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Human Learning Systems

A new approach to public service that embraces complexity, human relationships and continuous learning.

A new approach to public service 

Human Learning Systems is a radically different way of resourcing and organising public service. It is based on three key principles: 

1. Being human

The purpose of public service is to support human freedom and flourishing. To respond to each person’s unique life context, public service is bespoke by design: built on strong relationships and trust.

2. Enabling continuous learning

Public service should be a process of ongoing exploration and learning: workers and residents exploring and learning together. Learning is the management strategy - the primary task of public managers and leaders is to create effective learning environments.

3. Supporting healthy systems

Outcomes cannot be “delivered” by public service - they are created by whole systems: all the relationships and factors in someone’s life. Outcomes are made by healthy systems - systems in which all the actors involved can collaborate and learn together.

How we help

Your learning partner

Supporting you to apply the Human Learning Systems approach so you can foster a process of continuous learning and experimentation in your work. 

Convening communities

Creating learning networks for people and organisations that want to explore Human Learning Systems.

Join the International Community of Practice
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Events and workshops

Partnering with organisations to host events that broaden horizons, thinking and experience. 


A practical guide for the curious 

Scotland has achieved a remarkable consensus that public service needs to be done radically differently if it is to support people to create real outcomes in their lives. Healthcare Improvement Scotland and Iriss have commissioned the Centre for Public Impact to help organisations understand how to make this change by adopting a Human Learning Systems approach to public management.

We’ve developed a guide to help any organisation that contributes to public service apply Human Learning Systems to their work, enabling them to explore, learn and respond to the unique strengths and needs of each person, family and community they serve.

Help build something extraordinary

The guide itself is an experiment. We have created it and beta-tested it with a range of organisations. Now, we want you to test it out. If you think the Human Learning Systems approach might be helpful in your work, we would love you to:

  • Download the free guide

  • Use it to design a Human Learning Systems approach in your context

  • Share your feedback on how the guide could be improved

You don’t have to work in Scotland to access this free resource. We’re interested in hearing from all sorts of organisations that are working in different contexts.

Download the guide


We all want to create a better world, but how to get there? Continuing to implement the traditional models and expecting different outcomes doesn’t make sense. I have been part of using Human Learning Systems in practice, employing the approach to work with three different layers of influence. Therefore, I can testify it enables better outcomes. And, not only with existing problems but also in building adaptive learning capacity in the system to tackle future challenges.

Olli-Pekka Heinonen, Director-General of the International Baccalaureate

Human Learning Systems is the most insightful and helpful work that I have come across. It challenges stale approaches of top down and provider centred services and encourages us to work with people – listening to them and understanding what matters to them - acting with authenticity and integrity and working together.

Ken Jarrold CBE, Chair of the Council of Governors and Board of Directors Cumbria, Northumberland, Tyne and Wear NHS Foundation Trust

It is unquestionably a better and kinder way to do public service.

Gary Wallace, Public Health Specialist, Office of the Director of Public Health, Plymouth City Council

Learn more about applying the Human Learning Systems approach to your work 

Do you want to learn more about this approach to public service? 

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.

Explore what we've learned in our e-book, Human Learning Systems: Public Service for the Real World.

You can also visit the Human Learning Systems website, which brings together a wealth of resources for people interested in exploring further. 

Learn more

Latest insights

Explore the full Human Learning Systems series, which highlights the stories of government changemakers who are pioneering this approach around the world.

Get in touch

Would you like support or advice on how you can learn more about the Human Learning Systems approach and apply it to your work?

Get in touch and let’s have a conversation about how we can work together.

Contact us