Listen to the Ninth Dialogue for Learning, Leadership, and Impact

Reda Sadki Writing

The Geneva Learning foundation’s Dialogue connects a diverse group of learning leaders from all over the world who are tackling complex learning, leadership, and impact challenges. We explore the significance of leadership for the future of our societies, explore lessons learned and successes, and problem-solve real-world challenges and dilemmas submitted by Contributors of the Dialogue.

In the Geneva Learning Foundation’s Ninth Dialogue for Learning & Leadership, we start with Dr. Mai Abdalla. After studying global health security in at Yosei University South Korea and both public health and pharmaceutical science in her own country, Egypt. By the time she turned 30, Dr Abdalla had already worked with the Ministry of Health, UN agencies, and the African Union Commission. The accomplishments of her professional life are just the starting point, as we want to explore where and how did she learn to do what she does now? What has shaped her practice of leadership?

We are privileged to have Key Contributors Laura Bierema and Bill Gardner, together with Karen Watkins, three Scholars who have dedicated their life’s work to the study of leadership and learning. As we learn about Mai Abdalla’s leadership journey, they share their insights and reflections.

Here are a few of the questions we have explored in previous episodes of the Dialogue:

  • How do you define your leadership in relationship to learning?
  • Do you see yourself as a leader? Why or why not? If you do, who are your ‘followers’? Are you a ‘learning leader’ and, if so, what does that mean?
  • How do you define leadership in this Digital Age? How is it different from leadership in the past?
  • When and how did you realize the significance of the leadership question in your work and life? Who or what helped you come to consciousness? What difference did it make to have this new consciousness about the importance of leadership?
  • What is your own leadership practice now? Can you tell us about a time when you exercised ‘leadership’. What were the lessons learned? What would you do the same or differently if confronted with the same situation in the future?

In the second half of the Dialogue, we explored the leadership challenges of other other invited Contributors, including:

  • Sanusi Getso on leadership to establish antenatal care services for a neglected community.
  • Alève Mine shares her quandary about how to understand something for which no scaffold exists in one’s current view of the world.
TGLF Dialogue for Learning, Leadership, and Impact (Season 1, Episode 9)

The Geneva Learning Foundation Dialogue for Learning & Leadership

Listen to the Eighth Dialogue for Learning and Leadership

Reda Sadki Leadership, Writing

Discover the leadership journeys of two remarkable learning leaders

Every episode is different, drawing on the life experiences of Key Contributors and of listeners.

As a listener, you can become a Contributor by sharing your own learning and leadership challenge – and what you are doing about it. Share your challenge

In the Eighth Dialogue, Karen E. Watkins and I were joined for the first time by Key Contributors Iris Isip-Tan and digital higher education strategist Keith Hampson. In Part 1 of the Dialogue – before deep-diving into the Metaverse – we explored:

  • How Iris Isip-Tan, Director of the Interactive Learning Center at the University of the Philippines in Manila, helped her colleagues pivot to emergency digital learning during lockdown – and to what extent this has led to more lasting change. How has this shaped her leadership journey?
  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Peter Tippett built a platform to help yoga teachers replicate and augment the direct observation and feedback that are key to their experience of teaching and learning. You will be surprised to discover where and how Peter learned the practice of leadership. 

On the Metaverse and its significance for learning leaders

In Part 2, we shifted our attention to the Metaverse, following Mark Zuckerberg‘s announcement that he is betting his company’s future on it. Here is how Marne Levine, Facebook’s chief business officer, described her vision for learning:

“In the Metaverse, learning won’t feel like anything we’ve learned before. With a headset or glasses, you’ll be able to pull up schematics you’re studying, or maybe even the service manual for a vehicle you are learning to repair. Let’s say you’re a med student or a doctor. With apps like Oh So VR, you can learn new techniques in surgery first hand, practicing until you get it right. Or, if you’re studying earth science, you could swim through the Great Barrier Reef, get up close to Earth’s mightiest insects, with your instructor David Attenborough whose VR documentary is playing now in Oculus TV [David Attenorouogh voiceover]. This is just one of the ways that we are going to learn in the future.”

