Hivos Learning Community: A learning experience across 6 time zones

KL supports innovators by providing an online learning and development network: the Hivos Learning Community, populated by the 20 semi-finalists of the Hivos Social Innovation Award from 16 countries, 12 experienced innovators from the field who provide live webinars, and 4 coaches from Latin America, West Africa, East Africa and Asia.

2014 - 2015

Worldwide, the model of Awards, Challenges and Competitions that provide a platform for innovative ideas and concepts is gaining traction. For example, think of our own Radical Innovators, Bloomberg Philanthropies’ Mayors Challenge and the Social Innovation Competition Europe. The common denominator: a platform is important, but the learning that happens in and around that platform is key. Against the backdrop of a transition towards small initiatives taking the lead in solving the world’s complex problems, we observe that the larger institutions, including governments, feel the urge to learn from lessons and experiences from the field to increase their own impact and relevance.

Hivos has been a partner of KL in exploring these themes for a number of years, with, amongst other things, a lab about labs: Lab2 as a result. Both Hivos and KL base their work on the confidence that people are resourceful, and support them in finding innovative solutions for big, societal problems – and an award can be an effective instrument for locating and supporting innovators. In creating that support, we believe that connecting these innovators in content-rich, learning networks is more valuable than exposing them to expertise only. Therefore, KL supports this group by providing an online learning and development network: the Hivos Learning Community. This network consists of 20 semi-finalists of the Hivos Social Innovation Award++Hivos Social Innovation AwardHivos ran a competition in November 2014 that yielded nearly 400 submissions. Visitors of the competition web site cast 145,000 votes, selecting 14 semi-finalists. 6 more were selected by Hivos. from 16 countries, 12 experienced innovators from the field who provide live webinars, and 4 coaches from Latin America, West Africa, East Africa and Asia.

Learning principles of the programme:

  • We learn from each other, from leaders in the field, and also from experts. However, we learn most from the richness of sharing practical experiences in the group;
  • Mutual trust and an open approach are the foundations of our learning platform;
  • We don’t come up with solutions from the outside world, but we focus on people who are involved with the problem and we try to understand their motives and perspectives;
  • We reach for the sky, but take small, manageable steps;
  • We challenge to experiment and test the idea, product or service in real life.

Specifically for this group, KL developed a learning community within Slack, a platform that is used for team collaboration (see picture). During a little over 2 weeks, we offer support for participants in groups, via their coaches, and webinars on relevant topics and assignments that help improve their final submission for the Hivos Award“Certainly social media plays a vital role in the modern world. But I would like to mention that I operate in a remote location in India where functional literacy is less that 20% and access to internet to less than 5%. We had take help of other simpler ICT tools to disseminate information at the regional level.” finale.

Some of our first experiences:

  • Slack is a very useful tool for bringing people from all over the world together in groups, but also for plenary or individual support;
  • Most participants have a very open-to-share and eager-to-learn attitude towards the programme and each other, enabling them to lean onto each other with advice, inspiration, pep talk and their assignments;
  • The short introduction videos we asked each participant to make (also addressing what they want to learn and are able to contribute) are fun and effective.
  • The programme creates direct impact from the inside out: many participants tweet or write blog posts to share thoughts and questions with their followers and enable them to acquire fresh thoughts and reflections – and create visibility for the programme and its intentions.
  • Daily 2pm CET webinars and a daily updated library with articles and videos provide a good dose of inspiration and insights from outside the programme. Food for thought and discussion via Q&As with the lecturers.

KL provides tailor-made and generic support on finance and business models“It’s great that our team comes from a variety of backgrounds, and yet as the conversation goes so far, we all seem to be dealing with similar questions.”, social enterprise, social innovation, prototyping, political conflict, communication++CommunicationAdvertising agency-with-a-social-heart Lemz (known for their award-winning ‘Sweetie’ campagne) offers the semi-finalists two days of individual support in refining their message and exposure. and upscaling methodologies. Parallel to that, the 20 are being supported in further improving their final proposals.

What’s next

The deadline for the final proposal is December 17th, by when they will hopefully have been able to create a whole new pitch, enriched by the insights from the past weeks. Early January, a jury composed by Hivos will select 6 finalists, who will join us in Amsterdam in February to receive three days of training and support before they pitch their proposal to a live jury at the Award ceremony on February 5th. A link to the event will be posted here once available.

An ambition for this programme is to build a learning community that will exist beyond the Award only, and has ongoing value to the ones involved – while the feedback we get from some participants acknowledges the relevance of this ambition. This community will, apart from the current contingency of participants, consist of seasoned social innovators, Kennisland and Hivos.

Here is a selection of blog posts created by the participants during the programme:

Deze tekst heeft een Creative Commons Naamsvermelding-licentie (CC BY) en is gekopieerd van de Kennisland-website. Ga voor de volledige versie met afbeeldingen, streamers en noten naar

This text has a Creative Commons Attribution License (CC BY) and has been copied from the Kennisland website. For a full version with images, streamers and notes go to