Put your mask on: what I learned as part of an action-learning set

Kawika Solidum, Director of Communications at Step up to Serve, reflects on his Action Learning Set experience

30th October 2018

One of the joys of working at Pears Foundation is the network of incredible professionals across our Partners who are passionately committed to their organisations, sectors and causes.

As part of our efforts to add value beyond our grants, we are always looking for ways to support these great individuals, and to bring them together to support each other.

Since 2017, we have been working with Action Learning Associates to run action learning sets for small groups of Pears grantees.  Our guest blogger this month is Kawika Solidum, Director of Communications at Step Up to Serve, who joined our first pilot set, reflecting on what the experience has meant to him.


Put your mask on: what I learned as part of an action-learning set

“Put your mask on first — before you help others,” must be a familiar refrain for anyone who flies often.

Every time I fly, which used to happen more often in my twenties, I always seem to listen to the pre-flight safety announcements. While other passengers may find it routine, I find it reassuring.

Now in my thirties, with two children, the message creates some cognitive dissonance. I know I should take care of myself in order to better care for others; but it is so hard. I want to put their masks on first!

In 2017 I was invited to join the Pears Action Learning Set. What at first felt like a luxury, then as a busy charity chief executive, gradually transformed into a necessity.

The forum, which met every six weeks or so, was a perfectly formed group of equally busy professionals. But more to the point, these professionals were people grafting together social progress in myriad ways yet, in the process, also confronting similar challenges.

Over a year and then some, the topics were diverse. The common thread, true to a well-run action-learning set, was always landing on the handful of actions that stemmed from ‘a shift’ in one’s own thinking.

When I think about what my ‘shifts’ had in common over that period of time, I arrive at these two conclusions: trust my intuition and take care of myself.

Today I use the lessons I learned from not only sharing the challenges I have faced in my career, but also hearing how others have approached — or changed their approach to — their own.

I would recommend participating in an action-learning set to anyone who felt that talking — and crucially, listening — may be a way to better approach work, life or the blend and blur that is both.

So now, when I’m seated on a plane, preparing for a flight with two children under five sat beside me, and I hear that familiar message it’s much easier for me to reconcile the previous mental clash I had.

Put my mask on first. Then help others.