Listen to the Dialogue for Learning & Leadership on Spotify

Listen to the Dialogue for Learning & Leadership on YouTube

Digital learning at Learning Strategies International

How we work

Reda Sadki Learning design, Skills

We achieve operational excellence to provide a high-quality, personalized and transformative learning experience for each learner – no matter how many are in the cohort.

We achieve this by:

  • Building on the best available evidence from research and our own practice in adult learning to address, engage, and retain busy, working professionals;
  • Responding as quickly as we possibly can to learner queries and problems – and ensuring that individual problem-solving are used to improve the experience of the entire group;
  • Finding the sweet spot between structure (unambiguous instructions, schedule, and process) and process agility (adapting activities to improve support to learners); and
  • Designing for facilitation to empower learners, scaffolding their journey but recognizing that they are the ones who best know their context and needs.

Together, these capabilities combine to:

  • Offer a personalized learning experience in which each learner receives the support they need, and feels a growing sense of belonging.
  • Recreate an experience of collaboration that surpasses that of the physical world – still imperfect, but augmenting capabilities and recognizing that this is increasingly how we get things done in the real world, where physical and digital are fused.
  • Accelerate knowledge acquisition by connecting knowledge shards to activities and tasks directly related to the context of work.
  • Guide knowledge development and problem-solving using rubrics that define the quality standard.

These may seem like abstract principles. Yet they are the ones that have enabled our team to:

  • achieve completion rates above ninety percent with cohorts of hundreds of learners;
  • kindle high motivation; and
  • foster the emergence of new forms of leadership for learning.

Building on the idea that education is a philosophy for change, our focus has shifted from learning outcomes – necessary but not sufficient – to a focus on supporting learners all the way to the finish line of impact.

Listen to the seventh TGLF Dialogue on learning, leadership, and impact

Reda Sadki Leadership, Writing

Every episode is different, drawing on the life experiences of Key Contributors and of listeners who become contributors by sharing their own learning and leadership challenges – and what they are doing about them.

For this Seventh Dialogue for Learning & Leadership, recorded on 26 September 2021, we have around our table for the first time three new Key Contributors.

  • Victoria J. Marsick, PhD, is a professor of Adult and Organizational Learning in the Department of Organization & Leadership, Teachers College, Columbia University. Prior to joining Teachers College, she was a training director at the United Nations Children’s Fund.
  • Dorothy Marcic went, she says, “from Footnotes to Footlights”. She quit academia and a regular paycheck to become a full-time playwright. She wrote two hit musicals, RESPECT, which has played 2800 performances in 72 cities and SISTAS, currently playing Off-Broadway in New York City for over six years.
  • Nabanita De‘s full-time occupation is as a cloud security engineer. She is also the founder of Returnships, a non-profit initiative, aimed to help women to get back to work after a long haul in career.

We welcome back Bill Gardner and Nancy Dixon, who listen and share their insights from the Dialogue, and thank Tari LawsonJoyce Muriithi, and Aanu Rotimi for their insightful contributions.

Listen to the sixth TGLF Dialogue on learning, leadership, and impact

Reda Sadki Leadership, Writing

In this sixth Dialogue for learning, leadership, and impact on 29 August 2021, Reda Sadki and Karen E. Watkins explore:

  • Is there a meaningful difference between change and transformation? Key Contributor Aliki Nicolaides believes that there is. She has just completed editing the new Palgrave Handbook of Learning for Transformation, a collection of more than 1,100 pages of research, thinking, and practice, exploring a more complex and deeper inquiry into the “Why of transformation.”
  • We talk to Australian communications guru Mike Hanley about how he learned to survive, adapt, and lead an organization’s communications in a world where, he says, “everything changes, in real time, as the digital media environment shifts with technology, trends and events.”
  • Tari Dawson is a doctor and teacher of medicine in Nigeria. She shares her leadership journey, revisiting a time during the HIV pandemic when she had to make difficult decisions to reshape an organization – and discovered that change is “a process, not a procedure.”
  • New digital platforms are transforming the relationships between creators and their patrons. We discuss Patreon CEO Jack Conte‘s perspective about the transformation of patronage in the Digital Age – and explore what this might mean for learning leaders.

