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Learning how to be wrong

Over the last three years, the Lloyds Bank Foundation and social research and learning organisation Ratio have led a partnership and learning network, that Sport England has been a part of, into working in place with communities, and how to scale and learn. The 'How to be wrong' report, on the learnings from the past three years, was published today.

30th March 2022

by Jill Baker and Michael Little
Jill is the director of development at the Lloyds Bank Foundation. Michael is the founder of Ratio.

The report How To Be Wrong is published today.

It is the product of 50 or so people working in funding organisations, public sector and civil society organisations.

Over the last two years we read, met, reflected and wrote down ideas around how we can make change happen.

The ideas in the report feel useful to those of us in the network. But the real test is whether anybody outside our group is interested. We want to see if the ideas travel and develop.

It started with conversations between a few of us about place and scale.

We talked about what the words ‘place’ and ‘scale’ meant, and how we would translate them into meaningful change in communities – we recognised there was a lot to learn.

Others shared our appetite for knowledge and, before too long, our group coalesced into a formal network.

At the beginning, a bond was formed around a shared dislike of the standard approach to outcome evaluation and to the new public management model that frames the work of those that fund, commission and agree on local services.

But these complaints are not new, and largely ignore the benefits that came with this way of thinking.

The real test is whether anybody outside our group is interested. We want to see if the ideas travel and develop.

We could say we were inspired by figuring out new ways of learning. But that would be a lie.

For the most part we were inspired by what we read and the shared ideas that came out of our conversations about the reading.

Gradually, and without a plan to do so, these shared ideas were committed to paper, and eventually formed the report we release today.

Our primary conclusion is that we can learn as much, if not more, from our mistakes as from our triumphs, if indeed there are any triumphs.

While we aren’t paid to make mistakes; they do happen. But we are paid to be clear about our choices in making decisions regarding public expenditure.

Clarity about decisions will result in transparency about mistakes. If the mistakes are going to be reported, we had better learn from them.

The learning, by default, becomes as important as the outcomes we are trying to achieve. 

Our report is short and sure. The reality of life is more complicated. That much is clear from the series of podcasts and blogs we will be releasing over the next four months to accompany the publication.

Our hope is you will read, listen and reflect. Write to us and tell us what you think at: or on social media using #HowToBeWrong. 

If there is sufficient interest, we may reconvene one more time to reflect on what has been learned.

If not, we may deduce that our ideas, like so many others, are simply wrong.

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