Action Learning Sets


What do they do
Who are the members
Reviewing Progress
Setting up an Action Learning Set


The concept of the whole life whole person recovery approach is founded in human values and their application by the expert by experience, professionals and the service itself.  The objective is to achieve health and well-being regardless of the degree of disability or distress of the individual.
This requires a paradigm shift in thinking from pathology and illness to self-determination, life stories, human strengths, hopes and dreams, peer support and control by the user with support from professionals as partners, mentors and advocates.

It should be rooted in cultural, social, religious and ethnic diversity that gives meaning to the person’s identity, belief and circumstance.
Recovery is not just about regaining something lost it is a process of development, emancipation and discovery.

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 What do they do?

Action Learning Sets work together as safe, experiential and participative groups to explore the principles of shared responsibility, co-production and the belief in culture change towards a Whole Life Recovery Approach in mental health. The purpose is to explore  the real needs and interests of people and how these can better understood and met.

Action Learning Sets consider

  • the way in which we understand life stories and their significance
  • the importance of developing trusting relationships based on reciprocal partnerships
  • sharing and reflecting on local practices using case studies
  • working alongside the person recognising the essential importance of each others personal strengths
  • understanding the needs and the important contribution of families and social networks
  • constructing whole life plans for named individuals

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 Who are the members?

Active Learning Set programs involve up of 20-25 members.:

  • Service Users
  • Family and Friends
  • Community workers (including faith groups)
  • Mental Health Practitioners (All Professions)
  • Emergency workers
  • Significant others

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It is an effective approach to:

  • Changing people’s attitudes/thinking
  • Changing Practice
  • Changing the System

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This is an action based learning approach bringing together communities of common purpose.

The programme focusses on three main issues

  • knowing the person
  • working alongside the person
  • a whole life for the person

Considering the following agendas in peoples whole life recovery journeys as follows:

  • Identify what is recovery, who and why people need to recover?
  • identify what contributes to the person’s desire to recover
  • Recognise the importance of significant Life events and Life stories
  • Recognise the importance of self determination and self management
  • Reflect on our own and others initial responses to  a person’s experiences
  • Reflect on the effects of our initial traditional approaches  (assesments, diagnosis, treatments, beliefs, attitudes)
  • Consider what does and doesn’t help (depersonalisation, exclusion, responsibility and dependency, friendships and isolation)
  • Identify responses that enable the person to live with their experiences
  • Understand what the barriers are in developing approaches that enable personal recovery?
  • Use critical reflective practice in understanding and changing our ways of working
  • Collate evidence of recovery approaches in our work
  • Develop recovery approaches in our areas of responsibility
  • Develop Whole Life, Recovery planning
  • Develop Whole Life Recovery practice
  • Provide coaching and mentorship

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Action Learning Sets develop a clear and broad understanding and a consistent working definition of:
1. Whole Life Recovery philosophy, values and practice
2. Whole Life Recovery into Practice for Mental Health Workers
3. Whole Life Recovery into Practice for Family Members and People with Lived Experience
4. Whole life Recovery focused services

in forming a Whole Life, Whole Person, Whole System and Recovery strategy and implementation plan.

An action plan is produced by the Learning Set members of how to disseminate this learning and to consider the barriers that need to be overcome in its wider application.

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Action Learning Sets are supported by and use the knowledge and skills of IMHCN facilitators. They  combine skilled facilitation, questioning and putting into practice what has been learnt and where necessary:

  • challenging familiar, outdated concepts and ideas.
  • promoting the recovery approach
  • re-evaluating roles in the treatment process to one of negotiation, partnership and trial and error

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Reviewing Progress

At the end of the Action Learning Set programme we share achievements and the outcomes of the programme which determines future action. This includes sharing the learning and how to put recovery into practice in all service areas.

The outline Whole Person - Whole Life Recovery Implementation Plan that is produced is presented at a Symposium to key stakeholders for their consideration and action. Their comments, views and ideas form the basis of further developing a shared vision and ownership for a Whole Life – Whole System Strategic Plan for the community.

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Setting up an Action Learning Set

Since 2013 we have these Action learning sets in the UK and internationally. If your organisation wishes to discuss with IMHCN setting up an Action Learning Set pleas contact John Jenkins at [email protected]

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Testimonials (To be added)

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Copyright © 2014 International Mental Health Collaborating Network IMHCN

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