Yes We Can

Action Learning Sets

your time to think


Action Learning Sets — your time to think

Action learning sets... space for learning, reflecting, taking action, supporting each other

We are working, volunteering and leading in extraordinary times. It is right in a global pandemic to take quick, perhaps isolated, decisions to respond to the crisis. We know time to reflect and work with peers on tricky problems has been in short supply. Our intention is to rebalance the scales.

We are offering free action learning sets starting in June to give you time and space to think, plan, take action and learn with your peers — fellow social leaders — to work through current problems and plan for the future. We hope this will help you cope with and respond well to what is happening now.

The action learning sets are being run by North East Together members Duncan O'Brien, Robert Laycock and Stephanie Cole for North East Together members.

What is action learning?

Action learning sets are confidential and safe spaces to explore topics and subjects that are important to you with support from peers and with guidance from a skilled and experienced facilitator.

Action learning sets bring people together to:

  • work on and through problems of managing and organisation
  • work on problems that personally engage set members
  • check individual perceptions of the problem to clarify and make it more manageable and to create and explore alternatives to action
  • take action in the light of new insight
  • provide the balance of support and challenge
  • be aware of group processes and develop effective teamwork

Professor Reg Revans developed action learning as a formal approach in the early 80s, based on his work with the Coal Board in the 40s, to help people:

  • learn from experience
  • share that experience with others
  • have colleagues constructively critique and share knowledge and/or experience
  • take advice and implement it
  • review actions taken and lessons learned

Action learning "... is a continuous process of learning and reflection, supported by colleagues, with an intention of getting things done." McGill and Beaty, 2001

Who is it for?

The action learning sets are for social leaders — people living, working or volunteering for social change — in the region.

This is for you if you are open to learning from and with others by sharing, listening, asking questions and, ultimately, taking clear-minded, well-grounded action.

We aim to create mixed groups so we're not restricting it to certain job roles or organisation types, which means you may not be with people with the same role as you. We've learnt from North East Together network events that diversity brings strength. We believe working in a diverse group not only gives us the opportunity to share our unique experiences from our time inside the sector but also to remind ourselves of where we have been and who we may want to become in the future.

Our offer

We are offering three action learning sets, each made up of four to six people coming together online in six sessions between June and November 2020 (or June and December with a break in August) and led by an action learning set facilitator in training.

Set 1

Set 2

Set 3













  • 23 June
  • 7 July
  • 4 August*
  • 8 September
  • 6 October
  • 3 November
  • 1 December*
  • 24 June
  • 8 July
  • 9 September
  • 7 October
  • 4 November
  • 2 December*
  • 18 June
  • 9 July
  • 6 August*
  • 10 September
  • 8 October
  • 5 November
  • 3 December*

* Once you join your set, together we'll agree whether to meet in August or in December.

If you'd like to join one of the three sets we ask you to commit to attending all the dates for that set. We know things will crop up that you don't know about now but please only apply to join a set if the dates are clear for you now and you're willing to prioritise the set when adding new things to your calendar.

How it works

In each action learning set session we'll:

  • check in with each other to share thoughts and feelings as we prepare to work together
  • agree our agenda for the session including allocating time slots for up to three set members to explore their topic
  • review any actions identified from the previous session
  • facilitate a series of group discussions focused on the needs and interests of individual set members

    This process involves
    • sharing and clarifying the issue
    • exploring the issue using open questions
    • agreeing actions
    • reflecting on the raised awareness and new insight gained
  • end by reviewing our session including sharing thoughts on what is working and what could be improved

Want to join us?

Fill in our simple form:

If you'd like to find out more before signing up, we can also answer any questions you have by email, phone or video call.

By taking part in an action learning set we start with a simple intention to share and explore together and in doing so give ourselves monthly moments of safe space and time to restore our energy, gain clarity of our challenges and take action from a grounded state of mind.

Created and run by Yes We Can and Duncan O'Brien.

Yes We Can logo in coloured hexagons