The wisdom is in your town – set it free

I believe in the value of what is rather dryly called peer-to-peer learning. A good book to read on the topic is Paolo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed. We have been reared to put our faith in the ‘expert’ model – what is called in America the ‘sage on the stage’ model.

From the first day you went to school, you were effectively told you knew nothing. Sit down and listen to Miss Murphy and all the Miss Murphys thereafter. The Miss Murphys of your world would tell you all you needed to know.

However, Freire has a different theory. His argument is that we are all educators: the student doesn’t simply learn but is actually a co-creator of knowledge.

Hence, the ‘guide on the side’ approach. Put 100 people in a room and they will educate each other, without any ‘sage on the stage.’ The wisdom is in the room: just let it express itself.

I mention all of this for one reason: to illustrate the value of good networking, where you sit with others and, in the process, educate or inspire each other. Those who are inspired are also encouraged to inspire. Those who are mentored are also invited to mentor.

It is a powerful way to set about job-searching, and one day all jobs clubs will hopefully allow for this peer-to-peer approach. There is a real danger in this economic environment that unemployed people will give their power away: vesting all their hopes in various agencies or individuals, and, in the process, losing all sense of their own value.

If you are unemployed, you can set up your own jobs clubs. Just as all you need for a game of football is a ball and two jumpers for goal-posts, all you need for a jobs club is a room and a few people.

Put a note in your local newsletter, newspaper or supermarket noticeboard. Get some people together with the express purpose of helping each other to source work or to develop business ideas.

And, when you get them together, resist the temptation to simply bring in ‘experts’ to talk. By all means, bring in the occasional ‘expert’, but don’t orientate the jobs club solely in that direction. Tap into the wisdom already in the room: you will have decades of life and work experience at your disposal and those in the room will generate answers to most problems you encounter.

I have always found that one of the most powerful investments you can make in people is to ask them their opinion. Unemployed people can suffer from a loss of self-esteem and self-belief: to be asked for your opinion is to get back a sense of your self-worth.

If you doubt the ability of people living in difficult circumstances to create, inspire and innovate, Google ‘Honey Bee Network India’. In particular, search YouTube for talks by the Honey Bee Network’s founder, Anil Gupta.

Business professor Gupta saw innovations and talent in India that were not being supported in any official way, and so started the Honey Bee Network. He travelled India, often on foot, to find inventions developed out of necessity. In the past 24 years, the network has discovered over 12,000 original inventions. Their newsletter is published in eight languages and distributed to 75 countries.

And all without a ‘sage on the stage’. The wisdom was not only in the room, but under trees and on the banks of rivers.

What Honey Bee Network can you form in your community with a job-searching focus?

Sli Nua Careers offer CV preparation, interview training and mock interview services at their offices in Galway, Dublin and Ballinrobe, Co. Mayo. You can also obtain their free eBook providing Job Searching Tips by emailing with Job Searching eBook in the subject line. More: