Building a network for place-based learning

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Two months ago, we convened a group of friends, fellows, practitioners and partners to talk about place and learning. We believed there was growing energy to share knowledge and good practice around the challenges of place-based and ecosystemic learning. We wanted to test this theory.

Place is at the heart of the RSA’s developing Learning Society programme, growing out of our flagship project, Cities of Learning. We work with towns, cities and regions to develop cross-sector approaches to learning that share a common skills currency in digital badges. Through this model we aim to improve access to local opportunities, recognise non-formal learning on a par with formal qualifications and connect learners to employment opportunities in their local areas.

But we know that our model isn’t the only one trying to solve these problems and we hoped that through a networked approach, there would be appetite to share knowledge with and learn from a whole field of practice.

Our online event was not so much a launch as a prototype and a call to arms for like-minded practitioners to come together and help us shape a network and build a commons of knowledge. I’m happy to say that the response was very positive. We asked attendees to complete a survey to help shape the agenda, rhythms and rituals of the network. To date we’ve had forty-five thoughtful responses from people around the UK and even colleagues in the US, Dubai, Cairo and Monaco.

The majority of respondents were in favour of regular online events, a monthly newsletter email and virtual networking spaces. This is great news. We propose to build a programme of bi-monthly online events. These will alternate between speaker / panel-focused events and more informal networking / knowledge sharing digital meet ups. We will also start producing a monthly e-newsletter to collate news, resources and papers from the network and the wider field.

A range of potential topics and areas of interest were raised in the survey – certainly enough to keep our conversations lively for more than a year head. One thing that was raised by several people was a question of connecting school children and young people more effectively with their local community. With this in mind, our first official meetup of the Place Based Learning Network will be on Children and the Community with contributions from Helen O’Donnell, CEO of the Children’s University and the RSA’s Citizens of Now research project. Anyone who is interested in joining the network, please do join on December 13 at 2pm.

In terms of building a digital community space for this network, there was a mild preference for using relatively passive space such as LinkedIn Groups to house discussion points and link sharing. We are going to work on this in the New Year to make sure there’s regular content and updates. If there is regular activity in this space, we may look at spinning out a more active engagement space. We’d also be delighted if some digital spaces emerged organically from the group.

If you are interested in joining the Place-Based Learning Network, please sign up here.

To join our Place-based Learning Network meetup: Connecting Classrooms to the Community on December 13th, please RSVP here.

If you have ideas, links or questions you’d like to share with the network, please send them directly to [email protected] and we will aim to include them in the next newsletter.

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