On this page you can find out about projects that I'm involved in and events in which I've participated recently. All of my work involves working in teams and partnerships with different types of organisations and people from different countries - that is what makes it so rich, interesting and stimulating!
European Journal of Education, issue 4, 2017 has just been published. The theme is: Education for people, prosperity and planet: Can we meet the sustainability challenges?
This issue was guest edited by Aaron Benavot. The context is the 70th Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September 2015, when 193 countries adopted a new global development agenda, Transforming our world: The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development that inlcudes 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), including one on education (SDG 4).
In the editorial Benavot wrote:
How should education work with other sectors, and with powerful actors in other arenas of development? How should schools situate themselves in their locales and communities, seeking to influence not only the worldviews and actions of the learners who walk through their halls, but also the decisions made by those in government and business to ensure they have the long-term interests of their citizens and the planet in mind? ...
The thematic portfolio of articles in this edition of the European Journal of Education (EJE) addresses these pressing questions. They examine, in a selective fashion, how education is embedded in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the roles it can play in promoting the new agenda, based on research from different disciplines and case studies. Most of the articles were originally commissioned as background papers for the 2016 Global Education Monitoring (GEM) Report (UNESCO 2016).
The issue contains many very interesting and thought-provoking articles looking at diverse aspects of the challenges, such as urban development, indigenous knowledge, integrated planning, global citizenship, non-cognitive skills, etc. that I highly recommend reading! Because of my work in the field of early childhood education and care I was particularly interested in the article by Abbie Raikes, Measuring Child Development and Learning in which she examines the major issues and outlines directions for addressing the challenges.
Children as Actors for Transforming Society – innovative ways of intergenerational learning - here's a new blog on CATS written for EPALE, the Electronic Platform for Adult Learning in Europe. Click here to read.
Issue 4 of the Learning for Well-being Magazine is ONLINE!
The theme of Issue 4 is Meaning and Purpose in All Our Endeavours.
Experiencing a sense of direction and purpose contributes significantly to the well-being of individuals, groups and societies. Read Editorial
The authors explore diverse ways in which people can discover and express those activities and attitudes that are meaningful, essential and deeply motivating in their own lives, and in doing so, connect and contribute to the world around. See Table of Contents
We hope you enjoy reading this issue of the magazine.
Linda O'Toole and Jean Gordon, Co-editors
CATS - Children as Actors for Transforming Society - 2017 edition
Reaching for an Inclusive World - 29th July - 2nd August
28th July: The day before CATS opens we organise Training Day, with different sessions for the different groups of facilitators: community groups, learning spaces, kittens’ workshops. It’s important to get the whole team of facilitators together before CATS to get to know each other, to have a good overview of the whole programme, and to ensure that we’re all up to speed on child safeguarding during CATS because out of the 280 participants registered almost half are under 18 years old. This gives us all a lot of responsibility, along with the adults accompanying them (delegation leaders, parents). In the afternoon the Learning Spaces facilitators had time to exchange among ourselves in detail about what each facilitator would be doing in their Learning Space and to talk about all the practical aspects that contribute to sessions going really well.
29th July: Opening day! Lots of participants arrive during the first part of the day and the excitement mounts – final preparations, last minute details, we’re ready to launch. All the participants arrive, some after very long journeys, some tired, some who've been before excited to find their friends again and all wondering what will happen at this year's Forum. For the organisers it's that special moment when all the months of preparation come together and we're off for a week living together in the wonderful Caux Castle children and adults working together through a very interactive and experiential programme, promoting the active participation of children in society in order to make real, sustainable changes. Not only do children need to understand their own fundamental rights, but grasping how they participate in changing behaviours and mentalities is vital to moving our world forward. Since 2013 CATS has provided a powerful learning experience for people of all ages: children develop their working skills, while adults are equipped with principles and practices for improving children’s participation.
Great opening session in the afternoon - short but punchy with stimulating speeches by Kehkashan Basu, the 2016 International Children’s Peace Prize winner, and Farida Bascha-Bulhan, the Director for East Africa, Practical Action.
New to CATS: Every day there was an issue of the CATS Daily newspaper. Download all the 2017 newspapers: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B8CWXDqU7XbSaG00VFc3N3RoWVE
What are Learning Spaces?
This year I took responsibility for the new approach to working groups - Learning Spaces. They were workshops for all participants from age 6 years up that ran all through the week. The aim was to learn about, experience and explore different types of exclusion (what is it? how does it feel? what are the consequences? etc.) and of inclusion (what can we do better? how can we do it? etc.). Through different types of activities, games, role plays, etc., the aim is to:
- enable all participants, whatever their age, to broaden and deepen their knowledge and understanding about what makes an inclusive society;
- exchange and discuss experiences and observations about contexts in which there are regularly or sometimes acts or situations that create or encourage exclusion;
- find out about different ways (attitudes, tools, training, individual actions, words) to turn exclusion into inclusion;
- think about what we can take home to our own contexts to support inclusion.
We worked in groups in different places (home, school, creative spaces, etc.) doing lots of different activities using videos, music, drawing, games, exchanges among participants about their experiences, thoughts and ideas, etc. The Spaces were:
- Where we grow up - the place we call home
- Where we learn - schools, colleges, universities
- Where we take care of our bodies and minds - healthcare centres and hospitals
- Where we represent our peers - councils and parliaments
- Where we live, play, be creative - our villages, towns & cities.
- Where we hang out, travel, go to gigs, do sport, music, dance, etc. - our villages, towns & cities.
See this beautiful slideshow by Luz Stella and Camilo who facilitated 'Where we live play, be creative ....': http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MMMZRrW8CkE&feature=youtu.be
During the week participants moved around different spaces to experience and learn about exclusion and building inclusion in different aspects of their lives. All participants were in groups designated by an animal and in their Welcome Pack they had a map to show them where they go day by day. There were five main sessions where groups rotated from one space to the next, followed by a sixth session when the groups pulled together their ideas from the previous sessions about the inclusive environments they'd like to live in. Then during a final session near the end of the Forum the groups built inclusive environments using what they'd learned and experienced during the week at CATS. Lots of different recycling and other materials were available.