Listen to the fifth TGLF Dialogue on learning, leadership, and impact

Reda Sadki Leadership, Writing

Welcome to this fifth episode of the Geneva Learning Foundation’s Dialogue for Learning, Leadership, and Impact, recorded on 25 July 2021. First of all, with my Co-Convenor Karen E. Watkins, I want to thank the Contributors who have brought this Dialogue to life. There are many venues where leadership and learning are discussed. I do not know of another one quite like this one, focused on practitioners from everywhere working on everything, fusing theory and research with practice, and dedicated to exploration with no rigid institutional or disciplinary boundaries.

Bill Wiggenhorn, the legendary founder of Motorola University, is with us tonight for the first time. The other Key Contributors for this episode are: Katiuscia Fara, Bill Gardner, and Esther Wojcicki. Charlotte Mbuh, Emmanuel Musa, and Min Zha shared their leadership journeys. Other Contributors included: Esther Dheve Djissa, Joseph Ngugi, Joyce Muriithi, Morufu Olalekan Raimi, Muhammad Umar Sadkwa, and Ritha Willilo.

Together, we explored the following issues through the twin lenses of learning and leadership:

  1. Climate change specialist Katiuscia Fara contributed the following question for discussion: How to ensure equity when looking at digital trainings given that not everyone, and especially those most vulnerable, might have access to it. What are some of the solutions that we can look at in delivering at the last mile?
  2. For the first time, we called on Contributors to fill the “Empty Chair”. This was suggested by Nancy Dixon: choose a person in the room and ask them about their insights on leadership – and share their learning journey. Charlotte MbuhMin Zha, and Emmanuel Musa are the first to fill the chair.
  3. Return to shared physical space? With two corporate learning heavyweights in the room, we discussed what Chief Learning Officers (CLOs) should be advising Chief Executive Officers (CEOs) to navigate the seismic shifts in the world of work wrought by the digital transformation and compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Renaissance for global health


Reda Sadki Education business models, Global health

For decades, learning in global health has depended on a conventional model premised on the scarcity of available knowledge and an emphasis on establishing mechanisms to transmit that knowledge from the center (capital city, headquarters) to the periphery (field, village, training room).

With the Internet, scarcity disappeared. But the economy of high-cost, low-volume training has persisted, with little or no accountability. Worse, transmissive training – replicating the least-effective practices from physical spaces – began to proliferate online in video-based training and webinars.

That economy need to be rebuilt in a digital-first age. It requires a new, long-term infrastructure.

The platforms that could do this are the ones that deeply care about the people they reach, with teams who understand that trust in boundless digital spaces must be earned. It has to come from the heart.

The quality of content also matters, but it is not sufficient.

The quality of conversation in the network – as well as the quality of the ‘pipes’ that connect those in it – matter more.

So does the quality of the relationships, both between the team and its members, but – perhaps even more so – between its members. 

There are a number of digital platforms that are trying to connect health workers. In aggregate, it is going to work. 

The fledgling efforts have been about how to reach people. The next phase is going to be about rebuilding the knowledge and learning engine that can drive not just performance and results, but also renew meaning and purpose.

This rebuilding will be based on trust. And on transferring ownership from those who initiated these platforms to those who need them.

Trust does not happen because a platform is easy to use. It does not happen because great content is being offered. It is not about getting the “user” to click the “register here” or “join now” calls to action. 

We have seen what happens when social media customers are advertisers rather than content creators. 

What is the business model for digital health education?

Competition in digital health education can foster a Renaissance for global public health.

We need platforms to succeed if we do not want to remain in the Dark Ages.

