Learning Partnerships

At Innovation Unit, we work with organisations such as charities, foundations, local authorities and the NHS on designing and delivering learning programmes and on longer-term learning partnerships.

What is a learning partnership?

In our learning programmes, we work with partners to understand who they want to engage in learning and why – then we work together on a programme of relevant activities on the most appropriate platforms. Sometimes we deliver the learning activities as well.

In our learning partnerships, we work in greater depth with each partner. We embed ourselves in the organisation over a period of time and look across teams and/or workstreams to help them make sense of how and why they work in a particular way, what they could do better, and what they could stop.

What value would a learning partnership offer my organisation?

Learning from success and failure is vital for organisations to thrive – for the benefit of their service users or project partners, for their workforce, for the bottom line.

While many organisations evaluate their individual projects against strategic aims and KPIs, not many take a broad and deep look across their organisation to understand what works, how and why – and what’s going to help them next time.

What is Innovation Unit’s role in helping an organisation to learn?

With Innovation Unit’s learning partnerships, we don’t offer a one size fits all approach. Not every person, team or organisation learns in the same way.

We bring more than a decade of knowledge and experience to our learning partnerships. We work together on the most effective way to explore our partners areas of interest – and this also means we adapt our approach as we learn on the way.

What type of learning is covered?

For some organisations, like foundations or funds, we run learning partnerships across their programmes of work – looking at how their beneficiaries or contracted parties are managing projects on the same theme.

We’ll look at each project, and across projects, to understand what’s working well, why and how. We’ll help these projects learn from each other and we’ll help the foundation or fund learn what worked well in their programme design and delivery.

For other organisations, we’ll look at what works and what doesn’t in their existing systems and processes to help them understand and manage what needs to change.

Every organisation we work with needs to be curious about themselves, willing to work with uncertainty and ready to evolve. We know how to hold organisations through this exciting, sometimes difficult, process.

How does a learning partnership work in practice?

In the Health Anchors Learning Network, our work with The Health Foundation and NHS England and Improvement facilitated the co-design, then delivery, of peer-learning for senior staff working in or with the NHS with responsibility for, or an interest in, anchor work.

We’re working as a learning partner with Sport England over two years to help them learn about becoming a more innovative organisation. Through a series of short, activity-based sprints and reflective marathons we are helping them to define their approach to innovation and build their confidence and capability to lead innovation around inequalities relating to physical activity and movement.