March 2022

“With local insight, local knowledge and local action” by Burnie Works

Embedding strategic and shared learning is one of the five conditions that enable collective impact. At Burnie Works we have spent the last eighteen months learning, listening and testing how we can best support shared learning across the five community focus areas:

  • Children, youth and families
  • Education
  • Justice
  • Employment
  • Community wellbeing

At the heart of shared learning is shared knowledge. Knowledge is more than data and external information. It comes in the form of different threads. It is collected, owned and administered by many different people. In this work, the biggest challenge is accessing the data that originates from the community but is held by external custodians, ending up being far removed from the context.

Sharing knowledge for shared learning is as much about the processes to bring the knowledge together and creating spaces for those closest to the issues to begin the process to make sense, find meaning and understand the different sources of knowledge, as it is about the information itself.

We have learned that information needs to be tangible, accessible and relevant to the issues and decisions that the community is making at that time. One of our biggest lessons learned has been to remember that data is about people, and therefore how it is represented and used can either be empowering, or it can re-enforce the very messages and systems that we are partnering to challenge and change.

Recently, the following message came through a data walk where community members, service providers and government policy makers considered the publicly available data for education and employment. A community member was looking at the teenage pregnancy data and reflected, “When I was pregnant as a teenager, I was more than just a number”.

Some of the principles that have emerged in our work that we are now articulating in our way of working with knowledge include:

  • Everyone in the ecosystem can be equal participants in creating ways of knowing and making sense of this moment in time, in this place.
  • The process of knowing is emergent and relational.
  • Knowledge is learned, experienced, and revealed.
  • Knowledge is held and owned. Therefore, how information is collected and used in collective impact will reveal where the power in the system lies. Those who own the data and control it, interpret it, and make decisions that affect the whole ecosystem.
  • All sources of knowledge need to be gathered, brought together through sense and meaning making processes.

Burnie Works is planning how we will embed these principles across the stages of community action. In addition, in April we will start a co-design process with the University of Tasmania and Burnie community members for a micro-credentialed learning pathway for community knowledge collectors. With funding from the Department of Social Services, the project will enable 15 participants to be trained and supported to become community knowledge collectors. At the end of the course, there will be employment pathways for community knowledge collectors to work with Burnie Works to bring additional insights not provided through external data collections. The participants will be a key part of collecting qualitative stories of change to feed into Burnie Works impact reporting and the Stronger Places, Stronger People evaluation.

Shared learning for systems change comes with a responsibility to authentically practice the principles of collective impact. The processes we use to gather, communicate, facilitate decision making for action and evaluate also provide us with the opportunity to shift the power dynamics so that community are central to how the knowledge is collected, framed and used.


Author Kylie Burgess, Shared Learning Coordinator, Burnie Works.

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