Base of silo (Astrid Westvang/

Learning is in the network

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

“I knew them very well. That’s why it worked. Because we do work together.” We take responsibility for our own learning, yet keenly aware of the value for learning of engaging with others. It is when we find ourselves alone or isolated that we may best perceive the value of connecting with others for learning. One of the justifications for working in a silo is a very high level of specialization that requires being fully-focused on one’s own area of work – to the exclusion of others. We form networks of informal learning and collaboration in our team, with other departments in the headquarters, with the field, and with people and organizations outside the organization. Asking people is often faster than sifting through information. Technology facilitates building and sustaining small networks of trusted colleagues, large formal working groups, and more anonymous forms (mailing lists, discussion forums, etc.) that keep us …

6509s. A work in progress (Bob Mical/

What is a connector?

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Where some believe that the value of their network is based on its exclusivity, connectors are people in the organization who have developed large networks of people and who see their role in introducing people in their network to each other. This connector role is closely related to the knowledge brokering process that recombines existing knowledge and facilitates knowledge transfer. The relationships leveraged by connectors may be personal or based on prior experience rather than ascribed to the current role, especially in the context of decentralization. Building a dense network of relationships is a prerequisite for the connector function. As connectors, we are empowered toward the collection vision in which can act as knowledge brokers to foster, replicate, scale, and harmonize innovation by National Societies. Photo: 6509s. A work in progress (Bob Mical/

Wire (Kendra/

What does it mean to broker knowledge in a network?

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

Our network function requires that we interact with the network. We observe profound changes in the nature of knowledge, how it circulates, and this affects how we work (learn). Members in the network, too, have changed. We struggle to keep up with and adapt to these changes. In working with them, we prioritize results against their own expectations as well as those of donors and governments. Hence, it is difficult to justify learning approaches that take us away from such priorities. We wish for time after delivery to reflect on lessons learned, but such wishes may be swept away by the next urgent task. The alternative to this frustrating cycle of task delivery at the expense of reflection is to adopt a knowledge brokering approach. We broker knowledge when we link learning with innovation in the context of the long history of work done by the network. When trying to …

Danger of death (Lars Plougmann/

How do we learn from the network?

Reda Sadki Learning strategy

When our organization’s hierarchy prohibits direct contact with the field, indirect and informal contact becomes more important than ever. Global and regional meetings, bilateral programmes, and various kinds of informal events provide opportunities for staying in touch. In fact, decentralization raises the stakes of informal and incidental learning – activities “flying under the radar” of decentralization’s hierarchical relationships may become the primary mode for learning about, with and for the field. How do we overcome barriers to learning from the network? First, when we reframe new ideas and possibilities, we ask how this aligns with the current characteristics of the nodes in the network (“the membership”). Second, we need to leverage continual learning to innovate, recombining and inventing new solutions (knowledge brokering). Third, we need to consider indicators other than the volume of programming, and consider how we can scale up quality. Photo: Danger of death (Lars Plougmann/

Complexity & Networks


Reda Sadki Thinking aloud

Six months after starting to develop, I have 64 ongoing conversations with 150 interlocutors, connecting humanitarian and development learning leaders, Chief Learning Officers and academic researchers. Being independent has given me a unique vantage point from which to examine the humanitarian and development sector’s learning, education and training strategies. I believe that such perspective is indispensable if we are to give more than lip service to “cross-sector” approaches, in an extremely competitive industry faced with shrinking resources (think ECHO budget cuts) and growing needs (think climate change). And I’ve found learning leaders from our world to be a smart, thoughtful and active bunch, finely attuned to the sector’s changing landscape. I’ve also enjoyed profound and promising  discussions with CLOs from the corporate sector. One of the most humble I’ve met manages two large brick-and-mortar campuses, one in Asia and the other in Old Europe, running hundreds of courses and …