; in March, June, September and December.  The deadline for items for the March 2012 newsletter is 25th February

We want this to be your newsletter, so please let us know what you think and what you would like to see included.  If you would like to contribute an article, find others to form a set, or advertise an AL-related event or service please contact us for details.
"Be patient with all that is unresolved in your heart. And try to love the questions themselves. Do not seek for the answers that cannot be given, for you would not be able to live them. And the point is to live everything. Live the questions now and perhaps without noticing it you will live along some distant day into the answer."   
Rainer Maria Rilke