Listen to the fourth TGLF Dialogue on learning, leadership, and impact

Reda Sadki Leadership, Writing

On 27 June 2021, Convenors of the Geneva Learning Foundation’s Dialogue for learning, leadership and impact, Karen Watkins and Reda Sadki, were joined by four Key Contributors: Laura Bierema, Bill Gardner, Bryan Hopkins, and Aliki Nicolaides. Contributors include: Aleida Auld, Charlotte Mbuh, Cleopas Chiyangwa, Emmanuel Musa, Frema Osei-Tutu, Iliyasu Adamu, Joseph Ngugi, Kuldeep Baishya, Lara Idris, Nadene Canning, Ndaeyo Iwot, Rhoda Samson, Sachithra Dilani, Samuel Sha’aibu, Sfundo Gratitude Sithole, Simon Adjei, Sohini Sanyal, Sonia, Stephen Downes, and Tari Lawson. Here are seven of the themes that we explored together.

  1. Leadership for digital learning: can we make online breakout groups similar to in-person small groups – or is that the wrong question?
  2. How do we learn within ambiguity and uncertainty – and why is this so important now and particularly in a humanitarian context?
  3. How important is it that your own personal values are aligned with those of your organization?
  4. Is there any evidence for theories of leadership?
  5. Why is authority so often conflated with leadership?
  6. Can those who lack authority lead change?
  7. What impact will artificial intelligence have on learning and leadership?

Our purpose is not only to know what Contributors think about a topic, challenge, or issue. We also want to understand how they came to know. And what coming to know – the question of epistemology – has to do with leadership.

Leaders among us

Listening for leadership

Reda Sadki Leadership

On 30 May 2021, Convenors Karen Watkins and Reda Sadki were joined by eight Key Contributors: Nancy Dixon, Bryan Hopkins, Barbara Moser-Mercer, Renee Rogers, Catherine Russ, Esther Wojcicki, Laura Bierema, and Emanuele Capobianco.

This was the third Dialogue convened by The Geneva Learning Foundation for learning, leadership, and impact.

Each Key Contributor has a fascinating, singular leadership journey. This trajectory may have a collective dimension, of movements, of belonging, or of affiliation that have and continue to shape it. Even when this is so, it is also profoundly personal and individual. It is also a process of accretion – although we tend to recall quantum leaps in significant learning. For some, there may be discomfort with calling oneself a ‘leader’, given the conflation between leadership and authority, leadership and management, leadership and perceived value in society.

Then, there is the moment of coming to consciousness, about the significance of leadership.

So we started there, by asking:

  • How do you define the notion of leadership in this Digital Age? How is it different from notions of leadership in the past?
  • When and how did you realize the significance of the leadership question in your work and life? Who or what helped you come to consciousness?
  • What difference did it make to have this new consciousness about the importance of leadership?
    What is your own leadership practice now?
  • How do you define your leadership in relationship to learning? Are you a ‘learning leader’ and, if so, what does that mean?

We are privileged to have a number of Key Contributors who have dedicated their life’s work to the study of leadership and learning. We are interested in their leadership journeys, of course, but we will also turn to them to ask:

  • What do you hear, as you listen to these stories?
  • What can you share from your work on leadership to better understand the journeys being shared?

And, really, we want to know: How do you listen to people sharing their experience of leadership? What should we be listening for in order to unravel what goes into – and can come out of – leadership?

You can listen to the Dialogue here.

blue skies and rainbow

A round table for Immunization Agenda 2030: The leap from “bottom-up” consultation to multidimensional dialogue

Reda Sadki Global health

They connected from health facilities, districts, and national teams all over the world. 4,769 immunization professionals from the largest network of immunization managers in the world joined this week’s Special Event for Immunization Agenda 2030 (IA2030), the new strategy for immunization, with 59 global and regional partners who accepted the invitation to listen, learn, and share their feedback. (The Special Event is now being re-run every four hours, and you can join the next session here.)