The Learning Spaces were led by a wonderful team of facilitators who created stimulating and fun sessions for the children, young people and adults.
31st July: Let's explore: Another new feature in the programme were the Let's Explore sessions that took place one afternoon providing an opportunity to explore diversity and inclusion through a one-off, 2-hour session. Participants could choose one of 10 different sessions running in parallel throughout the castle, and outside - exploring a topic, like ‘gender’ or a skill, like juggling. The sessions included something for everyone, offering a wide range of sessions: active and less active; talking and not talking; serious and less serious; creative and less creative; structured and less structured. Let’s Explore was open to all ages. I chose to participate in the session: Conversations about identity that was led by Shawn Andrews from Australia who talked about what his aboriginal identity meant to him. We finished the session by a short moment outside listening to and drawing the sounds around us. It was fascinating to find out what other people had heard and how they drew it and Shawn's much broader range of listening that comes from his experience.
1st August: One of the yearly features is the free afternoon that is a great moment to down into Montreux for a swim in the lake with new and old friends, have a picnic and enjoy a moment of relaxation in a busy week. For some it's the opportunity to go for a hike in the gorgeous mountains behind Caux. This year it was on Swiss National Day when the village organises a bonfire in the evening. A magic moment up the hill from Caux Castle, watching the sun go down, chatting and watching fireworks all along the lake.
2nd August: For the last three years one of the most highly appreciated activities has been the Human Library. The human library is a place where books are people who have stories to tell. They talk to a small group of “readers” who are interested in their stories. This year all the topics related to Inclusion. Participants had a chance to listen to several “books” during the session. This is always a special and privileged moment listening to children, young people and adults who have interesting, exceptional, inspiring experiences about which they wish to tell other people.
3rd August: On the last full day we finished the afternoon with a call for action - the 90 Day Challenge. This session aimed to inspire and encourage participants to take actions forward after CATS in their everyday settings. This year, participants were asked to think individually or in groups about a project or initiative to start when they got back home to see what can be accomplished in the 3 months after CATS with help from the team to develop the projects. They will be showcased through the newsletters and website.
4th August: CATS go down the mountain! And what am I taking with me?
Every year CATS is a bit different, and every year it's a powerful learning experience for me. As a team we've come a long way since 2013:
- young people are part of the design, planning and running of CATS through the MEOW group;
- we've moved from having quite a broad theme for the forum to having a very focused theme, like this year theme of inclusion;
- most activities have been totally rethought and redesigned at least once;
- children and young people are increasingly involved in different ways in the co-facilitation of the event;
- this year, for the first time, we undertook a crowd-funding campaign that was very successful;
What's stimulating for me is that there are still so many challenges left for the coming years. Some are linked to making it possible for more delegations from low resource countries and from all the different continents in the world to participate more in CATS. And one way is developing CATS forums outside Europe with participants, friends and colleagues of all ages from those regions. Another challenge is working with so many different languages and age groups. We are lucky to have great teams of interpreters every year, but we need to learn better how to work with interpretation, especially in small groups. Gaining a better understanding of the outcomes and impacts of CATS after participants go home is also an on-going (and very welcome!) challenge. Underpinning all of this is always the essential issue of the extent to which CATS is contributing to children and young people better understanding their own fundamental rights and how they can critically contribute in their everyday lives to changing behaviours and mentalities. The parallel issue is how CATS is equipping adults with principles and practices for improving children’s participation. I've learned an enormous amount over the 5 years through the stories, the activities, the energy and enthusiasm of participants and team members of all ages.
A few photos from past CATS
CATS - Children as Actors for Transforming Society
The CATS crowdfunding campaign took place July 10th for only 24 hours to reach the initial goal of 25 000€. Thanks to all the contributers and our generous matchers we managed to reach our goal of 25,000 euros in only 8 hours. So we went to a bonus round and then contributions continued coming in all through the 24 hours. to achieve the impossible: 30 032€. Now it's time to celebrate and to thank everyone who supported CATS in order to amplify children’s voices, and give children and adults the tools they need to work TOGETHER for our common future!
Children's Voices, Our Future
Why partnershing with CATS is a great idea. Because it helps us to amplify children’s voices, and give children and adults the tools they need to work TOGETHER for a better society.
Children are a third of the World’s population and rarely have a chance to be heard or taken seriously on matters affecting their lives. Their participation is often a forgotten right, and yet it’s a way of creating sustainable answers for their needs.
The CATS forum is a unique week-long experience organised by, and for children and adults from all over the world to live and learn what makes meaningful collaboration between children and adults.
At CATS, children show how they can be everyday heroes, in their own way. Children themselves share what is like to face important challenges and how the solution requires partnership between children and adults. CATS gives them tools to do this.
Issue 3 of the Learning for Well-being Magazine is ONLINE!
The theme of Issue 3 is Engaged Participation.
Change for the better in our society can only come through involving children and adults in decisions that affect their lives. Engaged participation implies having some control over your own life in the context where you live. It necessarily requires you to develop skills and capacities for making decisions about your life, and for understanding how those choices relate to other people and the environment.
By emphasising engaged participation we want to put special focus on the process of participating. Hence the articles in this issue focus on the practices and tools that support the process of engaging, rather than theory or concepts. The articles cover the immediate environment (such as the family, the school); the community (such as local community-based activism); international (such as those interacting beyond their immediate environment or impacting media or global organisations). Participation necessarily links you to other people and requires you to develop skills and capacities for making decisions about your life. It also requires an understanding of how those decisions relate to other people and the environment. The articles include personal and family experiences, involvement in social movements locally and globally, tools for strengthening participation in intergenerational groups, new roles for media working with children, experiences in learning and training settings. We hope that you will discover a wide range of actions that are making a difference in the lives of children, young people and adults.
