Policy Learning: can Government discover the treasure within?



We live in powerful times and are experiencing a conceptual emergency. The imperative to learn is evident. Yet in spite of advances in knowledge about how we learn, our application of that knowledge in practice remains patchy at best. A key part of the challenge is to encourage government itself to participate in the learning process, and to overcome the psychological and structural constraints it faces that militate against learning. The article suggests a number of measures to facilitate learning within the policy process: including first tackling denial, making space for reflection, empowering the boundary spanners and — most important — practising innovation as learning. The Delors Commission for UNESCO on education for the 21st century called learning ‘the treasure within’. It is no longer possible for government to ignore the turbulence and complexity of its operating environment: it needs to find its own treasure within. This is the case for policy learning.