Transformative and Participatory Learning as a Catalyst for a Sustainable Just Transition

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Second Partner Meeting of the Tale Project in Vienna, Austria

We are facing the pressing need to transition towards a more sustainable, nature-aligned and socially just society. Through co-creative partnerships, the Tale project explores how transformative learning approaches can be a catalyst for the green transition in (local) communities and cities.

The Tale Erasmus+ project is a collaborative effort bringing together adult education organisations, learners, communities, social movements, and environmental activists. One of the goals of the Tale project is to equip adult learning and education organisations with fresh approaches to engaging with adult learners and their communities. By fostering cooperation between adult education institutions and grassroots initiatives, the project aims to upscale transformative learning methods and contribute to capacity building in both sectors.

Photo taken by Sari Phojola of the project partner meeting in Vienna, Austria.

This article delves into a workshop on transformative learning held during a partner meeting in Vienna in June 2023. The workshop equipped partners with methods, practices and experiential learning that will be applied and further developed in the subsequent phases of the project.

Exploring the fruitful potential in diversity and meeting at the edges

The workshop was facilitated by Laura Kaestele, a network weaver, designer, and advocate for ecological regeneration and community development. Laura works for ECOLISE, which is one of the project partners and the European network for community-led initiatives on climate change and sustainability.

Laura emphasized the importance and potential benefits of collaborative efforts of this kind: ”If adult education organisations and grassroots initiatives come together for shared purpose such as sustainable development they can become allies that are stronger together. The collaboration may lead to benefits like increased openness and awareness on sustainability issues, emotional well-being and practical learning from nature, building skills for social transformation or widened outreach and closer links with the local communities.”

Photo taken by Sari Phojola of Laura Kaestele facilitating a workshop.

She also stated that there is fruitful potential in diversity and meeting at edges. ”If both partners are openly engaged and trust the process they can be inspired, touched, challenged, and transformed through the collaboration and offer a transformative space also for learners.”

Photo taken by Sari Phojola of a study visit learning about electronic waste up- and recycling.

Prototyping collaboration between ALE institutions and green grassroots initiatives

We have heard very few stories about collaborations between ALE institutions and green grassroots initiatives so far even though we acknowledge that there is an appreciation for each other’s work. Laura reflects that the reason may be the difference in orientation, structures, and methods. “I am curious how the Tale project will enable us to break through these kinds of barriers and co-create future success stories of such collaboration.”

Photo taken by Sari Phojola of a group activity using the transition ingredient card set.

Laura also reflected on the workshop methods and how they will help the participants in the innovation groups the partners will form with the green initiatives: “I think our workshop inspired the participants to focus on creating a space that is conducive to open participation, dialogue, critical reflection, whole-hearted engagement, nature connection and social transformation. The co-design framework, 8 shields model and participatory facilitation methods can be applied to events and guide the design of learning activities.”

Besides potential challenges like a lack of shared purpose, divergent agendas, power imbalance (not working on eye level), bureaucratic structures, judgments, disharmony or even tensions in the way of working, worldview or culture, we hope Tale will empower many more ALE organisations and sustainable initiative to meet with openness, mutual respect and trust – and to establish long-term collaborations that apply and benefit from transformative learning and sustainable practices.

Photo taken by Sari Phojola of the group movement and nature connection.

Outlook and next steps

The next phase of the project after the summer is dedicated to creating “innovation groups” consisting of ALE institution staff as well as citizens active within green grassroots initiatives in the six participating countries: Finland, Germany, Austria, Hungary, Greece and Switzerland. The aim is to actively experiment and run prototypes to explore how such collaboration can be mutually beneficial, provide transformative experiences for learners and contribute to sustainability and green transition in local communities, neighborhoods, and cities.

 

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