Articulating the Value of our Learning Activities

March 18, 2015 by Polona Sirnik

We strive for our learning activities to support our member countries` reform efforts in public financial management and central banking as effectively as possible. We are therefore systematically collecting feedback from our participants on the usefulness and impact of our work. We use a range of tools to measure participants’ reactions, one them being value creation stories.

CEF internal workshop on Value Creation Stories with Beverly Wenger Trayner.

CEF internal workshop on Value Creation Stories with Beverly Wenger Trayner.

Value creation stories are a specific genre of stories developed by top-notch experts in social learning and communities of practice, Beverly Wenger-Trayner and Etienne Wenger-Trayner. Stories are based on a framework that focuses on the value that is produced by social learning. According to the social learning theory* people learn from each other by observing the behavior of others through the influence of example.

The Wenger-Trayner framework** serves as a road map for writing stories and distinguishes between different cycles of value. Learning is modeled as dynamic flow among different cycles. The framework first defines the immediate value of learning, which is joint activity or interaction: conversation, problem solving, benchmarking. If the output of this activity has the potential to change something – for example gives new insights, good ideas, new perspectives, unexpected solutions or a new contact – this is a knowledge capital which represents the potential value of learning. If the knowledge capital is used and the practice is changed as a result, this is the applied value of learning. The next cycle considers realized value – the effect of knowledge capital and changes in practice on individual and organization`s improvement in performance. In addition to improvement in performance learning can also generate new perspectives or new definitions of success or even broader cultural and institutional transformations. We call this transformative value of learning.

The value creation story leads through these cycles, showing the link between the learning activities and realized or even transformative value. The framework proposes interview questions for each of the cycles which help the interviewer discover the created value of learning. One of the framework’s advantages is that it can be used either in the phase of planning, running or evaluating the project. Depending on one’s interest, the focus can be on different value-creation cycles. The pilot use of the framework at the CEF was for the evaluation of the Public Expenditure Management Peer Assisted Learning (PEMPAL) network, a World Bank run project where the CEF serves as the secretariat.

The purpose of the evaluation was to show what value the PEMPAL represents across constituencies, including participants and resource teams, and how successfully the network serves its purpose in supporting public financial management reforms, promoting capacity development, the exchange of experiences, and joint learning in European and Central Asian countries.

The story told by the quantitative indicators might not always be complete; therefore we used the value creation stories to complement quantitative data that are regularly collected with PEMPAL post-event surveys. Evaluation was informed by 15 stories told by 17 PEMPAL members. A collection of anecdotes reflecting on personal experiences with the network added a new perspective and provided for interesting insights and motivation.

The value added of qualitative data was especially important when measuring the applied value. While the immediate and potential value of learning can be measured with quantitative data, the applied value needs qualitative assessment. The stories helped gain insight into changes in practice that took place in domestic institutions.

In the Strategic Planning and Budgeting project we are regularly collecting value creation stories in the evaluation and running phases, and for the first time also for the purpose of project planning. More about this in the next blog post.


Note: The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the CEF.



* Albert, Bandura. 1971. Social Learning Theory. Available at: (March 16, 2015).

** Wenger, E., Trayner, B., and de Laat, M. 2011. Promoting and assessing value creation in communities and networks: a conceptual framework. Available at: (March 16, 2015).

** Wenger-Trayner Beverly and Etienne Wenger-Trayner. Planning and Evaluating Social Learning. Available at: (March 16, 2015).