Transforming Systems in the Decade of Action The Practitioner Journey FAQS

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)



What is the Action Learning Lab and how is it relevant to my work?

The Action Learning Lab is a guided, 4-month, action-learning lab that supports participating UN staff navigate complex development challenges that they face. The journey is facilitated by Presencing Institute (PI), diving deep into the Theory U methodology and process.

Bold steps need to be taken to meet the ambition of the Decade of Action. Past ways of working will not be sufficient. To complement the necessary uptick in cognitive capabilities, is a shift in spirit that this journey will inspire. As practitioners, application of new and different knowledges need to be tested and this is an opportunity for that experimentation.

Who will be a part of this journey?

Two hundred practitioners (this is subject to change based on the number of applications that are received) will be selected from UNDP and other UN agencies to participate in this action-learning lab. Participating agencies include: UNDP, FAO, UNICEF, UN-Women, DCO/DDPO, UNCDF. Practitioners are to apply in teams (minimum of 3, maximum of 5) or as individuals. Practitioners will engage in peer coaching that cuts across teams, and they will be guided by experts from Presencing Institute. The Practitioner Journey emphasizes and encourages community engagement, and in this way, there will be government, partners, and people with lived experience engaged in this process.

Why should I join this journey? What will I gain from it?

This is a journey that takes UN staff from “talking the talk” to modeling the change they want to see. The table below illustrates the potential changes that participating practitioners will experience:



What do I need to do to apply to this journey?

The application process for the Action Learning Lab opens on February 3rd. The deadline for applications is on February 19th. Apply Now!  Please note: Application Period Ended.

To apply you will need to:

  • Determine if you are applying as an individual or as a part of a team. If you are applying as a team, form it with up to 5 colleagues. There are no limitations to who is on your team --- you do not need to all be in a single UN agency, you could be a mix. Please keep in mind that UNDP will be carrying out an open selection process as the lead of this initiative, while other participating agencies will determine their own process of selection. Please check with your agency about the details of the process.
  • Identify a development challenge that you/your team are working on. This is a challenge/priority area, it is not a solution or project idea. In the application, you will be asked to describe the challenge area as you currently see it. 
  • Determine how this challenge plays out in your context. You will be applying methods to explore this challenge area as you go through this experience, so it is important to understand which spaces can be a testing ground for you and with which stakeholders you can test with.
  • Reflect on your availability and interest in this. A commitment of ~4 hours/week will be required. You may want to consult your colleagues to see if this is feasible for you.
  • Become familiar with Theory U. You do not need to spend lots of time on this, but you should have a decent sense of what the methodology is and how it might benefit your work. 
  • Complete the Application! This should not take you more than 30 minutes. 
How will I be selected to participate in this journey?

Once you’ve applied, the organizing team will assess applications. Assessment will be based on the following criteria:

  • Level of motivation to apply Theory U methods to current challenges you face
  • Level of capacity including time available to dedicate to this journey
  • Level of appetite for experimentation including an openness to different practices through experiential learning

You will be notified of selection on March 1st. Please note: Application Period Ended.

What does this Action Learning Lab entail?

The key components of the Practitioner Journey are:

  • Five immersive events - a walkthrough of the five movements of the Theory “U” exposing key concepts and providing ample space for practice and reflection
  • Peer coaching circles - small groups (5) of practitioners act as both learners and teachers of methods and practices.
  • Office hours & Impromptu sessions - “Ask me anything” sessions with Presencing Institute experts to guide the experience
  • Self-directed and applied learning - application of learning in contexts/countries, harvesting insights and sharing them back in the coaching circles, office hours, and in the SparkBlue collective intelligence space

The tentative schedule is as follows: