Action Learning Certification — There is No Independent Certifying Body (Should There Be?)

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    The field of personal and professional coaching has a widely respected and accepted, independent certifying body called the International Coach Federation. It is independent in that it does not concurrently promote its own model of coaching — it does not engage in that kind of conflict of interest.

    There seems to be a mistaken impression that there is already this kind of independent organization that grants Action Learning certification for the field of Action Learning. Actually, there is not — and that should not confuse current and new Action Learners. (There is an organization that claims to be the official certifier of Action Learning, but it concurrently sells its own proprietary model of Action Learning.)

    Increasing Need for Independent Action Learning Certification Organization?

    I believe there is a strong need for an independent organization that offers an optional certification for Action Learning training programs and facilitators. My reasons are:

    1. There are variations that refer to themselves as “Action Learning” and mention Revans, yet dramatically differ from Revans’ core process. They might center on outdoors activities with journaling, group discussions or not include actions. Even Revans was loathe to define Action Learning, but at what point is a process not the group-based, problem-solving Action Learning process?
    2. There is a misunderstanding that there already is the certification organization for the field of Action Learning. I have been asked if our (Authenticity Consulting’s and Acton Learning Source’s) trainings “are certified” or “approved” by that organization. If there already was a certifier, then ideally there would have been an apparent consensus about that among Action Learning training programs. There is not consensus, at all.

    Major Benefit of an Action Learning Certification Organization Now?

    A certification organization might help to address these issues by supporting the clarity, integrity and legitimacy of the field by suggesting certain standards and competencies. Those would be optional to those in the field, of course. Other prominent fields and professions have benefited from such a strategy, for example, the International Coach Federation, Human Resource Certification Institute, ASTD Certification Institute, and Project Management Institute.

    What Would the Action Learning Certification Organization Do?

    1. It would be widely respected as influencing standards, accreditation and competencies in the trainings and practices of group-based Action Learning.
    2. It would provide its accreditation to training programs and certification to practitioners, along with suggesting standards of ethics in the practice of Action Learning.
    3. Its standards, accreditation and certifications would not be mandatory; rather they would apply to whatever organizations and practitioners that seek them.
    4. It could be a new organization or a program of an already established, independent organization, such as the International Federation for Action Learning.
    5. It would be an independent body like that in other prominent fields or professions.
      NOTE: It would not concurrently sell or train its own model of Action learning that it has also certified.

    Proposed Next Steps to Consider Action Learning Certification Organization

    I propose that the consideration of this organization, include:

    1. Dialogues about whether such an organization should exist now.
    2. Then, based on indications from the dialogues, a council of representatives from various Action Learning centers would be convened.
    3. It would suggest considerations and recommendations about such an organization.
    4. If the Council, or some other organization or group of committed personnel concluded the need for the organization, it could be developed over time.

    Proposed Question for a Dialogue Now

    “Should there be an independent certification organization that suggests standards, accreditation and competencies for the field of Action Learning, to which training programs and practitioners have the option to follow?”


    What do you think?

    Carter McNamara, MBA, PhD, is a Principal in