#29 The Learning Designers

I'm very happy to introduce Zahra Davidson and Roxana Bacian. I first met Roxana at the very first Snook Ensemble meeting in 2012. She worked her magic in our team at Snook for two years. Since then, Roxie has worked for Future Gov and is now working across visual design, performance arts and writing. Zahra joined our team in 2012 as a Snookster and of course we refused to let her go; she worked with us for one year and was a key driver behind the success of The Matter. Since then, Zahra has been designing and leading projects for Forum for the Future and Year Here. 

Hopefully this gives you a sense of why I'm thrilled they have joined forces to build an alternative model of learning; Enrol Yourself. I'm proud to know Zahra and Roxie and call them my friends. Here's what they have to say...


The pair started Enrol Yourself in response to their own need; deep and continual creative development alongside professional practice, without institutions or hefty price tags.

If you can challenge your physical endurance in the name of a good cause, then you can do the same with your creative capacities. Enrol Yourself invites people to  set out on a ‘learning marathon’, designing their own curriculum, setting goals, and crowd-sourcing the structure and support they need to make it happen. The aim is to grow a group of proactive learners to prototype a model for lifelong learning over the course of a year.


What's the biggest lesson you've learned over the last year? 

Discipline. Discipline. Self-discipline. 

Formality and discipline are not in fashion. But when it comes to learning, discipline has a leading role - as it always has - although we’re going to have to dress it up differently, if we want people today to buy into it. Formality may once have meant tutors, lecture theatres, exams and a ruler rapped across the knuckles. That was all about serving you the discipline you needed on a plate, rather than growing it deliberately within yourself. If you want to continue to learn deeply throughout your life then perhaps discipline must evolve to become self-discipline? 


As we started to bring Enrol Yourself to life, we found that our commitment, productivity and learning increased as our shared goal gained clarity. We were building the structure and accountability that meant self-discipline flowed faster. The real lesson was in recognising the crucial role of discipline as the first step towards flexible learning that can adapt to individual needs. This is why we’re calling Enrol Yourself a ‘learning marathon’; to make use of an analogy for pushing yourself which people can grasp and apply to their creative development.

What is your burning question of the moment?

We have so many! How can you continually build your creative ability to make unlikely and imaginative connections, alongside and feeding into your professional practice? How can you do this across your life, beyond the institution and at any age or stage? What role could lifelong learning play in supporting people to respond to challenges large and small? How can we design more opportunities to learn within society?


In fact, we’re using questions to help frame the design of each individual’s Enrol Yourself curriculum. For example, Roxana is looking at how movement and performance might be used to explore, express and overcome limiting thinking habits and Zahra is enquiring into how the design of learning experiences, and the systems by which they are accessed and delivered, can be a tool for enhancing the interdependence between people and living systems.

What is the most inspiring thing you've seen, heard or read, in the last year?

The story of someone who stopped at nothing in order to learn. Adrian is a dancer from Spain who has taught us both. His ability to transfer his passion for what he does is an inspiration.

As a child growing up in Spain he had to take secret dance lessons because his family did not approve. He made cakes and sold them to make enough money for salsa dancing lessons, because he couldn’t afford the ballet lessons which he really wanted to do. Once proficient enough with salsa he began teaching at the age of 14, disguising himself to look as old as possible. He then used the money he earned from teaching to pay for ballet lessons. By the time his family knew he was dancing, he was already a professional. 

For us, Adrian’s story is one of complete dedication to learning something that brought him joy, finding creative ways to do so when it seemed impossible, and taking risks along the way. If we could all learn like our lives depended on it, where could that lead us?

What's your one piece of advice for Enrol Yourself potential students?

  • Set out on a learning adventure and delay your arrival at the comfort zone. 
  • Come ready with hundreds of ideas for experiences that will stretch you and surprise you whilst bringing you closer to your learning goals. 
  • Embrace the value of the journey and expect some days to feel as though you’ve strayed from the path and wandered into the woods.
  • See supporting the group as core to your own development.
  • Bring willingness to experiment, determination, and humour.

They’re looking for potential participants, supporters, collaborators, as well as being interested to chat to any peers also developing learning products, services or initiatives. You can get in touch via their website, and follow them on twitter.

I can't wait to see how Enrol Yourself develops and l'm very much looking forward to supporting the team in facilitation;  reflecting around what they are learning and how those learnings will translate into their future. I'll end on this beautiful quote...

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.
— Alvin Toffler