Human Learning Systems: A Complexity Friendly Approach to Public Services

The Centre for Public Impact’s Manifesto for Better Government talks about the importance of complexity, human relationships and continuous learning.

How can Governments put these ideas into practice? What are the implications for how public services work?

This is what the Human Learning Systems approach to public management explores. In partnership with Collaborate, my research at Newcastle Business School worked with public and voluntary sector leaders and managers to develop a different way to do public management. It is based on three key principles:

1. Allowing public servants to be Human

Focusing the attention of public servants on building relationships with those they serve – to understand their strengths and needs, and respond appropriately to whatever those are. This means liberating public servants (and those they serve) from attempts to control their work from above, and instead focuses on building trust at all levels.

2. Creating continuous Learning

In situations of uncertainty, we do not know what the ‘right’ thing to do is. There is no manual to operate from. So everyone must learn, as they go. It is the job of managers to create emergent learning environments and practices.

3. Nurturing healthy Systems

Healthy systems are ones in which different actors are able to co-ordinate and collaborate effectively. And healthy systems produce good outcomes. They are characterised by trust, openness and honesty. It the job of leaders (at all levels) to create and nurture healthy systems.

You can watch a two minute introduction to the Human Learning Systems approach here:

Resources to help: the Human Learning Systems website

A group of people and organisations, including the Centre for Public Impact, have come together to help make the Human Learning Systems approach the “new normal” for doing public management. We have created a new website:

The Human Learning Systems website

It brings together the latest set of knowledge and experiences about the approach, contains case studies of the Human Learning Systems approach in practice, identifies methods that have been helpful and provides access to other research and resources for people wanting to explore further. 

You can also subscribe to find out the latest information, and submit examples of your own experiences, so that you can share your learning with others.