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Collaborative working groups

This knowledge exchange and professional development initiative is based on the tried and tested action learning set model of problem solving through group discussion of workplace issues.

Through discussion, individual group members can reflect on their own knowledge and experience, and evaluate it against the knowledge and experience of others. This approach can help improve performance and deepen understanding of a wide range of subjects.

Membership of a group, whether it be planner-only or cross-disciplinary, can help develop a wide range of skills including management, leadership, communication, team working and problem solving. Groups can also help address topics that some individuals find difficult to deal with through tradition seminars and courses, you may learn the theory but how can you make it work in practice? Such discussions can also empower staff, helping them discuss with confidence ideas on how to improve performance and apply these new insights to their work practices.

This collaborative approach may also support other forms of training. For example, staff who have attended a course on urban design can bring their new insights to a group meeting at work, facilitating open and frank discussion about how design considerations can be used with confidence when assessing applications, helping to raise awareness and appreciation of good design. 

This method of learning can be applied to existing in-house training opportunities.

What sort of Group should be formed, and what should they discuss?

Some groups may be formed by individuals or employers motivated by topics that they would like to deepen their understanding of. Other groups can be formed by those who will have already identified a topic or theme.

Do we need a facilitator?

Yes. The role of a facilitator is different to that of a chair. A facilitator creates an environment that focuses on a positive learning experience for all, encouraging Group members to discuss the real issues that concern them. The role of the facilitator is to:

  • work with the Group to agree the ground rules for discussion, for example, time allocated for the meeting, issues around confidentiality, topic for discussion.
  • help Group members challenge their own thinking and reflect on the experiences of others, enabling a deeper understanding of issues faced in the workplace.
  • ensure that Group members are focused on the member who is presenting an issue, and manage the meeting so that everyone is able to contribute.
  • over time Groups can develop this skill themselves and become self-facilitating. Other Groups may be formed by individuals who have experience of action learning or who are confident that they can facilitate the discussions. Some Groups, particularly those dealing with senior managers, will require an experienced facilitator.

For a copy of the self-help guide click here.

Case study: Code for Sustainable Homes Group

In partnership with the RTPI North West Region, a Group was set up to discuss issues around implementing the Code for Sustainable Homes. The Group met 6 times at CUBE in central Manchester, and contributed to RTPI members CPD obligations. The final report can be read here.

Case study: Black Country Place-makers Group

In partnership with MADE, the Regional Architecture Centre in the West Midlands, a Group called the Black Country Place-makers Collaborative Working Group was set up to provide an opportunity for the Black Country authorities to share expertise and develop a practical approach to implementing quality design, whilst addressing the Black Country sub-regional identity. The final report can be read here.