The Learning for Well-being Magazine is published online twice a year (March & September) by the Learning for Well-being Foundation (formerly Universal Education Foundation). The articles are free to download. Each issue explores a theme of interest for all those who wish to expand their perspectives on creating and encouraging inclusive and supportive societies, cultivating capacities and environments that place well-being at the centre of all our endeavours. The themes are explored from multiple perspectives by inviting contributors who work (and learn) in different fields, professions, disciplines and countries. In this issue we introduce a new section – Viewpoints – which will include two or three short personal perspectives in addition to the longer articles. Our intention is to invite people to contribute their thoughts on the theme whether through a written or a visual piece.
We're always happy to receive your feedback.
European Journal of Education March 2017
The latest issue of the European Journal of Education has just been published with a thematic dossier on Higher Education Learning Outcomes - Transforming Higher Education?, guest edited by Joakim Caspersen and Nicoline Frølich. It brings together an interesting set of articles addressing the issues of learning outcomes in HE.
I highly recommend another article in the issue by Gabor Halasz, The Spread of the Learning Outcomes Approaches across Countries, Sub-systems and Levels: A special focus on teacher education. In this article, based on a recent study for CEDEFOP (see below September 2016) “The application of learning outcomes approaches across Europe”, Gabor highlights that the study demonstrated significant progress in the use of the learning outcomes approach in most countries and in all sub-systems, but also major implementation challenges that remain. His article presents the outcomes of the study using an analytical framework combining three perspectives: (1) curriculum development and delivery (2) European integration, and (3) governance and policy implementation.
Key Competences Review - Prospective Platform - Key Competences for the Next Generation
The Directorate-General for Education and Culture of the European Commission is undertaking this year a review of the Key Competences Framework for which the Recommendation was published in 2006. Since then I've been involved as one of the authors of the first study on KC in the EU (Key Competences in Europe: Opening doors for lifelong learners across the school curriculum and teacher education) and then in the KeyCoNet network on the implementation of key competences (http://keyconet.eun.org/) while I was still director of the EIESP and for the final year representing UEF, an associate partner. This being the case, and given my interest in better articulating relationships between capacities, transversal skills and key competences, I was delighted to be invited to participate in the first meeting of the Prospective Platform - Key Competences for the Next Generation that took place in Brussels organised and led by colleagues from the Danish Technological Institute, partners with EIESP in a Consortium led by Ecorys that provides expertise to DG Education. Discussions focused on drivers for change that will have an influence on learning. It is always a good to think about timescales - children starting school today will be working (in whatever form that takes) until well into the 2060s! That has to influence our challenge of thinking about how to support their learning for a complex world of 'unknown unknowns'. For more about the whole discussion around futures literacy I strongly recommend an article by Riel Miller, Learning, the Future, and Complexity. An Essay on the Emergence of Futures Literacy, published in the European Journal of Education in December 2015.
A second day of discussion is planned for late March and in early April there will be larger conference of stakeholders to continue the discussion. In parallel a public consultation is underway at the moment.
CATS - Core Team planning meeting
We met in Brussels, this time in Uni One House, a lovely setting in an old Brussels home where the ground floor has been converted into a calm and welcoming meeting space. Snow was falling lightly during part of the weekend. Core team meetings for planning CATS are always lively; discussions are active, fruitful and sometimes unexpected. Working in a team where the ages go from 13 to 66 (me!) years-old with people living in different countries who are studying at school, at university and working for different types of organisations, brings that 'magic powder' effect that makes it all sparkle! We came away with a good programme for this year's Forum which will be from the 29th July to the 4th August, in Caux castle as ever. Now we just need to get down to the details of building the components of the programme …
The first 5 photos were taken by Nathalie Quiroga for the CATS team.
Unfolding Human Potential
Symposium 7th-8th February, Driebergen, Netherlands
The symposium was co-organised by UEF and NIVOZ, an organisation based in the Netherlands that works to strengthen and encourage teachers, school leaders and other educational professionals in realising their pedagogical assignment. You can find out more about the symposium here. The symposium took the opposite route from many similar events in so far as it started from questions about the nature of interaction and learning, starting with short videos of selected schools (that you can find on the website) produced for the symposium. They were followed by short interviews with the teacher or head teacher involved and then by discussion around tables - about 10 people for about 45 minutes referring to questions to get us thinking and exchanging. Academics and researchers were brought in for the last phase of each theme to raise issues, synthesise points that appeared important to them, etc. Do watch the videos - they are very stimulating! I was pleased to be there - acting as a table host for the discussion was intense but stimulating because of the mix of people around the table. It was an opportunity to meet colleagues I often see in a different type of setting and to meet a few people I'd wanted to meet for a long time!!
These photos were taken by Ted van Aanholt – student on the Radboud University who was invited to take photos during the symposium. More can be found here.
Learning for Well-being Community
Caux 13th - 15th Jan.
The organisations and individuals that are part of the L4WB Community met for the third year during one of those amazing winter weekends in Caux Castle when the snow is fresh and in ample quantities, creating an intimate space for catching up, discussion and activities. This year was built around experiences of core capacities. Experiencing and showing empathy and trust by being led around the space in silence by an unknown colleague - 40 people navigating a limited indoor space made for some interesting moves around colleagues and other obstacles! Paying attention in different ways at the same time - cognitive, physical and emotional - was both thought-provoking (yes!) and great fun. And others….
With three years of experience of coming together once a year for many of the people present, the group has become part of their broader or closer network and projects are underway or in gestation. One of the challenges is to continue structuring a space for exchange and for formulating new links and initiatives. That challenge was met this year in an interesting way as small group discussions moved from short, 'speed-dating' ones (facto finding in nature) to deeper, longer discussions about a selected number of themes, and finally to discussions proposed by the participants about issues or projects on which they wished to consult or to involve other members of the Community. For me, one of the continuing tensions will be between bringing in new people (as new relationships form organically), and the risk of continuing to expand the group every year that could end in diluting the conviviality of the retreat and losing the possibility of any whole group exchange.
January - Happy New Year
HAPPY NEW YEAR 2017 BONNE ANNEE
Great Start in Life
Last week DG Education and Culture hosted a conference in Brussels on early childhood education and care, A Great Start in Life (30th November - 1st December) that was organised back-to-back with the Working Group on Schools enabling participants in both events to come together for half a day. The conference brought together a really interesting mix of researchers, policymakers, early childhood education and care and primary school staff to discuss how to create the conditions for the best possible education in the early years. Ages 0-12 and the transitions between home, childcare and school were also covered. There was a particular focus on how to combat inequalities and include vulnerable groups.
The conference achieved a good balance between presentations, including short talks from practitioners who brought to the conference their experience in the field, researchers and policy-maker inputs as well as workshop discussions. The latter were very interactive which made for fascinating discussions but it always seems that just everyone is really getting into the discussion, it's time to move on! But that's good and shows that the intentions of the organisers worked well! The networking space was well organised in the coffee break/food area allowed for us to meet new people and continue discussions with colleagues we've known for a long time but don't often have the opportunity to meet.
My favourite part of the whole conference was the graphic recording which you'll find on the website, for example see here for the second day by scrolling to the end of the page. The drawings were fun and illuminating! Youcan find out more about the "drawnalists" here.
You can download my presentation here: Joining the dots: transitions and integrated approaches: http://www.jeangordon.eu/hosting/j/jean/files/Gordon%20ppt_great_start_lifeFINAL4_WEB.pdf
Then some of us continued with the Working Group on Schools which brings together mainly staff nominated by Ministries of Education. The group is using peer learning and policy and practice discussion to 'Building Bridges': developing key action points for supporting learner pathways. This meeting focused on Quality Assurance for school development; Quality Assurance and learner development: assessment; and The role of teachers and school leaders in school innovation. For me it was a real pleasure to be invited to participate in the discussion with so many insightful people from Ministries of Education. The German Waldorf Schools gave a presentation I enjoyed very much of their programme on Pedagogical Quality Development for Teachers.
Hannah Grainger-Clemson who is coordinating this group kindly invited me to do a short video interview for the School Gateway website on well-being in schools. Great fun and I'm looking forward to seeing it shortly, though a bit intimidated too because it was the first time I've done something like that!!
INTESYS is a project co-funded by the EU's Erasmus+ programme. It focuses on piloting new approaches to Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC) systems in Europe with a view to ensuring that children and families in vulnerable situations have access to high-quality ECEC provided by services that are better integrated across the different sectors (education, health, welfare, etc.), professions and across age groups and governance levels. Quality integrated ECEC services are key to improving children's learning-outcomes in absolute terms and relative to other groups. For the most disadvantaged groups, high-quality early childhood services can make a tremendous difference in reducing the disparities in the learning outcomes. Currently, inequality in the ECEC systems in Europe has a strong impact on the most vulnerable groups: migrant children, Roma children, children with special needs and children living in poverty.
You can find out about the project partners by clicking here. The project started a year ago. On this project I'm working for UEF Learning for Well-being and have been coordinating one of the workpackages on mapping the current situation in Europe and in the project pilot countries: Belgium (Brussels area), Italy (Turin), Portugal (a district of Lisbon) and Slovenia (two small towns). We have undertaken local surveys in all these pilot areas including an overview of the context and ECEC provision and a substantial number of interviews with local stakeholders. In addition a survey was undertaken on inspiring practices across Europe and a literature review. At the moment we are working on the analysis of results. In parallel another workpackage has been developing the framework and toolkit that will be used during the piloting. The second newsletter is now online.
Panel discussion during the Steering group meeting in Lisbon, Nov. 2016
This study commissioned by Cedefop and carried out by Ecorys Polska, EIESP and WYG PSDB is now online and can be downloaded here. We worked on this study from late 2013 to spring 2015 undertaking several different research activities (literature review, country reports, cases studies) in order to be able to analyse the current situation concerning the implementation of learning outcomes approaches in 33 countries in Europe in general education, vocational educaton and training (VET), higher education (HE) and adult education. The main authors were: Jerzy Wiśniewski, Jean Gordon, Gábor Halász, Janet Looney and Alain Michel. The study couldn't have been undertkaen without the extensive inputs of our excellent management team from Ecorys, a group of high level advisors and the very experienced authors of country reports and of case studies. The Cedefop experts coordinating the study were Jens Bjørnåvold and Slava Pevec Grm who brought in their expertise and provided intense discussion at the interim and final stages. Having worked on the first learning outcomes study in 2007-2008 (The Shift to Learning Outcomes), also coordinated and initiated by Jens, it was particularly interesting to be able to work on a key and evolving topic with a team of colleagues I've known and worked with for a long a time and appreciate enormously. Whereas the first study was centred on VET, though looking also at general and higher education also albeit more briefly, this recent study looked at the four subsystems equally. It's always good to see the fruit of one's work in an open access publication and I very much hope it will serve its purpose and be useful!
Learning for Well-being Magazine - issue 2 is now online
Issue 2 focuses on 'Relationships for Learning'. Learning for Well-being (L4WB) emphasises the importance of the quality of relationships in all our endeavours. In this issue we bring together articles that explore many facets in relation to people of all age-groups. Since learning takes place across all our experiences, we are including a focus on relationships for learning outside of traditional education – including health settings, adult education, primary school classrooms, anti-poverty networks, juvenile offenders, parenting in war zones, social inclusion policy and research, corporations, Child Rights and participation programmes. The articles explore relationships and how they shape the way we see and experience the world, including one's relationship to self, to others and to the wider environment at different stages in life and in different settings. It is easy to put forward the quality of relationships as essential to learning but it is less easy to be explicit about how this works. One thread in the issue looks at what research tells us about the role of relationships in learning and the types of processes, skills and capacities that support it. A second thread explores different types of relationships, including building networks, partnerships and communities of professionals or practice. However, the overarching thread that connects all the articles is an implicit emphasis on what L4WB refers to as 'competent partnerships' which are at the heart of relationships that contribute to enhancing the quality of learning.
The Learning for Well-being Magazine is aimed at professionals and volunteers working in different sectors, interested academics and researchers, international experts and government officials, and many others. The purpose is to enliven and deepen the understanding of L4WB through demonstrating projects and other initiatives which illustrate the principles; share and discuss related research; engage in critical reflection on policy implications; contribute to tools for professionals’ development. Each issue of the magazine centres on a different theme. Authors from a range of sectors, activities and disciplines, as well as from different countries, are invited to contribute so that differing perspectives are represented.
