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Our New MA in People and Organisation Development: To Change the World Entire

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By James Traeger Programme Director, Mayvin Masters in People and Organisation Development.  What is learning really about? Most people think in terms of a course, an awayday, a classroom, rows of chairs, a top table, a jug of water and a glass. For the last ten years, Mayvin has been developing a way of learning that brings your learning […]
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By James Traeger Programme Director, Mayvin Masters in People and Organisation Development

What is learning really about? Most people think in terms of a course, an awayday, a classroom, rows of chairs, a top table, a jug of water and a glass. For the last ten years, Mayvin has been developing a way of learning that brings your learning closer to the grain of your work. Our approach, which we call Practice-based learning, is both highly innovative and as old as the hills. Even the classical philosopher Aristotle talked about ‘practical wisdom’. Like him we understand the power of learning by doing, or should we say learning in doing. It is at the core of the approach we take with our new Masters (MA) in People and Organisations, in partnership with the University of Chichester Business School.  

This programme looks backwards as well as forwards. We aim to make a new turn with the type of deep personal and group learning that has been around since one of the key founders of Organisation Development, Kurt Lewin started his famous T-Group in 1946. In fact, we are delighted to say that the organisation he founded, the NTL institute, will be delivering this as part of their guest contribution to our Masters. But we are also looking ahead, a long way ahead. We will be asking ‘what is the future of organisations?’ or even, ‘what is the future of organising?’ but this won’t be a theoretical musing. As a participant on this programme, you will be making the future happen, by applying your learning to real organisational problems and situations, with the support challenge and help of faculty and your peers. 

We have been doing this sort of learning with our clients and partners for some time now. Mayvin was founded in 2010. In 2013 we started to run a post graduate programme in organisational development and design, in the UK Civil service. In 2017, we partnered with the University of Chichester, and with them, hatched plot to develop this into a full Masters. The work in the Uk Civil service, with over 500 graduates of our Core and Advanced Practitioner Programmes, have seen people working with change through the enormous upheavals of Brexit, Covid, Black Lives Matter and the Climate crisis. The programme has stayed close to the grain of useful practical work across the UK government system. A recent graduate of our Advanced Programme called it a ‘truly holistic learning experience, with the unnerving ability to get to the heart of things really quickly, about how and why we do what we do.’ These programmes form the basis of and are expanded upon in our new Masters. 

This programme is for people who want to make change happen in a complex and dynamic context, one that anybody working today will recognise. Through this learning, we take the policy and the plan into practice. And it is also about changing ourselves at the same time. You will develop a Practice-based learning question, relevant to your own life and work, focussed on application in your context. And as this context changes and you develop as a person, this question will evolve. Ultimately, this question will form the basis of a full Masters research dissertation. On the path towards this, your evolving question will take you through four modules: 

  • Core Practice - where your learning question gets formed within the wider map of people change practice  
  • Personal and Organisation development consultancy project - where you will apply this question in delivering a real piece of change in a client organisation alongside fellow students 
  • Group and team dynamics - where you will deepen your skills in working in the present with the human side of change 
  • Future of organisations - where you will collaboratively create an organisation that meets the learning needs of everyone in the group, whilst reflecting on how the world of organisations and organising might be turning out for the world  

Each module will be delivered through a combination of online learning and immersive residential, in the beautiful setting of Lane End Centre, set in 26 acres of the Chilterns countryside in Buckinghamshire, UK. 

Just over thirty years ago I myself started a previous version of this programme, at Surrey University, with the then guru of human dynamics of change, John Heron. I was wide-eyed and idealistic. I soon learned that making change happen means taking myself, and how I show up, seriously. I also learned that serious learning can be fun, engaging, and above all useful. Programmes like this have evolved over the years and we liked to think that our Masters is at the cutting edge of this practice in the 2020s, but the basic proposition remains the same. There is a Talmudic saying: ‘to save one life is to save the world entire’. Similarly, with our Masters, to change oneself is the way to get change done for and in the world entire. 

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