The future of learning is peer-to-peer

We’re launching our series on Innovation.

It’s an exploration on how leaders and social innovators face challenges in dialogue, leadership and transformation.

Peer learning is a new way of looking at how knowledge is shared and transferred between people. It’s particularly relevant to large organisations that have an interest in actively sharing their expertise to staff and other stakeholders.

In 2016 we came across peer learning in practice through our friends at Peer Academy. They were seeking a design thinking partner with a technical design team to help them imagine how a peer-to-peer learning platform might look like. More recently Kylie Long, co-founder of Peer Academy, helped launch our report on innovation in government, Hacking the Bureaucracy, in Melbourne.

We spoke with both Kylie Long and Onur Ekinci about how peer-to-peer learning can be used to drive innovation in an organisation.

In its broadest sense, peer learning is understood as learning from each other in informal and informal ways, with emphasis put on the collaborative part of the learning process. Peers learn from each other. There are defined roles in this relationship ( such as ‘teacher’ or ‘mentor’ and ‘student’ or ‘mentee’) but these roles can shift throughout the the learning process and depending on the support and expertise provided by either peer.

Creating an innovative and creative environment requires the breaking down of silos. Peer Academy focus on building the capabilities for people of any rank in an organisation to come together and learn from one another. A fundamental principle of their work involves redistributing power inherent in hierarchies and focusing on the way people can learn from each other.

Innovation is a process, not a tool

When Kylie Long spoke at our Innovating in Government launch in Melbourne, she referred to her time working in Government. The improvements she sought centred on restructuring power dynamics to give citizens a better ability to participate in the democratic process. She said she sought ways to experiment and foster those new ideas in her department’s ecosystem.

At the time, however, there was very little that had been put in place to support her to work differently.

For someone like me…when I worked in Government as a strategic planner leading in engagement and partnerships, the official requirements of my job were very technical, a [type of] planning which I wasn’t interested in it at all,” says Kylie.

She ended up redesigning her job around facilitation which in turn, gave the rest of the organisation a capability they actually wanted but hadn’t known how to express.

Originally published at /blog/design/peer-academy/ on March 6, 2017.

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