We would be delighted to receive your feedback!
This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.
JULY - It's time for CATS 2016
Here's the link to one of the videos made by Sean Downey during CATS.
Final Key Learning Together Time. This is the moment for pulling together what we've done during the week and looking forward to what we'll take down the mountain and into our everyday lives. In recent months we're starting to collect stories about: 'When CATS went down the mountain'.
"Your stories about the follow-up to and impacts of participating in CATS are very important for all of us, for you in your countries and for media and international organisations. This year we're introducing the STORIES OF SIGNIFICANT CHANGE. We're asking delegations, families and individuals who are returning to CATS to contribute their stories during the week. We'd like to know more about: whether CATS has helped you to develop new tools and methods of working, modify your relationships with children/young people or adults; and if you are doing something new or differently because of CATS."
And then it's time to say goodbye to everyone till next year! And time for the core team to spend a little time together debriefing. During the week we carried out various evaluation activities. Our aim is to:
- Understand more about the scope and quality of children's & young people’s participation
- Find out from young people about their CATS experience and what they will be taking home related to the SDG theme - we did this using a short survey
- Understand what families take away from CATS (last year we focused on delegations) - we did this through interviews
- Track and understand outcomes and impacts for delegations, families and individuals - again through interviews
- See how we're doing in terms of our main objectives and how we can further develop next year
Tomorrow's Possibilities: In the morning it was the Ideas Carousel where examples of what is being done by some if our participants, individuals and organisations. This was to inspire ideas for what we can do when we go down the mountain. The final evening was the Night of Change to discuss these possibilities and commitments. I unfortunately missed this last session as I needed to get back to Paris earlier than I would have hoped for!
This year at CATS I participated in the workshop facilitated by Farida Bascha, a Child Protection Specialist who works for Save the Children, East Africa where she is responsible for a programme addressing violence to children in 20+ countries. The workshop was focused on Affecting good governance at local level (children as active citizens) - Children engaged in media. One of the examples that I found very inspiring was about how children had intervened to make their voice heard in recent elections in Tanzania. Save the Children started working with representatives on Children's Municipal Councils in the spring of 2015 in order to support discussions in preparation for the national presidential elections due later that year. A group of 80 children worked together and identified 15 issues that they considered key for children in Tanzania. They met with all the political parties and advocated for these issues to be integrated into party manifestoes and that these documents should be drafted in a child-friendly manner. After these meetings, the children felt that a lot of key issues had been left out of these documents so they held another round of meetings to focus on the issues left out while making their mistrust clear to the parties. The elections took place at the end of 2015. The group will meet in 2016 to check what has happened and to continue advocating for the key issues. The role of media - articles about the work of the group was very significant in making their work known more widely - Tanzania is a country where there are 10 million children. Farida emphasised the importance in developing countries of working with children to ensure that their views and concerns are taken into account at all levels of governance. She also underlined the importance of providing platforms to support children through facilitation, i.e. coaching and empowering them to take their views to the highest government level. Another of their approaches is also to support Young Reporters encouraging media organisations to cover the stories. To find out more click here.
One of the participants in this workshop, and a keynote speaker at CATS this year, was Marek Michalak, the Children's Ombudsman for Poland since 2008. It was fascinating to learn that his Office undertakes up to 50,000 interventions a year on behalf of children, including court cases. Children can bring their concerns to Marek directly, there is no need for parental consent, and he receives suggestions and questions about personal, general and even world events from many children. His office gives priority to children so they ensure a reply to all children who contact them within 3 days whereas adults may have to wait for 30 days! The legal position of the Polish Ombudsman is interesting because they are elected by Parliament (for 5 years) and so are not answerable either to a ministry or to the government. No legislation or other legal documents that concern children can be created without the opinion and involvement of the Ombudsman's Office. One of the important decisions that Marek has achieved in his role is the banning of corporal punishment in 2010.
Together Time: Playing for the Future. This was a great experience for me working with Luis, Jennifer and Tobias to plan and prepare this game which we adapted from the original version Penser Autrement; le jeu de la ficelle, developed by Dan Couchy and Michel Luntumbue for Belgian schools. The game raises awareness of the participants about the broad range of issues surrounding consumer products: their fabrication (in some cases involving child labour), pollution in the countries of production, transport across vast distances, the role of advertising and large corporations, international bodies, etc. In the first part of the game each participants in a group describes his/her role and then others say if they think they are linked to the role - players are linked by string making a large web of links demonstrating the interconnections between these different worlds. Then we asked the groups to discuss how this connects to their context and who they felt were the winners and losers in this web. After that they discussed some practical alternatives to improve the situations.
Meanwhile the Kittens drew pictures to send back to children in India (who'd sent them drawings) and led by our Japanese participants made origami to send to children in Japan.
This morning we're all attending the CATS Parliament. Working with the 3 SDGs selected during the first Together Time, each Community Group discussed and then prepared a short policy statement about the SDG they had been given - in the Green A Community Group we worked on Peace and Justice. Then we all gathered in the theatre and each group had to play a short sketch to convince a well-known and powerful personality to support their cause. The UK MEP, Julie Ward, who came back to CATS for the second year and will be organising for the second time meetings in the European Parliament for a delegaton of young people from CATS, spoke to the participants about the importance of advocacy advocacy by children and young people and tips on catching the attention of policy makers. Following the CATS Parliament small groups made up of one representative of each Community Group got together to draft a final policy statement on each of the three SDGs that were presented during the Night of Change.
Games morning played in teams by Community Group down at the bottom of the garden with glorious views over the lake! They're all about team-building, working together and having fun. My team, Green A, did very well, even if we didn't win.
Then we went back into the house for the Human Library; live in someone else's shoes. An amazing way of listening to people (children and adults) telling their stories. We had three rounds so I find out more about the Druze community from two young women and learned a lot about their beliefs and their lives. Then I listened to young people from Gaza talking about their youth parliaments in schools and at regional level based on the work on human rights education undertaken in the school they attend. The final story I listened to was Tako who's the first children's correspondent in the world! He's a journalist who goes all over the world giving children the possibility to tell their story and he's building a network of children's correspondents in several countries.
