Competencies

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Competency-based learning focuses on outcomes as well as the learners' real-world performance.

Competencies, as a framework of thought, originated in the 1970’s as a way to move beyond narrower concepts of skills and knowledge. Hence, competency thinking emerged from the recognition that every job requires a specific set of competencies to do it well. This approach focuses on what a person can learn, rather than what they can do - so has become useful and popular in the training sector. Specific behavioural indicators as well as self-knowledge, motivation, and desire and willingness to demonstrate effective performance in a role can all be understood as types of competencies. Competency-based learning focuses on outcomes as well as the learners' real-world performance, whether that is within a work context for a specific job, or in a role as a trainer or catalyst of community-based activity or learning. This approach is seen as being of significant value for considering what people need to learn to enhance their capacity to activate and accelerate socio-ecological transition, whether they are active as individuals, as part of a work team, as trainers or community catalysts.

Trainers & Catalysts Competency Framework for Blended Transformative Learning to activate Socio-ecological Transition

The purpose of this competency framework for trainers and catalysts is to accelerate, catalyse and scale socio-ecological transition. It aims to achieve this by enriching the relationships between competencies related to three distinct but interconnected fields of learning, namely: Transformative Learning, Blended Learning and Socio-ecological Transition Learning.

The goal is to provide a usable framework so that individuals, teams, collectives and communities can put in place the ecology of collective competencies that they need to bring about blended transformative learning for socio-ecological transition. All competencies are aimed at trainers and/or catalysts and can be considered at both an individual or a trainer-catalyst team level. The following headings provide links to detailed sets of trainer and catalyst competencies for each of the three areas of competence:

All the competencies can be viewed alongside each other within the Summary Table of BLAST Competencies. The aim is to continue to improve the usability and impact of this framework over time, in terms of both its content and its presentation.

Resources That Support The Use Of This Competence Framework

This section provides an overview of resources that are specifically intended to support the use and impact of this Competence Framework. In particular, the BLAST project has designed a number of resources that are designed to be used with the Competency Framework to help multiply and scale the uptake and impacts of this work, which are:

Assessment Methods

There are of course a variety of different existing models for assessing competencies, one of which is offered below.

However, if trainers and catalysts are familiar with any specific assessment model that appears to them to be appropriate for addressing the complexities of blended, transformative, transition learning it may be best for them to use that assessment model, at least initially, as it will give them a solid foundation in this work. If they need a framework to apply, the following option is offered.

Assessment Method - Option - Dreyfus & Dreyfus - Skill acquisition model

This model gives a more detailed description of what it means to be at different levels and offers criteria on which to rate a learner or rate a trainer (or for them to self assess themselves).

Dreyfus and Dreyfus Chart


A second diagram that goes some way to explain the competency levels is:

Dreyfus model of skill acquisition


The limitation of this model is that it does not identify or address Multiplier competencies, which are those that help multiply the learning and action activities themselves, as well as the benefits, positive impacts and ripple effects arising from them.

Assessing Scaling & Multiplier competencies

Although the Dreyfus & Dreyfus option is considered a good model, it does not address the need for scaling and multiplying transformative transition processes and outcomes, which is an implicit need because of the scale and urgency of the ecological and social issues the framework seeks to address.

The recognition of the need to identify and assess Scaling & Multiplier Competency levels and qualities has been influenced by the ‘Introductory to Multiplier’ model used by Fein and Molz in the LiFT (Learning for Transition) Course Curriculum, which takes account of how competencies can be spread or multiplied once an expert level has been achieved. The model moves from Introductory, to Intermediate, to Advanced, to Expert and finally to Multiplier levels.

However, the limitation of this Fein and Molz model is that Multiplier competencies can themselves be seen as having their own levels from Foundation level to Expert level. For example, simply developing the confidence and the vocabulary to talk about the importance of being engaged in transition activity can be seen as the Foundation level for Multiplier competencies, while the ability to organise, deliver and refine outstanding blended, transformative transition learning programmes would be an Expert level of Multiplier competence.

Therefore, this framework specifically includes Scaling & Multiplier Competencies within the framework so that their fundamental importance is specifically identified and can be addressed within individuals, teams, groups, communities and movements. Hence, learning pathways that develop expertise in Scaling & Multiplier Competencies need to be integrated directly into learning and action programmes.

