I sat down to summarise my research for the second week of #52Weeks52Speaks but something else was on my mind. Any piece of research has to end somewhere and I cut the threads on my Community Education Imaginary when I handed in my PhD dissertation back in October 2020. But it was an activist project from the start and so the Imaginary itself has rolled on past that point, gathering and developing ideas. And I am caught up right now in the idea of replacing structures with practices; specifically practices of care.
I spent several years looking at English community education through a posthuman lens: fresh concepts which enabled me to question the fundamental structures, processes and language of our service(s). My reading, thinking and discussions with others encouraged me to make a new design for my own life, based on regular practices and a personal, affirmative ethics of joy, rather than operating within the framework of an organisation (I talked about this for TEDx Doncaster in October 2019). This approach isn’t for everyone, but as I sifted through the generous contributions of 400 research respondents, I glimpsed how it might be possible to construct education itself as the practice of values.
My research identified ten practice values and five lines of flight for activist projects: values led practices of design, pedagogy, alliance, research and professional learning. #AdultConversations falls squarely in the practice of alliance and it’s a delight to see this activist campaign begin to unfold.
Adult and community education is not without alliances and at a level where people try and influence policy, you do tend to bump into the same people in different settings. We wanted to be certain that #AdultConversations added something new.
Firstly, we are time limited. The three of us – me, Jo Fletcher-Saxon and Mel Lenehan – are giving this campaign our best shot for one year – 2021 or bust. By January 2022 we sincerely hope that conversations spinning out from #AdultConversations will have their own activist energy and that change is happening on the ground…we’ll step away from the helm and be involved then in the projects of our choosing.
Secondly, we are expansive and by that we mean we’ll be actively seeking out people to join the movement from all the tributaries of adult and community education – that means not just further education, not just higher education but all those places outside of education where adults go to learn – third sector community work, the climate change movement, trade unions, youth work to infinity. We’ll build relationships with other campaigns in the same space, such as Right2Learn whose excellent manifesto was published a few days ago.
Thirdly – and perhaps most importantly – we’ll practise those those ten values in everything we do: not least, right now, the practice of an ethics of care. We model this in how we three take care of each other, noticing when someone is tired and needs to step out for a bit. In how we encourage others to write for #52Weeks52Speaks, offering a helping hand whenever we can. And when we bring people together for our #AdultConversations Regional Roundtables you’ll notice that our facilitation is focused on making sure everyone there is equal as a thinker.
It feels like the right time to be doing this, while we are all going through it. If my research taught me anything, it’s that people want to work and learn in environments which care not only for the whole human, but for the landscapes and creatures with whom we inhibit this earth. We’ve got a chance to build our little corner of a better world and we’re here to take it.