This morning's Together Time - the UN's Sustainable Development Goals Trivia. By visiting stands for each of the 17 SDGs, participants had the opportunity to find out about the important issues for each one; the purpose of these goals; and the targets set for each one. After that we had a quizz, working in our Community Groups, and then voted for the 3 goals that CATS will focus on for the rest of the week and we selected: Goal 1 No Poverty; Goal 4 Quality Education; and Goal 16 Peace and Justice. We'll be working more on these goals during the CATS Parliament on Friday 29th July.
Lunchtime at CATS on a warm day:
CATS Marketplace in the evening where all the organisations participating set up exhibitions about their projects:
Today is the day most delegations arrive, most of them hourly, just because most people come up from Montreux by the little train and there's one an hour.
And then late afternoon it's the Opening session ... this is the first moment we bring all the participants of all ages together to present the programme to them in the main hall: Kitten's workshops, the Community Groups, Together Times, Discovery Time in the Hub, Workshps, and of course the evening programme: Treasure Hunt, CATS Marketplace, Dance night, Caux-IofC: 70 years of Trustbuilding, Talent Night (yeah!) and finally the Night of Change.
Big training day for the Community Group facilitators. There will be 10 groups this year: 1 in Spanish, 3 in French and 6 in English. They're co-facilitated by one adult facilitator and one of the young people who are member of the "6th" partner of CATS: MEOW (Making Earth Our World). Community Groups meet every morning. It's a place to get to know a smaller group of people better, to have fun together, to discuss the previous days and plan for the Together Time that will follow. The 25th was also a day for setting up the Kittens space, bringing together the workshop facilitators and setting up the Hub. In the afternoon we celebrated Elisabeth's birthday. One of the fantastic things in Caux is meeting people like Elisabeth who've been coming here for many years and are the living memory of the conferences. This year Caux is celebrating its 70 years of Trustbuilding through the conferences (see below).
The evening finished with a beautiful concert given by a string quartet from the Conservatoire in Lausanne: Haydn, Stravinsky, Ravel and Britten - what could be better!
All of the CATS team has now arrived in Caux from France, Bulgaria, the UK, Cyprus, Malta, Israel, Sweden, Switzerland, Belgium, etc. Today was a training day for the young people who are part of MEOW (Making the Earth Our World) the 6th partner of CATS. There are 12 young people (aged between 12 and 19) in the group from several European countries and they have been deeply involved in designing the programme for this year, planning and preparing all the different activities and now in running them. They will each be co-facilitating a Community Group with an adult facilitator and will participate in training tomorrow with the adults to prepare for those sessions.
The sun is shining on the Lac Leman, the little train winds its way up the mountain from Montreux to Caux every hour from 6 o’ clock in the morning – running a short way under our windows! Started today doing breakfast service – all of us participating in meal and other tasks here is how the house keeps running.
Initiatives of Change is celebrating the 70 years of Trustbuilding through the conferences at Caux and there is a very interesting exhibition in the garden. I was especially taken by two of the panels you can see below and the advert in the Caux shop window for 'Recipes for Peace, Rights and Well-being', which just about sums it all up!
By the way, you can find me and photos of CATS past and present on Instagram: @jeangordonparis
CATS 2016 starts next week on the 26th July. This year's theme: Local to Global. How will we influence policy. Find out more about this year's conference on the CATS website. And there are photos from previous CATS: Instagram: http://@jeangordonparis
More soon ....
Remembering Asa Briggs (1921-2016), first Chair of the EIESP Board
by Raymond Georis, Jean Gordon, Jean-Pierre Jallade, Hywel Jones, David Parkes
Asa Briggs, Lord Briggs of Lewes, who passed away on the 15th of March 2016 at the age of 94 was a remarkable man, a convinced European and a splendid historian who played a very significant role in the creation and development of the European Institute of Education and Social Policy. Following the establishment of the institute in 1974, by Raymond Georis, Secretary-General of the European Cultural Foundation, Lord Briggs served as Chair of the Board from 1975 to 1990 working closely with Lada Cerych, the first director. Furthermore he was a member of the Board of Governors of the European Cultural Foundation from 1986 till 1990. When he stood down as Chair of the Institute, HRH Princess Margriet of the Netherlands, President of the Foundation, appointed him member of Her Advisory Board.
This was a period of big, new ideas and innovative goals in European higher education. As Vice-Chancellor of Sussex University (1967-1976), Asa had strongly supported study abroad - it was one of the rare universities at the time where all students in the School of European Studies spent an academic year in another European university (while keeping their grants). In the early 1980s the EIESP played a strategic role in the launching of the European Commission programmes of student mobility having been responsible for designing and managing the Joint Study Programme which then became ERASMUS. The work undertaken during the early years of the institute was very significant in laying the foundations for comparative studies in European education, bringing a deeper understanding of higher education in Europe. Asa Briggs brought inspiration, enthusiasm and strong belief in the need for European higher education to cooperate at all levels. He encouraged the productive relationship developed between the Institute and the European Commission, and most especially he greatly appreciated the chance to meet the colleagues whom Lada had attracted to the Institute from Central and Eastern Europe.
Asa Briggs led a long, rich and varied life that included spending the 2nd World War years at Bletchley Park as a codebreaker; seminal research in the history of Victorian cities; leading the new and innovative University of Sussex in the 1960s and 1970s; writing the history of the BBC; and contributing to laying the foundations of cooperation in European higher education.
The seventh meeting of the Transatlantic Forum on Inclusive Early Years took place in Turin, hosted by the Campagnia di San Paulo and the Fondazione Cariplo, from the 3rd to 5th February. It looked back on the themes of the previous meetings to reflect on their key conclusions and messages, and to look forward to the steps needed to be taken to improve the quality of ECEC provisions for children and families in the context of poverty and migration.