Using Assessment Methods

Now that we have a Competency Framework for blended, transformative transition learning, the matter of how we assess its use is extremely important. The position adopted for this first edition of the framework is that because of the complexities of the multiple realms of competence, it is extremely important to use a relatively simple framework for competence assessment so as to avoid over-complicating the framework to a point of making it unusable.

If self-assessing or assessing a team member, the Dreyfus model is therefore recommended as a relatively simple methodology. As well offering a relatively simple system for assessing individual competence levels, in a general sense, the Dreyfus model can be applied / adapted to address the collective competences that exist or are needed across a team, group, community or movement. For example, the scale can be used to map the highest level of competence across a team in each competence area, and the number of people at each competence level.

A visual assessment system is illustrated below, with a full set of this form of Radar / Web chart covering the full set of transformative learning, blended learning and transition competencies provided in the Appendix to this framework and as a tool in the BLAST Toolkit, that covers both competencies for learners (individuals, teams, communities) and for trainers / catalysts (individuals and teams). The chart system can be used to map current levels of competence in grouped competence areas.

Spider Map.png

Action-Learning Pathways for Developing Competence

Learning Pathways for Trainer and Catalyst Teams, and across Communities of Practice

Two simplified options for individuals or collectives to deepen and expand their competence as Trainers for Transition using blended transformative methods are:

  • Pathway A: starting point is strength in transformative learning (i.e. members of TL CoP) - adding in or enhancing a) blended competence and b) transition competence;
  • Pathway B: starting point is strength in transition and regenerative sustainability (i.e. members of sustainability / transition CoP)  - adding in or enhancing a) blended competence and b) transformative learning competence.

With formal or informal Communities of Practice, identifiable learning pathways such as these are particularly valuable for individual and collective development (albeit often offering considerable flexibility in how they are undertaken). Recognising that transition trainer and catalyst competencies will very often be spread across training / catalyst teams, a simple 3-person team approach to developing deep competence over time in a training / catalyst team would be:

  • ‘Jo’ follows a path to develop high levels of competence in transformative learning
  • ‘Sam’ follows a path to develop high levels of competence in blended learning
  • ‘Lou’ follows a path to develop high levels of competence in regenerative sustainability and transition

As a team, they plan and collaborate on designing and delivering project-based transition learning, using blended transformative learning methods, that fully integrate and make best use of their three complementary sets of competency.

The intended outcomes and team development may often benefit from particular specialisations:

  • Community climate action - engagement with 52 Climate Actions and Community Climate Coaches[insert link when available]
  • Permaculture and Regenerative Design; Ecovillage and Transition Town training; Etc.

In a Communities of Practice context, it is valuable to recognise that successful collaboration between Jo, Sam and Lou as a team of trainers and catalysts does not need them all to be based in the same locality. They could each live in different communities - by collaborating as a team they can successfully help facilitate and empower transition processes across their three communities, rather than one. Equally, if Jo, Sam and Lou do live in the same community, that community can be expected to benefit from a deepening of its transition competencies through the team living, working and socialising there.

As one approach to pursuing their own learning pathway, a common intention (although not fixed) for training trainers and catalysts is likely to be:

  1. Firstly to develop a high level of competence in blended transformative learning (BTL) formats, methods and processes;
  2. Secondly, to overlay on this (in parallel, or after the BTL competence is in place) additional competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes) that are specifically relevant for applying their BTL competence to the task of achieving individual and collective socio-ecological transition.

Competencies for Hosting Roles

A range of competencies are needed for hosting individuals and teams that are involved in developing and delivering Blended Transformative Learning programmes, as set out below.

