Human Learning Systems – blog

Ali Wills, Strategic Relationships Manager for Active Cornwall has written this blog on Human Learning Systems, what it is and the impact it can have…

Last month I had the pleasure of attending Cornwall’s Preventing Falls and Promoting Ageing Well conference.  I was blown away by the enthusiasm, passion and care in the room for people.  In every conversation there was a recognition for a desire for a more human led approach to the way in which work, seeing people as human beings and starting with what matters to them.

One lady in particular almost moved me to tears – not because she told any sad stories – but in fact what she told was a story of change.  A story of the art of the possible.  A story Human Learning Systems in action.

Ann Gray owns and runs a residential care home where they care largely for people with dementia.  For the people who live at Coombe House, it is not so much a house but their home.  They are empowered to make their own choices about how they want to live their lives, there is no distinction between residents and the people who work there.  Everyone is equal and everyone is valued.  Residents are encouraged to be involved in the daily tasks of running the home – in effect they are given purpose or a reason for the day.  Families and friends are encouraged to be involved.  The doors are not locked.  The barriers that perhaps others face in similar but different settings are effectively removed.  Coombe House does not stand still – they continually learn and grow – investing in their people and creating novel activities designed to improve and extend the lives of those living with dementia.

You may wonder what all of this has to do with Sport, Physical Activity and Movement.  Well – everything in my book. For too long, people with the most to gain from being active have been the least able to take part.  If we want different outcomes, we need to change our conversation.

Human Learning Systems is an approach we are using to help guide our thinking about how we approach physical activity and movement.  Human Learning Systems encourages us to see people as human beings and helps us to think about our role in supporting them to live their best lives.  It recognises that too often, the barriers that prevent people from living their best lives, including their ability to be more active, are often outside of their control.  It seeks to foster trust and collaboration between those who can help to remove those barriers.  And it guides us to think about the value of a learning approach to our work.  That perhaps no-one individual or organisation has the answer to the complex issue of physical inactivity and only by learning together will we start to change outcomes for people.

Coombe House is changing the conversation about care and at 74 years old, Ann Gray is still changing that conversation.  Ann gave me hope that we can and will change the conversation about activity and movement. 

Interested to learn more then get in touch with Ali Wills at

Watch our webinar from last month filmed during Human Learning Systems Week here.

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