At Emerging World, corporate international service learning experiences comes in all shapes and sizes. In this firsthand account, you’ll learn about the impact a group of senior leaders from Kuwait Petroleum Company had on UK-based charity EDT (Engineering Development Trust) which focuses on providing STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics experiences for young people across the UK. Action learning was used to explore and expand perspectives and gain powerful cross-cultural impact. 

This story was originally published on LinkedIn by Gennie Dearman, Chief Operating Officer at EDT.

I have been lucky recently, to be involved representing EDT along with our Projects Director Penny Tysoe, at some training Emerging World had been running for some of the most senior employees of Kuwait Petroleum Corporation. We had the opportunity to work over two days with a team of five employees, which we nicknamed the ‘A Team’, introducing them to the work we do in the UK and presenting them with a challenge that our charity is currently facing.

Over the two days we were immersed in a training technique called Action Learning led by our fantastic coach Anita Bhasin. Action Learning is a process that involved a small group of people (our fantastic team from KPC) working on a real problem (provided by us, EDT) – through insightful questioning and reflective listening. We were not allowed to offer information, but could only respond when asked a question – so it really was down to the team from KPC to ask the questions to clarify our exact problem before we could go into identifying possible solutions.

It may all sound one way, and probably for the first ten minutes it was like being in an interview, but soon enough the questions went two ways and we developed using this technique a fantastic dialogue and quickly became quickly a cohesive team.

We came away with some innovative, practical solutions which no doubt when implemented will leave a real legacy, but the point of this post is not to talk about the issue or ideas, but to reflect on the opportunity. I believe that immaterial of the level of acquired and applied learning someone has there is always an opportunity to learn and this experience didn’t disappoint. Some of the highlights for me were:

  • Being reminded that immaterial of sector, size or culture – we often all face the same issues, frustrations and opportunities. Who would have thought we could find synergies in selling crude oil and delivering education outreach?
  • Whether you don’t have enough engineers (UK) or have a plethora to choose from when recruiting (Kuwait) – it can cause issues.
  • A real change can come from answering just one, simple question – “What is the most important thing I can change?” – OK so a simple question but one that doesn’t come with a simple answer!
  • And there is real creativity in being able to ask questions not embedded in assumptions.


The last point for me, reinforced why we do what we do at EDT. Over the two days we got to introduce the ‘A Team’ from Kuwait Petroleum to some of the students that EDT have placed on their industry gap year in organisations such as DNV GL, Leonardo, Furrer + Frey, Firmstep, and Turner & Townsend. All of these students are taking a gap year ahead of going to university and from what our companies tell us, their success is the fact they come to work, not with the knowledge of how to fix a problem or why a solution won