“My ‘Eureka moment’ was when the presenter emphasized that many outbreaks are happening throughout the globe and it is the people in the room who can steer things in a better direction”, shared a participant. “This gave me motivation and confidence that by unifying on a platform and by discussing the challenges, we can reach a solution.”

Two of the top global people accountable for executing this new strategy, WHO’s Ann Lindstrand and UNICEF’s Robin Nandy, were in attendance. “With such commitment”, said Robin Nandy, “I am confident that we can achieve the goals of IA2030. Let us be mindful of the importance of convenient and high quality services delivered by a well informed workforce, which you all embody.”

Hearing “invaluable insights”, Ann Lindstrand recalled that “IA2030 was developed with thousands of immunization stakeholders like you. It reflects exactly what you are telling today. I am encouraged to hear your analyses and ideas to face our common challenges.”

Indeed, in developing Immunization Agenda 2030 intended to be “adaptive and flexible”, global partners employed a “bottom-up co-creation process”, described as “close engagement of countries to ensure that the vision, strategic priorities and goals are aligned with country needs.”

There is, however, a risk of confirmation bias. Staff from countries do their best to carry out what they have been asked to do. In the conventional top-down hierarchical system, global recommendations are adopted by ministries of health that then command staff to execute them. If the system remains overly rigid, staff who want to keep their jobs are likely to confirm and comfort the assumptions of the higher-ups whose vision they have been tasked to implement, no matter the depth of the chasm between these assumptions and reality.

During the Teach to Reach Accelerator conference in January 2021, Kate O’Brien, the director of WHO’s Immunization Department, pointed out that the term “bottom-up initiative” does not call into question existing hierarchies: “I don’t like the sort of hierarchy, about this is the bottom and this is the top, it has a certain sort of power element to me. […] I think leadership is about sitting around a table with a group of people, and drawing the best ideas from everybody who’s sitting around that table, wherever they come from.”

Of course, immunization programmes have a strong technical dimension that require standardization. There are critical elements required for safe and effective vaccination. For example, WHO now organizes weekly didactic Q&A webinars (with Project ECHO, a fascinating organization of doctors exploring new ways to learn, and TechNet-21, a pioneering digital platform for immunization) that do the job of transmitting information to people involved in COVID-19 vaccine introduction. However, we know that information is necessary but insufficient to lead to the effective localization and application of standards. 

As Kate O’Brien explained, “we need people to feel like they have the authority and are empowered to lead change in their community, in their programme, at the most local level, understanding what the goal is and what the targets are, taking those critical things that really cannot be compromised and adapting all around that.”

The IA2030 framework is, according to its global custodians, “designed to be tailored by countries to their local context, and to be revised throughout the decade as new needs and challenges emerge.” In line with this vision, global partners are hoping to foster a “groundswell of support” or even a “social movement”, to ensure that immunization remains high on global and regional health agendas in support of countries.

Alicia Juarrero, whose research focuses upon complex systems’ models of neural processes involved in proto-moral, moral and ethical cognition, emotions and behaviors, has made the compelling point that requires us to restructure what she calls the “space of possibility”. Continuous dialogue enabled by digital technologies can cut across hierarchies and borders to help create such a space. This represents a logical and constructive shift from “bottom-up” toward what Ian Steed has called multidimensional dialogue.

Such a dialogue is likely to be different from what global partner staff are used to. It may be interesting, yet feel somehow illegitimate, if only because challenging the status quo may not be in their job description. Some may question its relevance. “This is just not how we do things in immunization,” is how one partner rebuked us in private. Others may even feel threatened, choosing to ignore or dismiss it, even if their organization’s mission is to support countries and people who deliver vaccines. Certainly, what is emergent is far from perfect and requires continued improvement to be truly inclusive of all voices and stakeholders needed to achieve the immunization goals. Nevertheless, participants in this week’s global round table collectively expressed the feeling of empowerment that stems from being connected in a global community for action. Combined with active presence and strong support of organizational leaders, it is moments like these that can spark new consciousness and could foster the birth of a movement.

Image: Rainbow above the clouds. Personal collection.