Intrapersonal (Being) Competencies Interpersonal (Relating) Competencies
  • Is able to manage one’s stress induced by technological/digital challenges that arise while facilitating
  • Is able to find quick solutions to needs and technological issues that arise in a group, often while multitasking to maintain flow in a learning process
  • Is able to recognise one’s own exhaustion from facilitating online (from screen time, reading the group, delivering content etc). and have ways to resource oneself - as well as supporting the group to do the same
  • Recognises the range of diversity present in the group in terms of motivations, locations, contexts, backgrounds etc; use language, case studies and reference material that encompasses and embraces this diversity, in order to create an inclusive space for all
  • Understands how power and rank, and mainstream and margins, affect groups and learning processes and the effect that online settings have on participation levels of different sub-groups (Leading Groups Online)
  • Is aware of group culture, and if facilitating or teaching over time, remind learners and groups of cultural agreements throughout the sessions at appropriate intervals; hand signals, no jargon, not interrupting each other.
  • Works with conflict that arises in ways suitable for an online environment
  • Knows different ways to encourage peer-to-peer interaction and community building both online and offline
  • Has well developed listening skills - especially active listening
Cognitive (Knowing) Competencies Action (Doing) Competencies
  • Understands how to design blended learning experiences to optimise transformative (inner and outer) learning outcomes
    • set-up and preparation phase online;
    • related technologies for community and communication - forums, chats for connection, guild building
    • related technologies for blended learning - Miro, White boards, interactive feedback, confidential feedback, breakout rooms.
  • Knows the ethical and other impact issues of use of digital tools and technologies and of the ethical options for most used tools e.g. meetings; shared document systems; etc.
  • Is able to design, creating and maintain in-person and online environments for enhanced transformative learning
  • Is able to manage promotion, marketing and learner / participant support systems
  • Has abilities for costing, economic modelling, financial management and maintaining financial viability of programmes
  • Is able to manage logistics in blended experiences, including food, accommodation etc for in-person programmes
  • Is responsive in their actions to address feedback, additional needs or emergency situations during and after learning activities or completion of programmes
  • Can create and manage effective welcoming and departure of learners

Importantly, this approach distinguishes the role and competencies of hosts, rather than trainers/catalysts. The hosting role is a key supporting role that enables trainers and catalysts to focus on the learning and engagement process and activities, while the hosts focus on the technical, set-up, venue, logistics and other issues that allow the training and engagement activities to flow smoothly and be productive. Often, particularly at the initial stages of socio-ecological transition initiatives or in situations lacking resources and people power, trainers and catalysts may have to cover the hosting role themselves.

In particular the hosting role is seen as particularly relevant for three audiences that are likely to want to be involved in helping to scale and multiply the activities and positive impacts of blended transformative learning programmes that accelerate, expand and deepen socio-ecological transition activity, as set out in the following three subsections:

  • Organisations
  • Networks / movements, Communities of Practice and Learning Ecosystems
  • Place-based learning and demonstration centres

Each may develop specialist hosts that bring in or support a team of trainers and catalysts.

Hosting Organisations

Levels: advanced beginner - expert

A variety of different organisations, from education and research foundations, to social and regenerative enterprises, to educational institutions and the public sector are increasingly likely to want to become involved in helping expand blended transformative learning programmes for deepen socio-ecological transition amongst their employees, target audiences and wider stakeholders. For these organisations, in addition to the competencies in the table above, some of the key competency areas they will need to focus on in particular in their role as hosts are:

  • Organisational skills, promotion and management of education programmes, stakeholder engagement etc.
  • Knowledge, attitudes and abilities to create modes of organization, and economic and social relationships that strive to reflect the future society being sought by the organisation, group or movement.
  • Core business, enterprise or entrepreneurial competencies e.g. marketing and pricing of learning programmes; good customer service; etc - typically including good knowledge of alternative / appropriate economic structures, such as social enterprise or cooperative models, regenerative and ethical business models and practices, etc.
  • Knowledge of and abilities and attitudes to implement and maintain appropriate forms of Governance that reflect the values and principles of socio-ecological transition.

Hosting Networks/movements, Communities of Practice & Learning Ecosystems

Levels: competent – expert

For networks, movements, communities of practice and others involved in learning ecosystems that are addressing the socio-ecological transition, and that want to be involved in helping expand blended transformative learning programmes for deepen socio-ecological transition, in addition to the competencies in the table above, some of the key competency areas they will need to focus on in particular in their role as hosts are:

  • Communication and engagement competencies
  • Collective agency / purposeful collective action competencies
  • Multiplier and scaling competencies

Learning & Demonstration Centres as Hosts

Levels: competent – expert

For venues and learning and demonstration centres that are helping expand blended transformative learning programmes for deepen socio-ecological transition, in addition to the competencies in the table above, some of the key competency areas they will need to focus on in particular in their role as hosts are:

  • Competencies for selecting and using environments that enhance learning in general, and individual and collective action-learning in particular.
  • Capacity to deliver and further develop enhanced learning environments, and provide and enhance a supportive ecology of transformative learning, for example through a range of inter-related complementary transformative action-learning programmes, and volunteering, mentoring / tutor support programmes
  • Specifical competencies relating to sustainability / regenerative Learning and Demonstration Centres and their associated networks, as is being specifically addressed in the Erasmus+ funded iACT (Action for Community Transition) project, running from late 2020-2022 (link to be included when available).

