Building Our Narrative Power Why a participant-led course? Dreaming... #1

When we think of learning, we often think of schools, colleges, universities. But learning is an ancient thing, that existed before all of these institutions and will exist long after. Its something that crosses species: like how honeybees dance to teach others where to find the best flowers. Every species on earth is what it is today because it learnt from the generations that came before.

Somehow we’ve simplified this epic and infinite practice of learning to mean getting a certificate and wearing a funny hat. I’m not saying that this is a useless practice, just that it is one of hundreds of thousands of ways we can learn, and I’m often frustrated that we don’t recognise others.

Schools, colleges and universities – all of these places practice only one style of teaching: someone standing at the front of a classroom and sharing knowledge with other people. Our institutions assume that students don’t know anything, and they need to be taught. And that teachers know everything and therefore they should do all of the knowledge sharing.

But things are more complicated than that. For example, in school, we were often taught about the Holocaust by people who had no direct link to it. Some of my peers had grandparents or great grandparents who had been harmed or displaced during the Holocaust. To assume that a teacher always has the most knowledge is to assume that students are all blank slates. It’s also assuming that some people can hold infinite knowledge on topics, when in reality nobody can.

We all have things to learn and we all have things we can teach. We are all learners and we are all teachers.


I’m overseeing the Building Our Narrative Power (BONP) programme at PIRC. These are some of the things you can expect to learn from me: Narrative and framing practices that PIRC has developed, ways of doing visioning work, creative writing exercises, media and journalism skills. These are my main learning focuses for BONP: how to build rest and gentleness into residentials, how to create peer-learning processes that meet the wants/needs of the whole group and the people in it, how to move through any group conflict that might come up using a transformative justice approach. I have experience in all three of these things, but still lots more learning to do.

I might be overseeing the programme, but this course isn’t and shouldn’t be about what I want: it’s about what participants want. It also (hopefully!) won’t be about what PIRC thinks participants want. We won’t be guessing, we’ll be asking, and adjusting along the way. I hope we can create a space together where people can learn from each other and share their knowledge and tools, all of us teaching and all of us growing.

This blog is part of a new series about dreaming. Here I’ve shared my learning style dreams for Building Our Narrative Power. As participants join the course, I’m looking forward to reading and sharing their dreams on here too. If you’d like to apply for BONP, applications are open until Monday 4th September. If you’d like to chat more about participant-led learning, you can email .

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