Unexpected reflections towards transformation: Second Order Learning from the Covid-19 Pandemic. Preliminary insights



The Transformative Innovation Policy Consortium (TIPC)3, a global research and policy-oriented community analysing systemic transformations, is an ideal organisation to assess how may the
COVID-19 pandemic impact sustainability transitions of socio-technical systems. Observing a “major landscape shock” (Kanda and Kivimaa, 2020) with dramatic global consequences and pervasive effects may thus become a singular event to reflect on second order learning processes and potential changes. Therefore, the purpose of this research is to explore how has COVID-19
contributed to a change in beliefs, assumptions, points of view and behaviours that are relevant for transformation. TIPC community is the realm to be explored.

Interpretations of second order learning (hereafter SOL) are diverse in the sustainability transitions literature (Van Mierlo and Beers, 2018; Schot and Geels 2008, Geels 2002, Geels and Schot 2007, Schot and Steinmueller 2018). For the purpose of this research, we will use a combination of different approaches to SOL from three strands of literature that have a similar understanding of second order learning and shared elements of how it may occur: 1) transitions theory; 2) organisational learning and 3) transformative learning in education. The SOL characteristics will be empirically explored through a contemporaneous situation: a sample of TIPC members dealing with the Covid-19 pandemic from an individual, community, and organisational perspective while also asked to reflect purposefully on what this pandemic may mean for their current and future work with sustainability transformations, for their contexts and for the global panorama. This process is based on a reflexive conversation, understood as the subjective reframing about our own ideas and beliefs (Mezirow 1997:7). A prevalent shock affecting everyone may serve as a good excuse to observe if SOL happens as a result from the crisis, despite the lack of distance with the object of research which has for long been on debate (Escalante, 1999: 9). While there is not enough evidence yet to argue that other pandemics such as SARS and AH1N1 have caused SOL in knowledge based organisations, the impact of Covid-19 seems to be considerably more extensive in terms of registered cases, social and economic consequences and deaths.