Global Education Leaders Partnership (GELP) and the Learning Planet Institute have embarked on a project – currently in its first phase funded by Porticus and Dubai Cares – to identify and examine models of learning ecosystems in the Global South.
Following an initial review of dozens of initiatives across 3 continents, the research team is focusing on 11 case studies that are either already at scale or which hold very serious potential to go to scale. Our shared objective is to give confidence that these might form a part of policy solutions, rather than remaining marginal innovations. The aim is not just research but active intervention: we are looking to create a powerful account of ecosystems to which educators can migrate.
Special thanks to the international leads who participated in the first GSLE consultation organised mid-October: Dessy Aliandrina, from Sociopreneur Indonesia in Indonesia, Shailendra Sharma from the Delhi Government in India, Runa Khan from Friendship Bangladesh in Bangladesh, Arjun Bahadur from Life Skills Collaborative in India, Vhutali Nelwamondo from the University of Venda in South Africa, Akwasi Addae-Boahene from Jacobs Foundation in Ghana, Ashley Hayward and Sereverien Ngarukiye from Kepler University in Rwanda, Anna Penido from Lemann Foundation in Brazil, Franco Mosso from Ensena Peru in Peru, Catalina Cock Duque from Fundación Mi Sangre in Colombia, and Gaby Arenas from TAAP Foundation in Latin America.
Today, we are sharing with you key learnings from this inspiring 3-hour work session!
The participants contributed with their own knowledge and on the ground respective experiences on 4 main themes, such as the importance of working collectively, building trust, collecting data, as well as working with governments and public institutions.
Importance of community and co-construction
As each one shared their experiences from different environments, it seemed like everyone agreed on the fact that working collectively and involving all stakeholders from the government representatives, educators, teachers, NGOs and local organisations as well as parents and kids is the ‘secret sauce’ to making learning in adversity a successful experience for kids.
For Catalina Cock Duque in Colombia, who shared a story about a kid whose dad was killed by guerillas, “we need to involve parents and community leaders to ensure that there’s an ability of protective environments, that there are people supporting the kids after school programmes.”
Shailendra Sharma in India recounted the story of Pooja, a little Indian girl who was put in public school while her brothers were placed in private schools. He highlighted how there were different actors at different points of Pooja’s life who positively impacted her life choices and her great determination towards pursuing her dream.
Akwasi Addae-Boahene in Ghana mentioned that “the specific essence of creating this learning ecosystem is to ensure that all stakeholders are working together and that in a way it is the greatest discovery that we have had”. ”We realised that we had to really start creating alliances.” continued Anna Penido from Lemann Foundation in Brazil. “When we talk about a learning experience, we do mean a holistic learning experience” concluded Michael Stevenson.
Building trust within the community
As education leaders, everyone agreed that trust among all stakeholders is one of the key success factors. Franco Mosso from Ensena Peru had an interesting story to share. It was only from the second year of their operations in Ancash where every single school where they participated started reporting stories of violence.
In the beginning students didn’t believe that education leaders were coming to stay. Students thought that nothing was going to happen until they realised education leaders were actually here to stay. “But ultimately what we were driving towards is for…local authorities to trust in their own students and in their own opinions, in their own voices, parents trusting in their own sons and daughters to not necessarily need to hit them in order for them to thrive.” explained Franco.
For Gaby in Colombia, it is about listening: “I think building trust for us is related to active listening. Understanding what the expectations are and how everyone in the ecosystem communicates and some kind of translation.
Also, sometimes when you are in an ecosystem, the language of the communities is not necessarily the same language of the politicians or the private companies and trying to create that translation and make everyone to be on the same page, allows you to create trust.”
For Arjun Bahadur in India, it is also about building trust within the Collaborative members. LSC has 18 members and 4 state government partners and a lot of trust building is about involving people at all levels including within the government. They identified experts within the government’s systems and made them part of their meeting: “We’ve done about five to six workshops with these stakeholders building their capacity as well.”
Research, Evidence & Data
As we experiment with new educational techniques and tools, it is important to gather information regarding what success looks like according to context, what the metrics of success are for advocacy effort, convincing stakeholders or funders for impact measurements has explained Anna Penido. The major difficulty according to Anna is that educational leaders are almost scared when it comes to dealing with data, and moreover, they are not trainedto do so. Therefore, the challenge here is to train educational leaders, not only to collect but also analyse and use data to make good decisions. Additionally, the data from the field may be used by governments to improve infrastructure models, adapting to local needs.
Arjun in India shared all the work they have been doing in terms of defining the data they needed, collecting the data and using it. He pointed out the importance of making sure that whatever work they did, the tools used to capture the data were contextualised and translated to the local context so that the data was usable in the context of the State they were working with, which happens to be one of the major challenges.
For Akwasi, it is clear that “we do need to rely on data. We do need to generate adequate and reliable data. And we do need to ensure that we communicate this data and this evidence through other systems and through other processes.”
Linking the learning ecosystem, the formal system and government
How do such organisations like educational NGOs and on the ground organisations work with their governments? Should they work together and if so, how should they proceed? This is a central question on which participants got to share their respective experiences.
For Ashley Haywood, for Kepler’s first five years they “purposely flew kind of under the radar,” mainly because they did not want to be beholden to all of the bureaucracy. But once they got past that, they got into a place where in order to continue their work and really scale it, they had to enter into the formal system and work with the government. “We were seeing that we had really strong outcomes,” she pointed out. “By working with the government, we’re now working with these really large, public, technical colleges, and bringing what we do really well, which is workforce development and supporting their students. And so now…within one year, we’ve reached as many students as we reached in nine years.”
As for Dessy Aliandrina in Indonesia, they created the ‘MSD’ or ‘multi-stakeholder dialogue’: “We involve everyone, academics, business, government and society to sit in the same panels and then talk about the same issues. So, from a different perspective, we build mutual understanding about our respective challenges.” She is now part of the Ministry of the Education Strategy for Transforming Higher Education.
In Ghana, Akwasi and his team have monthly meetings with officials of the Minister of Education to show them how communities and schools and districts are making progress. “This has really worked very well for us. And that’s really again getting support for the ministry and they are taking interest in what we are doing,” he concluded.
It’s been a fruitful conversation. Sharing these experiences, feedback, and knowledge is an opportunity to all grow together towards a common goal. Of course, a report of these encounters and reflections will be presented at the Festival. We would love to hear from others who are part of learning ecosystems as this community plans to grow and learn from each other, and we would like to bring them all together at the Festival.