How people want to learn through change

3 min readOct 2, 2020


In my previous post, I blogged about how we can try and get outside our comfort zone by learning different ways of doing change.

We carried out user research with people to understand:

How they work collaboratively:

How important are different stakeholders to them?

What was intriguing is that hierarchical stakeholders are still perceived as more important than citizens, but that they also identified the need to close the loop between the insights from residents and influencing the design of policy.

What we learnt is that what is critical for people in learning how to drive change are a set of key factors which I detail below.

First and foremost is the environment in which they do it — whether it enables or blocks them from driving change.

The time they have to put their efforts into it, but also the timeliness of the action they take to nudge people to work differently- for example, you can be more effective at the point someone is in “transition” — whether leaving school, changing jobs or homes or being diagnosed with a health condition.

The relevance of the intervention to people’s lives — if you ask people to recycle and they’re struggling to pay their bills, you could enable frontline staff to listen out to those signals and help them with their basic needs first.

The motivation of people to want to change, in other words are you tapping into intrinsic desires or fears they have, or are you just channelling your motivations which may not resonate with them.

The support people are provided to navigate change, whether it’s to reduce their carbon emission — from providing people with food waste bins as a default, or providing people who want to organise their community with the tools to make it exciting for them.

The applicability of the change, in other words, if you’re offering everyone solar panels to reduce their carbon emissions and many people don’t have houses that can install them, the solar panel is redundant as a solution, whereas if you enable people to borrow a variety of equipment they may need, like through a Library of Things, not only are they likely to need to borrow something, whether it’s a parasol or a drill, but they may have second hand equipment they can lend back.

The final factor is accountability, creating ways to hold people to account on the commitments they’ve made to changing.

That feels like quite a lot of factors to try and well, factor in when supporting people to drive change, whether it’s your team, your organisation or a neighbourhood. So, we decided to get people we interviewed to boil it down to some practical principles that hopefully can work in different situations.

People want to take part in change:

They then identified specific activities that could help them:

  • Get support or advice to help them carry out routine tasks
  • Get support or advice to help them carry out a new task
  • Identify examples of how behaviours are used in projects
  • Identify training to help them improve their performance
  • Go on a programme that helps specific cohorts develop their performance
  • Get specialist support for a project that tackles a strategic issue
  • Evidence how they’ve improved their performance

Finally, they reflected on when was best to be able to do the learning:

  • At start of personal development planning
  • Just before appraisal
  • Just before start of project
  • Just before start of new job
  • Just after completing project
  • Just after completing job

What are the ways that you want to learn?




Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese