We Need Peer Learning Now, More Than Ever Before

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There has never been a more important time for peers to share their knowledge and experience, and for them to be heard with respect and appreciation, then now, during this pandemic.

Redefining Distance

Paradoxically, people need to come socially closer at the time when they need to remain physically separated. In fact, by now we are well accustomed to video conferencing, e-learning, online chatting and distance coaching. These forms of communication are not only a convenient and cost-effective addition to our daily collaboration, learning and decision-making, but they also take the center stage for how we love, work and learn. We have the tools and experience in managing physical distance.

This is also a moment to look inside ourselves, our colleagues and our organizations to see what we have, individually and collectively, and how we can put this wealth of knowledge and experience, now mostly sitting at home, to the greater benefit of us all.

The answer is peer learning, coaching and mutual support.

Why Peer Learning?

As a very wise woman, Carine Rouah, has eloquently said:

“Why peer learning? Because a wealth of expertise and experience is available in some country teams, and more can be done, so that others can benefit from it. We all know how easy it is for an organization to work in silos.” 

Carine works with 150 countries in collaboration with the World Health Organization and she writes about how important knowledge sharing and peer learning are:

“…to best deliver our mandate, i.e. on technical and operational areas, in order to go faster (let’s not reinvent the wheel) and further (better quality of service; providing a holistic approach integrating community needs, gender and human rights; supporting sustainable health care systems, etc.). In the present times of Coronavirus, it is about being able to continue delivering, while working remotely and supporting developing countries in their response not only to Coronavirus, but also to other pandemics, in order to continue saving millions of lives.”

We need to recognize and act on the awareness that we all have something to share, to help each other through this nightmare. It is a time to come together as a human race that sees past political, economic and geographical differences and collaborate to find solutions that will benefit all of us equally and as quickly as possible. Collectively, we know more and can do much more if we pool our intellectual resources and spread our good ideas around.

Tapping into the Intellectual Commons

States, countries and organizations need to be listening to, honoring and following the best practices of other states and countries in responding to the pandemic. This is not a time for mavericks to insist on doing their own thing, and by ignoring the deadly danger that faces us all, put everyone at greater risk.

Peer learning groups composed of representatives from different states or countries can help to identify and coordinate a well thought out response. Scientists around the world are collaborating to find a way to treat and stop this pandemic. We each need to be thinking how best to meet the needs of everyone, regardless of their country or political persuasion. This is no time for xenophobia at any level.

Redesign the Social Space of Your Organizations with Peer Learning

The world is not going to go back to what it used to be.  As with every major crisis, be it a war or a global pandemic, things will be different. We will be learning and communicating in new ways that will rely heavily on physical separation. We need to get used to the new normal and develop new social skills like distant trust and fair and inclusive decision making, and develop productive collaboration with other teams and groups.

Peer learning in small groups offers a perfect opportunity to develop these new prosocial skills in the age of physical separation.  Start small, with groups of 5-6 people collaborating, resolving their challenges, coaching each other into new behaviors and sharing their knowledge among themselves. Treat it as a laboratory for what is inevitably coming and allow your teams and managers to hone new skills which they will use for collaborating with others.

To learn more about peer learning and peer learning group approach to professional development, learning and coaching, please visit us at https://peerlearninginstitute.com

Deborah Laurel, Chief Learning Officer

The Peer Learning Institute

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