Theorizing learning circles: a Nordic tradition revitalized in times of social innovation imperatives'

Marie Kirstejn Aakjær, Charlotte Wegener

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal articleResearchpeer-review


Learning circles has a long tradition in the Nordic countries as a model for adult non-formal education, but has gained little scholarly attention and is thus sparsely theorised. The purpose of this article is to discuss the revitalisation of learning circles as highly relevant in times of what we term ‘social innovation imperatives’. To illustrate this, we report from two Nordic learning circles in which we were involved as evaluators. We provide an overview of the Nordic tradition of learning in ‘circles’ and draw on social innovation literatures to sketch a framework for theorising learning circles, comprising three aspects of the ‘social’ in social innovation: social ends, social means and capacity building. Despite the increasing popularity, there is still limited knowledge about social innovation in practice. The Nordic tradition of learning circles provides a practice-based reply to how social innovation can be facilitated, and vice versa; social innovation theory provides input for theorising learning circles. As such, this paper’s originality lies in allowing learning circles (as a practice) and social innovation (as the theory) to cross-pollinate.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Education and Work
Pages (from-to)1-14
Number of pages14
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jul 2023


  • management, organizational development and innovation
  • learning
  • community of practice


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