Stephen Sterling’s paper  Transformative learning and sustainability: Sketching the conceptual ground refers to some of the key considerations for venues, particularly in terms of how their environment, culture and working practices need to reflect the values and subject matter of the learning programmes they are promoting and hosting. These issues are also addressed in the supporting BLAST document, An Exploration of Transition Competencies.

Competencies That Enable Learners To Engage In Blended Transformative Learning

As well as considering the competencies needed by trainers and catalysts, it is also important to be aware that participants in learning will need certain competencies to participate in blended transformative learning, within a context of socio-ecological transition. It is important for trainers and catalysts to identify these competencies in learners or enable them to access and develop them in order to be able optimise the benefits arising from blended transformative learning experiences. These are presented in the linked page from the heading above.

The limitations of this and other competency frameworks

This competency framework is being developed with a recognition that competency frameworks in general may have a number of limitations, and that this particular competency framework has its own limitations. Some of the general limitations of competency framework are that they may be:

  • Not used widely
  • Not designed with a specific use in mind
  • Not useful for the needs of their potential audience
  • Not user friendly for their intended purpose
    • e.g. too long/short, not easy to navigate, too long to get to the point
    • e.g. do we want people to be able to self assess? Have we provided a scorecard for that?
    • e.g. are the categories sufficiently well described to be able to self-assess?
  • Who they have been designed by and the bias that this might lead to in terms of:
    • what is unconscious/conscious;
    • over/under valued
  • Who they have been designed for and the bias that this might lead to
    • Language used and how accessible it is depending on:
      • whether English is your first language or second
      • Language used that is academic/elitist/inaccessible or jargon/specialist
      • Language that is overly conceptual and insufficiently practical
  • Use of sign language or other accessibility considerations not being included
  • Only appealing to read-write learners - no examples, case studies/stories, quotes, lacking diagrams and imagery - a lack of visual appeal

This particular framework has a number of limitation which we hope to address as it further iterations of this competency framework are developed - specifically:

  • The framework has not been designed by or alongside educators or facilitators from more diverse backgrounds and this was a restriction of the way the project was designed (with a defined group of collaborators paid to develop the framework and no funds for wider consultation or collaboration in this first iteration). As such, this framework has been designed by a collective that is exclusively White, with an over-representation of those with a range of educational and socio-economic advantages (who in the UK would be categorised as ‘middle-class’).
  • Whilst its refinement and improvement over two or three rounds of iteration has been designed with the intention of consulting educators or facilitators from diverse backgrounds, the starting point will be likely to remain a limitation. It is recognised that a competency framework for the same purpose would look and function differently if it was designed and written by educators, facilitators and catalysts from a diverse range of backgrounds.  
  • The complexity of the material and goals being addressed in comparison with the available resources and the limitations of the competencies and experience of those developing this framework inevitably means it is imperfect and has limitations.

The intention is that through engagement with and feedback from a broader and more diverse audience the wisdom of the crowd can help this framework to become as usable and useful as possible, both in the short and long term, through various iterations, associated tools and spin-off activities.

Inspirational & Transformative Resources for BLAST Learning Pathways

The following is a reading and resource list of inspiring and transformative materials that has been compiled from personal recommendations of the BLAST project team. They are recommended from personal experience as being influential for trainers and catalysts that are on a personal or collective learning and development journey, as well as for the individuals, networks, organisations and communities they work with. This is a collection of materials that has had a strong transformative influence on us as individuals, and that we know can be powerfully supportive in deeply transformative processes.

