Corporate Responsibility through Whole Person Learning

Whole Person Learning enabled us not only to learn a lot about corporate responsibility, we discovered many things about us as a class and us as individuals – although we as a group have already spent two years together. Claire and Chris did a great job in literally forcing us to think beyond the horizons of our daily life.

Moritz GoeldnerStudent,

Whole Person Learning (WPL) is a radical educational approach developed by Oasis, and supported by global partners.

With a basis in the human potential movement, it seeks to enable people to bring more of themselves to their lives, work and communities.

Core to the approach is the ability of the person to know themselves and to learn how to know themselves.

This offers an opportunity for greater self-management and efficacy, and access to authentic personal power and authority.

By extension, this greater autonomy can then translate into a richer contribution to one’s work, personal relationships, community and ultimately to the planet.

Most approaches to learning rely on the cognitive acquisition of knowledge. They do not take account of experiential, practical, affective and imaginal ways of learning.

Whole Person Learning recognises that human beings exist in a network of relationships and interdependent systems.

It places equal value on our spiritual, emotional, physical and intellectual worlds.

Whole Person Learning allows learners to discover more of their inner dimension, to learn from firsthand experience and to understand the consequences of the decisions they make.

Since June 2011 co-director Claire Maxwell and core associate Chris Taylor have been working with the Northern Institute of Technology Management (NIT), part of Hamburg University of Technology, one of Germany’s leading universities.

Their workshop on Corporate Responsibility was the culmination of pioneering and collaborative working between Claire and Dr Christoph Jermann from NIT, to explore the extent to which it was possible to bring an integrated Whole Person Learning approach into an academic environment with a group of engineering students.

Outstanding students

Students at the institute take an MSc in Engineering and a concurrent MBA or Master’s in Technology Management. This attracts high performing students who want to enter the job market early. There are approximately 600 applications for each of the 30 places available each year. In its first ten years, 335 students from 53 countries have been admitted to the programme.

International companies frequently recruit graduates, finding that Asian or South American students educated in Europe have more success heading up projects in their home countries than Europeans sent to these countries without an adequate understanding of the cultural background or language skills.

The NIT MBA has always invested a higher percentage of its curriculum to developing a broader spectrum of understanding in students, particularly in philosophy and ethics, than other business schools. In recent years these core elements have become more common as business schools recognise that managers-to-be need to have a broad vision of the world and part of that vision needs to be rooted in ethics.

What happens in the workshop?

The three-day workshop led by Oasis gives students the opportunity to understand the conceptual frameworks behind globally responsible leadership and the chance to develop deeper and more meaningful relationships to each other, to the world of corporate responsibility and to their own relationship to being responsible. It was this latter element which encouraged the students to identify and agree next steps.

Claire said: “It was a privilege to work with Christoph Jermann and within an academic institution that both recognises and is willing to act on the fact that the leaders of the future need to develop an understanding of the impact that they, and the organisations they will be influencing, have on people and planet.”

Christoph said: “It was an inspiring experience to sit down with Claire and design a workshop with enough Whole Person Learning elements on the one hand and enough Globally Responsible Leadership content and academic rigor on the other hand to satisfy both sides. The result was a challenging new type of MBA course for our students, who in many cases very much appreciated this venture, and a promising model that could be tested by other business schools.”

The team from Oasis used a Whole Person Learning approach to introduce the business case for corporate responsibility, to encourage the students to think globally – about the world, future generations, and their own attitudes and behaviour – and to help them realise their own power to affect the world.

Chris said: “The student group was so diverse, with so many cultures and different experiences. That helped the content because they always had something to say but from very different points of view.”

Clashing cultural norms, ethical dilemmas

Cultural differences between students had an impact on the concept and process of globally responsible practice. Different opinions stimulated dialogue and deeper thinking, and students experienced the clashing cultural norms and ethical dilemmas they may come across in their work.

Student Moritz Goeldner from Germany said: “Whole Person Learning enabled us not only to learn a lot about corporate responsibility, we discovered many things about us as a class and us as individuals – although we as a group have already spent two years together. Claire and Chris did a great job in literally forcing us to think beyond the horizons of our daily life.”

And Sujaritha Vettukadu from India added: “It was great to know that we were not alone in being socially responsible and that there were many people, including my own classmates, and organisations, who shared similar feelings, thought very deeply about it and also, more importantly, took actions. The seminar fired the passion in each one of us, over and above our individual feelings and thoughts, by combining education and thought-provoking discussions, empowering us to incorporate these ideas in our daily life.”


Find out more

Find out more about Whole Person Learning by watching Geoff Tudhope, CEO Mentor at Merryck & Co, describe how it has changed his approach, at the General Assembly of the Globally Responsible Leadership Initiative in Stuttgart, Germany.
To have a conversation about Whole Person Learning contact us or call us on 01937 541700.