What is action learning?

‘Action learning is an approach to individual and organisational learning. Working in small groups known as ‘sets’, people tackle important organisational or social challenges and learn from their attempts to improve things.’ (Pedler & Abbott 2013)


“There is no learning without action and no (sober and deliberate) action without learning”  (R. W. Revans)

The ‘wicked’ challenge

The challenges our organisations , communities and leaders face are often complex in nature and have no clear or obvious right or wrong answer. These ‘wicked’ problems* carry high levels of uncertainty and although we may try to solve them this way, they cannot be sustainably and easily solved through the application of the traditional managerial tools of rational planning.  Instead they require high levels of collaboration, experimentation and deliberate risk-taking.**

What we do

We will work closely with you to help clarify your challenges and design a bespoke action learning programme to best suit your organisation’s requirements and capacity.  Our focus is always on organisational learning and we will design an approach which takes the learning from the sets into the wider organisation and community.

We develop capacity in people and organisations by helping them become facilitators of innovation and collaboration in their workplaces.   However, we do provide both introductory courses and accredited qualifications in action learning facilitation.

Why use action learning?

The capacity of managers and leaders to make the best decisions to address these ‘wicked problems’ depends on the supply of good questions flowing up from those engaged in tackling the tasks, challenges and problems of the business.

We recognise the potential that an organisations’ diverse social systems has to question, reflect, act, learn and innovate together by working in small groups to tackle important organisational issues or problems and learning individually and collectively from their attempts to change things.

Action Learning Facilitation Training Programmes

We see the action learning facilitator as 3 distinct roles;

  1. the in-set facilitator

  2. the action learning programme designer

  3. and the organisational developer

If you are interested in the in-set facilitator role, then we provide taster workshops and ILM Foundation Award in Action Learning Facilitation.

For the action learning programme designer and organisational developer roles we provide more in depth programmes in the form of an  ILM Advanced Practitioner Award

Please get in touch so that we can arrange a time to discuss your action learning requirements so that we can design a programme of support to best suit you and your organisation

For more information on action learning go to https://centreforactionlearning.com/publications/

Grint (2005) **Pedler & Abbott (2014)

Related Case Studies


‘The trainers’ knowledge, skill and experience created a stimulating, immersive and safe space to experiment and be open. I learned so much during the three days which I’m using regularly and would highly recommend this course.’  – Social Work Development Lead

‘Having heard and read about action learning over many years, I have recently had the chance to be a member of an action learning set and train as a facilitator.  I’ve been struck by way it helps us look at knotty situations, through the combined efforts and commitment of group members.  With some simple yet powerful techniques we have enabled lots of learning to take place for all – for the person with the problem, the others in the room and for our whole organisation as well. ‘ – Peter, Service Manager

‘With the support and challenge of peers in the safe space of this course, I have been able to move forward with my more immediate problems and make progress on those longer-term issues that have followed me for years. I have been impressed by the profound impact being in an action learning set has had on me and on the other members.’-  Senior Manager

‘I have changed how I react to situations at work, how I lead, I am more aware of my emotional intelligence and the impact it can have on people and situations.  I feel I am stronger and even superwoman needs a little bit of help from friends.’ – Hirila – Service Manager