For me it was a moment to continue discussions with colleagues I've met during previous meetings and to meet new colleagues from both sides of the Atlantic. One of the most stimulating factors has been that regular dialogue from colleagues living and working in countries with very different systems and even attitudes about early childhood education and care. I've understood and learned a lot but also have many more questions that arise from the experience of a rich and honest exchange. For some of the European foundations TFIEY led to designing and obtaining funding from the Erasmus+ programme for taking further conclusions about integrated systems focusing on the centrality of children and their families, especially those in vulnerable situations.
You can watch the video about the site visits here.
After many months of work and wonderful contributions from all the authors and the design and publication team, I'm truly delighted to see the first issue of our new magazine go live on the 14th Jan. 2016. For Linda O'Toole and I (the Joint Editors) it's been exciting and stimulating to design the magazine from scratch, chose the theme of the first issue, commission articles from colleagues working in different sectors and discplines, and then, step by step, to see the whole issue take shape. Working with Siobhan (the copy-editor), Marsel (the designer and webmaster), Rui (the illustrator) and our UEF colleague, Luis who helped bring together the content and the presentation, has been intense and a rich experience. I'm very much looking forward to getting issue 2 on the road!
Universal Education Foundation is delighted to launch the first issue of its new online magazine. The Learning for Well-being Magazine will illustrate and explore the principles and practices underpinning Learning for Well-being.
Aimed at professionals working in different sectors, interested academics and researchers, international experts and government officials, and many others, the purpose is to:
- enliven and deepen the understanding of L4WB through demonstrating projects and other initiatives which illustrate the principles;
- share and discuss related research;
- engage in critical reflection on policy implications;
- contribute to tools for professionals’ development.
Each issue of the magazine will centre on a different theme. Authors from a range of sectors and disciplines, as well as different countries, will be invited to contribute so that differing perspectives are represented.
This first issue takes as its theme 'Measuring What Matters', one of the principles of Learning for Well-being, because ensuring the conditions for feedback is essential for the well-being and sustainability of any system, including the systems that are individual human beings.
Click here to read: Learning for Well-being Magazine
Read the Editorial. You can download all the articles (and the abstracts) free-of-charge if you prefer to read them in pdf or printed.
(This work is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.)
NEW YEAR 2016
Les animaux menacés par le réchauffement climatique vous souhaitent une bonne année 2016 !
We, animals threatened by global warming, wish you Happy New Year 2016!
European Journal of Education
Volume 50 Number 4 December 2015 is now online.
The title of this issue is: 'Citizens, Learners and Workers in a Complex, Changing World: challenges for policy and research'. It was guest edited by Edith Hooge, Janet Looney and I. "In this final issue of Volume 4, we have brought together articles and shorter thought pieces that address, from different perspectives and through diverse themes, selected challenges posed for policy and for research in building our competence as citizens, learners and workers living in a complex and changing world. Hence, the interpretation of ‘learning to do’ broadens from skill to competence, with a focus on learning outcomes, including (implicitly or explicitly) an aptitude for teamwork and initiative, a readiness to take risks, the ability to communicate with others, to manage and resolve conflicts, etc. As many authors and policy-makers have pointed out in recent decades, it is not easy to envisage the content, focus and ways of learning that will produce the required knowledge, skills and competences in a complex and changing world. It is always salutary to remember that a 6-year-old child starting school this year could in all probability remain in the ‘labour market’ (in whatever form it takes) until well into the 2060s . . . or not. . ."
For me it was the opportunity to look back on a couple of decades of VET: Glimpsing the Future in the Past: VET in Europe. From 1989 to 2003, the European Journal of Education (EJE) published a special issue on ‘Trends in Vocational Education and Training’ (VET) every two years, and has continued to publish on VET-related topics. This article revisits the major themes and challenges as they were observed and discussed by the authors who wrote in those special issues. Many were directly involved in advisory positions to governments; held key decision-making responsibilities; undertook studies and consultancy and gave technical assistance across several countries. The real interest for me as an author was to go back to challenging and exciting periods in order to understand how critical issues, then and now, were perceived and analysed and how ways forward were envisioned. It is an exploratory article — what can we learn from our colleagues writing about the same or similar issues 20 years ago that is useful to shape and formulate our present ideas about new policy?
The four issues:
March 2015, Issue1: What is learning for? Guest editors: Roberto Carneiro, Richard Desjardins, Jean Gordon and Janet Looney
June 2015, Issue 2: Learning to Be — Idealism or Core Business? Guest editor: David Istance
September 2015, Issue 3: Education and Social Transformation. Guest editor: Richard Desjardins
December 2015, Issue 4: Citizens, learners and workers in a complex, changing world: challenges for policy and research. Guest editors: Jean Gordon, Edith Hooge and Janet Looney
We have thoroughly appreciated editing this 50th anniversary volume, which is a significant milestone in the history of EJE. Many exciting discussions and debates in the world of education over the past five decades have been fuelled by complex educational developments often in connection to economic, social, technological, political, and ecological developments are very likely to intensify.
What happened after CATS?
Read on the Eurochild website about the event held at the European Parliament :
"On 18 and 19 November Eurochild, together with its members Universal Education Foundation (UEF) and European Child Rights Unit, and Julie Ward MEP welcomed children from across Europe (Italy, Moldova, Kosovo, Bulgaria, France, Lithuania, the UK and Ireland) to Brussels to talk with Members of the European Parliament and European Commission officials about their involvement in decision-making processes.
The children started on Wednesday afternoon with a workshop at the European Parliament, where they shared experiences of their involvement in CATS (Children as Actors for Transforming Society), in research, in Investing in Children schemes in the UK and in a project against violence in Italy. Children and adults exchanged experiences on children’s participation in small groups. They also shared obstacles that prevent the meaningful participation of children and gathered ideas on how decisions made at European level affecting children and young people can be improved." To continue reading: click here
You can watch the video of the event here and look at the photos of our friends from CATS at the EU Parliament on the Eurochild website.
