What you will study
This module aims to help you to engage with and improve complex situations that involve change in all areas of work; evaluate your own social structures and experiences of working groups, communities of practice and networks; and consider possible future alternatives.
The module assumes that everyone is engaged in some form of practice –as a professional, a manager, a parent or a student. Throughout, you’ll appreciate how your own understanding and practice can influence change. You’ll need to think about your own perspective and make explicit your assumptions. The module begins by exploring the nature of change and systems practice and why there is a need to manage systemic change. It goes on to address a simple but profound question: what is it that you do when you do what you do? It then considers the implications of practice in a networked or interconnected world, where groups, teams, organisations, and even nations will have to be smarter in their ways of working together.
Some claim that we now live in a world of short-term projects with pre-specified goals that can no longer deal with the complexity and uncertainty we must manage. This module introduces ‘systemic inquiry’, an alternative way to organise programmes and projects – to better manage the complexity and uncertainty associated with, for example, adapting our institutions, organisations and practices for living, managing and governing in a climate emergency.
The world of the future will require more skills and understanding of flexible and adaptive managing – placing more emphasis on learning as we go and making sure the learning changes our practice and organisations. A promising way to do this is with systemic inquiry. The module will make it possible for you to start to organise and manage this type of practice – a form of research accessible to all.
More effective collaborative working will be a demand placed on more and more people. This will make new demands on meetings, teams, projects, committees, as well as interagency and cross-professional and cross-cultural groups. This module will consider the theory and practice of ‘social learning systems and communities of practice’ to develop your understanding of how separate groups might better work together using systems thinking in practice. You’ll be able to critically evaluate your own processes, structures and experiences – in your working groups, communities of practice and networks – and consider possible alternatives for the future.
Through developing an understanding of social learning systems and communities of practice, you’ll aim to develop capabilities for working with others in a practical way to bring about systemic change. You’ll learn from your systemic inquiries to design learning systems that can effect change that’s systemically desirable and culturally feasible. Social learning and communities of practice are at the forefront in managing. This material will be particularly useful to those who have encountered organisational structures that unhelpfully separate interconnected issues of change (managing them in ‘silos’), or those who need to develop skills to work with multiple organisations.
You can do most of the work online or offline. We encourage you to use online forums to interact with other students in appreciating multiple perspectives, including your own.