We Are Peers is a member of the first cohort of LearnSpace, an accelerator that provides promising European edtech startups with access to researchers, educators, and business experts who help them to refine paths to scale.
In the same way that Uber helps people to utilize their latent vehicles and that AirBnB helps people to utilize their latent housing, We Are Peers helps collectives to utilize their latent knowledge and capacity for innovation. WAP’s app and methodology enables groups to learn from each other, to share and produce new knowledge together, in two hours.
At the heart of WAP is a belief in the untapped power and potential of collective intelligence. A belief that peer learning can happen regularly, anywhere, anytime. If Eastern philosophy encourages the individual to look within to find enlightenment, WAP takes this message and scales it to the collective. Everything is interconnected and thus, what works for the individual will work for the whole. In a sense, the whole is its own individual entity and WAP is a step towards its Nirvana — the state of being, not the band.
A typical WAP program is four sessions long and happens over six months within a group of 20–50 participants (although WAP has also been deployed in groups of 6 and groups of 1500). Each of the four sessions is themed and the group collectively progresses from a broad discussion to a more specific one. For example, session 1 of a WAP might be about mentorship. Session 2 might be about how to integrate mentorship within a company. Session 3 might be about how to manage a company-wide mentorship program. Session 4 might be how to decide how to decide whether a mentorship program should or should not be instituted.
An individual WAP session has 5 parts.
- Share knowledge in randomly assigned groups and propose themes for further discussion
- Match into new groups on the basis of themes you’re interested in exploring further
- Share knowledge with your themed group
- Produce new knowledge collectively
- Reflect on key learnings and future topics to explore.
There are no teachers, no classrooms, no barriers to who can or cannot participate, no lectures, and no homework. Sessions are guided by facilitators who are trained to ask appropriate questions and guide the knowledge sharing. Learners from all programs, departments, nationalities are encouraged sit in circles in open spaces. The content of the program is co-created by the participants. The work is in constructing knowledge with others and, as such, happens only during the session.
Documenting the WAP experience is the WAP app, which helps participating groups to organize new knowledge and to track the new synergies and abilities that are being developed within. Through the app, one can see which people are attracted to which types of thematics, improvements in ability to teach, how often people help each other or otherwise act prosocially, and how many new innovation projects are generated.
A Brief History of WAP
Diane Lenne, founder and CEO of We Are Peers, started the company as a class project at emlyon business school in Lyon, France. The class, entitled “Find Your Path,” was appropriately enough student-taught and student-led. From the first WAP session, there was a buzz among the participants and each session brought better and better feedback (the process is documented and described in a beautifully-written 6-part series on WAP Community, WAP’s Medium page — part 1 is here, highly recommended!). “I realize I’ve never asked myself those kinds of questions ,” said one participant. “That’s what I miss in society, that people understand each other,” said another. Participants became mentors and facilitators, or started companies, or even joined the WAP team as designers and developers.
“I realize I’ve never asked myself those kinds of questions.”
After 6 months of prototyping, during which Diane published articles chronicling the development of WAP’s methodology in Harvard Business Review, Les Echos, and The French Web, WAP began attracting corporate interest. 3 years later, WAP has been deployed with 6000 participants, 231 groups, and 44 organizations and the stream of customers continues to grow.
WAP’s current geographic focus is to continue expanding within France, growing through partnerships with business schools and corporate training departments. From there will be perhaps a move to Europe, perhaps to China (where WAPs have already been successfully conducted), or perhaps to the United States. The beauty of WAP is that it needs only people to work and people are everywhere.
To learn more about We Are Peers, click here. If you are interested in deploying WAP within your school or company, contact Diane Lenne at email@example.com.