Making learning visible

What we have learned this year is that our Partners – those grantees with whom we have long-term, core funding relationships  – are our greatest resource. When Covid restrictions hit and our ability to relate was limited to a computer screen, that presented an incredible challenge. While some people can learn by introspection, at Pears we need others in order to learn. So, in 2021 we will lean into our trusted relationships to explore the following questions:

  1. Relationships require resources and input from both sides. As much as Pears Foundation values relational funding, let’s not kid ourselves that it is any less resource intensive for our grantees than other kinds of funding that require written applications and reports. How do we make sure that the grantees and the field benefit sufficiently from the relationships to justify the “cost”? In what way can we hold ourselves accountable for doing this?
  2. Learning requires some level of disequilibrium; something needs to push us out of complacency and into a space where we realise that new ideas or skills are needed. Covid pushed the entire world into that space. We had no choice but to adapt. And many of our partners are finding themselves stuck there involuntarily for far longer than they first anticipated. As we come out of the crisis, there will be an overwhelming urge to “return to normal” instead of staying in the uncomfortable space of uncertainty and complexity. How can we utilise our peer and grantee relationships to overcome that urge and maintain our ability to sit with uncertainty? How can we stretch this “uncertainty muscle” to stay curious and not draw to premature resolution? How can we keep ourselves in a state of disequilibrium that allows for ongoing learning?
  3. Crises can be challenging but they can also be opportunities to shed behaviours, values and assumptions that are no longer helpful. We often experience the period of shedding as a loss but it’s only by letting go of the known that we are able to grow. How can we utilise our relationships to support one another to name our losses, mourn them, and then not rush to fill the space where they were but allow new behaviours to grow in that space?

Crises bring into focus what our true values are. Pears Foundation has always held relationships to be at our core, but Covid has helped us discover that our commitment to relationships relies on deeper unspoken values of loyalty, humility and trust. Those lie at the core of many of our funding behaviours and they are what has helped us to learn.

We are deeply grateful for our relationship with IVAR and the community of learning it has created and we look forward to continuing to grapple with these questions together with our peers and partners.

The UK Evaluation Roundtable 2020 ‘teaching case’ told two stories – of the Pears Foundation and Corra Foundation. You can read reflections from Elaine Wilson of Corra Foundation here.

You may also be interested in:

Bringing learning agendas to life: What Oak Foundation has learned so far

Learning in uncertainty

Read more Blog
Bringing trust-based learning to life: four actions for funders

Steps for more effective social change

Read more Blog
What does ‘learning’ mean for UK Trusts and Foundations?
Read more Blog
whois: Andy White Freelance WordPress Developer London