Transformational community development through emergent learning


  • Ortrun Zuber-Skerritt


Emergent learning, lifelong action learning, action research, community development


This article applies the concept of ‘emergent learning’ (Taylor, 2011) to action learning and action research (ALAR) in general, and to lifelong action learning (LAL) in particular. It adapts Taylor’s conceptual framework of leadership development to the new context of community development, aiming for transformational and sustainable community development through and with learning that can be cascaded to others. The article illustrates this development model in practice with a community–university partnership program in Australia, where participants were cognisant of action learning but not of the theory of emergent learning. The program data provides evidence that validates the model of emergent learning for transformational learning personally, professionally and in the community. Our research suggests that readers may usefully apply this model not only to community development, but also to ALAR projects or programs in other areas such as education, higher education, health, and professional and leadership development in government and industry. By analyzing the new theoretical model of emergent learning and validating it through data collected for a different purpose, this study helps to extend the emergent paradigm and methodology of both ALAR and LAL.