The learning history, as a document and as an intervention, is best evaluated by the way  people in the organization can use it. The match of the process with particular groups  and the embedding in the organization are important issue in designing the process. In my opinion participation of members from the very start is essential, as is flexibility to redesign along the way. As a consequence: process and results are kind of unpredictable. So the top management/ sponsors should have enough trust in the power of participants to improvise.

"Cooking" with principles in stead of with recipes is a skill the external consultant/ researcher/ practitioner can bring in. Nevertheless, recipes and good instruments ,such as presentation forms, tools, analyzing methods and examples of designs, do help in the performance You can find some on this website, not as prescriptions, but to inspire.


 Learning Histories are useful if you want to:

  • Enlarge awareness of efforts and results
  • Involve target groups in change processes
  • Develop collective memory in the organization
  • Get insight in organization dynamics and find new strategies
  • Find success factors for innovation
  • Build capacity for reflection en communication between different groups/ departments/ individuals
  • Evaluate value of a project or change process

Conditions for a design

I see a Learning History process as a type of Large Scale Intervention, demanding the same conditions. In my opinion the design must mirror the message of the principles, to practice what you preach, this implies:

  • Work with a design team of participants
  • Mix of cognitive, creative and emotional approaches
  • Be very precise in the words you use: what meaning, associations are present?
  • What role do participants play in the design, in an event? Dependency constrains participation, so avoid long speeches and ensure that every participant gets enough time to speak/ contribute
  • Tune in with the tempo of the organization
  • Pay special attention to logistics; location, rooms, catering, equipment etc.

To top of page


"The best cooks cook with principles, not with recipes" (master cook August Escoffier)


example of a design
see stories, innovation of a consultancy association


At PSO, an organization for capacity building in developing countries, the interviewing and writing of the learning history was done by professional journalists. The designing team made this choice for reasons of independency.
read more about their experiences with learning histories.