  1. Agrest, Diana. Architecture of Nature: Nature of Architecture. Applied Research & Design, 2019.
  2. Back, Don Edward. Spiral Dynamics: Mastering Values, Leadership, and Change. Wiley-Blackwell, 2005.
  3. Biehl, Janet. Ecology or Catastrophe: The Life of Murray Bookchin. Oxford University Press, 2015.
  4. Bollier, David, and Silke Helfrich. Free, Fair, and Alive: The Insurgent Power of the Commons. New Society Publishers, 2019.
  5. Bourgeau, Monica. The Change Code: A Practical Guide to Making a Difference in a Polarized World. New Phase, 2019.
  6. Buhner, Stephen Harrod. Plant Intelligence and the Imaginal Realm: Beyond the Doors of Perception into the Dreaming of Earth. Bear & Company; 2014.
  7. Capra, Fritjof. The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture. The Turning Point: Science, Society, and the Rising Culture. Bantam; Reissue, 1984.
  8. Campbell, Kelvin. Making Massive Small Change: Ideas, Tools, Tactics: Building the Urban Society We Want. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2018.
  9. CDRA. “The Barefoot Guide to Working with Organisations and Social Change,” n.d. https://www.barefootguide.org/bfg1-english.html.
  10. Certeau, Michel de. The Practice of Everyday Life. University of California Press, 2011.
  11. Douthwaite, Richard. Short Circuit: Strengthening Local Economies for Security in an Unstable World. Chelsea Green Pub Co, 1998.  electronic update at: https://www.feasta.org/category/documents/books/short-circuit-books/  
  12. Edwards, David. Free to Be Human: Intellectual Self-Defence in an Age of Illusions. Green Books, 2017.
  13. Fleming, David. Surviving the Future : Culture, Carnival and Capital in the Aftermath of the Market Economy. Chelsea Green Publishing, 2016.
  14. Freire, Paulo. Pedagogy of the Oppressed. Bloomsbury Academic, 2018.
  15. Freire, Paulo, and Myles Horton. We Make the Road by Walking: Conversations on Education and Social Change. Temple University Press, 1990.
  16. Gardner, Howard. Multiple Intelligences: The Theory in Practice. Basic Books, 2003.
  17. Hooks, Bell. Teaching to Transgress: Education as the Practice of Freedom. Routledge, 1994.
  18. Lakey, George. Facilitating Group Learning: Strategies for Success with Adult Learners, 2020.
  19. Lipton, Bruce. Spontaneous Evolution: Our Positive Future and a Way to Get There from Here. Hay House, 2010.
  20. Maturana, Humberto. The Tree of Knowledge: The Biological Roots of Human Understanding. Shambhala, 1992.
  21. Merchant, Carolyn. Radical Ecology: The Search for a Livable World. Routledge;, 2005.
  22. Murdock, Maureen. The Heroine’s Journey: Woman’s Quest for Wholeness. Shambhala, 2020.
  23. Nerburn, Kent. Neither Wolf nor Dog. New World Library; 2019.
  24. Parker, J. Palmer. The Courage to Teach: Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life. Parker vols. Jossey-Bass, 2017.
  25. Rau, J. Ted. Many Voices. One Song. Institute for Peaceable Communities, 2018.
  26. Rust, Mary-Jayne. Towards an Ecopsychotherapy. Confer Books, 2020.
  27. Quinn, Daniel. Beyond Civilization: Humanity’s Next Great Adventure. Broadway Books, 2000.
  28. Slade, Samantha. Going Horizontal: Creating a Non-Hierarchical Organization, One Practice at a Time. Berrett-Koehler Publishers, 2018.
  29. Wilber, Ken. The Simple Feeling of Being: Embracing Your True Nature. Shambhala, 2004.
  30. Waal, Frans de. Our Inner Ape: A Leading Primatologist Explains Why We Are Who We Are Reprint Edition. Riverhead Books;, 2006.
  31. Wahl, Daniel Christian. Designing Regenerative Cultures. Triarchy Press Ltd, 2016.
  32. Wright, Erik Olin. Envisioning Real Utopias. Verso, 2010.

Further Reading

The following references are particularly relevant to the issues addressed by this Competency Framework:

  1. “European Framework for the Digital Competence of Educators: DigCompEdu.” Publications Office of the European Union, 2017. https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/publication/eur-scientific-and-technical-research-reports/european-framework-digital-competence-educators-digcompedu.
  2. “ICT Essentials for Teachers Based on the UNESCO ICT Competency Framework for Teachers.” Rwanda Ministry of Education., 2017. https://unesdoc.unesco.org/ark:/48223/pf0000261451.
  3. Jarche, Harold. “Implementing Network Learning.” Accessed December 2, 2019. https://jarche.com/2016/08/implementing-network-learning/.
  4. LivDigiL. “Digital Literacies.,” n.d. https://www.advance-he.ac.uk/knowledge-hub/digital-literacies.
  5. Saxer, Marc. “Practical Guide to Transformative Change Making.” Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung Asia, March 2017. http://library.fes.de/pdf-files/bueros/indien/13269.pdf.
  6. Welch, Daniel, and Luke Yates. “The Practices of Collective Action: Practice Theory, Sustainability Transitions and Social Change.” Journal of Theory of Social Behaviour, 2018, 1–18.