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Young people growing up in London today are faced with a paradox that defines many of the world’s most prosperous cities.

London’s cultural heritage, artistic and creative opportunities are rich and varied. There is a wealth of opportunities for rich learning and world-class, cutting-edge creative and cultural experiences in concert halls, arenas, parks, and public spaces.

Yet many young people in London don’t use these opportunities. They face challenges of being aware of them, barriers to access and participate in them, and don’t see the connection, value, and relevance of them to their lives and communities.

We know that London is a city with challenges of inequality. One form of inequality is that not everyone feels empowered to shape culture and be involved with the range of opportunities available.

Where in London has the best culture and learning opportunities for young people?

To help tackle this problem, the RSA is excited to announce a new partnership with A New Direction, a London-based non-profit generating opportunities for children & young people to unlock their creativity.

As part of A New Direction’s ‘Challenge London’ programme to develop sustainable, innovative partnerships to support young people's cultural engagement in London, the Cities of Learning project at the RSA will run a London-wide competition to identify and work with three leading ‘boroughs of learning.’ 

The competition will be looking for the boroughs who champion the most compelling designs for connecting young people into learning and work opportunities in the cultural and creative industries, and beyond. We’re looking for designs that are place-based, with a collective leadership that’s tapped into local community networks.

Key to this will be the creation of new ‘progression pathways’ – routes that lead into careers, which have young people’s voice, agency, and wellbeing at the centre. We’ll  be looking for boroughs to apply the design principles of Leadership, Networks, and Platform from the RSA’s flagship learning and skills programme Cities of Learning - in designing these new accessible pathways.

This work is about raising awareness, improving access, widening participation and giving agency to young people in the capital’s creative and cultural hub. Through the competition we’ll be supporting boroughs in bringing together arts organisations, education and training providers, and leading creative and cultural industries to develop a new approach for impact alongside young people.

The competition will be open to all 32 London boroughs, or cross borough partnerships, to submit an entry.

If you’d like to receive updates about the competition,  please get in touch.

The Cities of Learning model for developing local skills

This new competition builds on the RSA and Digitalme’s Cities of Learning programme.

Cities of Learning is a place-based model for lifelong learning and skills, addressing access to and fragmentation of learning and skills provision.

The model works by amplifying and connecting different informal and formal opportunities that exist across a place, for example:

  • a wood-making class run by a local authority
  • a short course at a University
  • or a theatre class at a community group

and linking them together to create valuable progression pathways for learners.

These different opportunities are connected through a technology platform. With what we call ‘digital open badges’, opportunities become visible and learners are signposted along new pathways to build up a permanent, portable record of achievement to ‘unlock’ further learning and work opportunities.

Open badges become a new 'currency' for learning across a place, recognising and communicating the knowledge and skills gained through participation in different formal and informal activities.

This model harnesses a new civic leadership approach around a collective vision for learning and skills. It’s networked into the local community, which drives momentum of the whole system to engage with and support youth learning. And this model builds learner agency and capability, particularly for those most underserved by the current system, by offering greater personalisation and access.

Making London a more creative place for young people

We hope that our new partnership can a first step towards making London a better, more fulfilling, happy, connected and creative place for young people to live, go to school, and find work in.


If you’d like to receive updates about the competition,  please get in touch.

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