GEMM - Governance for Employability in the Mediterranean: Conference and study visit in Casablanca, Morocco
This three year project is funded by the European Union and implemented by the European Training Foundation (ETF). It started in 2014 and aims to contribute to better youth and female employability in the Southern and Eastern Mediterranean (SEMED) region within an overall purpose of enhancing multi-level governance of vocational education and training (VET) policies and systems. Read more: http://www.etf.europa.eu/web.nsf/pages/GEMM
This regional event took place from the 26th to 29th October in Casablanca, bringing together delegates from Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon, Morocco, Palestine, and Tunisia. Within the broad theme of multi-level governance, the focus was on labour market information systems and the different models of observatories that exist in different countries. Visits focusing on the Moroccan system were organised to two training centres that have established branch training centres (automobile & aeronautics) under public-private partnerships where the social partners pay a key role working closely with the Ministry of Education. In both these centres young women constitute an increasing percentage of the trainees in fields which traditionally have been male dominated. An interesting aspect of the visit to the training centre of a large food processing company was that some of the trainees had left school early with no qualifications and these courses are a possibility for them to obtain a qualification and employment. The firm has also started validation of non-formal learning and experience for its employees who can in this way obtain both a recognised qualification and become trainers.
- Governance: the need for a shared vision and a common language; for better coordination of education and training systems; for distributed leadership, to align financing with agreed strategies; and for a clear definition of responsibilities also at branch and regional level.
- Labour market information systems: the need for systemic and systematic approaches, to overcome fragmentation, to focus on impact, not just outcomes; to ensure open access to data, including local data to get it right; and for regular surveys to identify trends.
What did I learn? That there is tremendous energy in the SEMED countries to tackle the complex issues of training and unemployment which are particularly difficult for women (starting with issues of literacy) and young people, both those who have left school with no qualifications and those who have a high level of education and training qualifications. As speakers pointed out on the first day, the world is uncertain, complex and ambiguous and in Africa, "growth good … but not inclusive". In Africa there are 75 million young unemployed. Women obtain less training, they more often work in the informal sector including in agriculture and often do unpaid work. One speaker emphasised that "the combination of both presented a threat to social cohesion".
My blogpost on the first project conference in March 2014: http://www.jeangordon.eu/blog-pages-view-11-january-to-june.html
Scientific Advisory Board of the Early Childhood Research Centre at Roehampton University
I was invited by Professor Mathias Urban to be a member of the Scientific Advisory Board of the Early Childhood Research Centre at Roehampton University where he holds the Chair of Early Childhood Studies. Roehampton University, based in south west London, has both a School of Education that educates primary school teachers and also has an Early Childhood Studies department. This university was originally the college that trained nursery teachers using Froebelian principles which are still very important in the vision and methodologies used.
The advisory group, which was meeting for the first time, brings together academics and other specialists working in fields of early childhood, lifelong and life-wide learning policies, teaching and learning, learning for well-being, family affairs, child rights and protection. They are from several countries.
This first meeting was about the members of the group and the staff getting to know each other (including through presentations by each of the group members and some discussion on the current research undertaken by staff members. Over the few days of the meeting, this gradually led to very open discussion on possible links among different research projects and ideas for the future.
For me this was my first experience of being asked to be part of a Scientific Advisory Board for a university research centre and I found it stimulating because of the wide range of personalities present in the different discussions and fields of research, but was rather surprised to see how few of the staff present, who are all involved in different ways in preparing young people to work with children, appeared to have knowledge about or experience in children's right to participation and especially what that means in practice.
European Journal of Education
The third issue of our 50th anniversary year is now online. The title of this issue is: Education and Social Transformation: "Educational systems contain both transformative and reproductive elements. The balance and tensions between these have varied extensively over time and continue to vary across countries and the world's regions. Ideally, education would reproduce the ‘good’ and transform the ‘bad’, but ‘good’ and ‘bad’ are value-based and inherently political in nature. Accordingly, the prevailing form of governance and the nature of power relations, as reflected in the dominant socio-cultural and socio-political institutions in a given context, profoundly condition the balance and tensions between these elements."
European Journal of Education, Volume 50, Issue 2: Learning to Be - Idealism or Core Business?
European Journal of Education, Volume 50, Issue 1: What is Learning For? This issue is the free-to-download issue for 2015.
Issue 4 (Citizens, Learners and Workers in a Complex, Changing World: challenges for policy and research) will be online at the end of November.
I hope you will enjoy reading these articles and the editorial team would be delighted to receive your feedback!
July - CATS Conference - Children as Actors for Transforming Society
Sunday 2nd August
During the final Together Time we focused on the KEY LEARNING that everyone is taking home from the CATS conference. It was the final time we were getting together before going down the mountain. The week has been very rich, lots of activities, discussion, exchanges – both organised and spontaneous. An exciting learning experience for all of us! In the last session we wanted to discuss together what we’ve learned this week, what we want to take home to inform the way we work (new information, information about how our friends are working in another country); bring in something new (methods, tools, games, attitudes); and to change the way we work. Ted reminded participants of the hopes and expectations they'd discussed at the beginning of the week.
There was feedback on the survey (see below). The Kittens Workshop shared with us what they’ve been doing during the week building the CATS House. Also the young reporters from the Kittens Workshop who interviewed participants on what (if anything) is missing in the UNCRC. Saturday morning one person from each Community Group won a "Golden ticket" to attend the Kittens Workshop and they brought us back their "Golden Nuggets". We also listened to key points from young people from each CG groups on participation.
Then there was time for discussions by delegation and/or country group in answer to 2 questions:
1. What have you learned at CATS that you’d like to use to change, inform or improve your work at home?
2. What barriers do you anticipate? What will you need to make your suggestions work?
Finally, Gerison Lansdown pulled it all together with some key points to think about in children’s participation. She emphasised that it means more than just joining in; it is a right to be involved in everything that affects you, to have your views taken seriously, and to take decisions you are competent to take for yourself. She reminded us that participation can involve children at different levels: being consulted, collaborating and leading. She concluded that at CATS, we are working towards a collaboration between children and adults and that CATS has shown that it is possible for young children, young people and adults of all ages to learn, play and have fun together but to make that happen we have to collaborate at every level – in the development, planning, designing, organising and delivery of CATS.
Her final very important point was that children are not adults - they don’t stay as children, they don’t have the same legal status as adults, they don’t have power or resources and they want, need and have a right to support.
Time to go down the mountain .... until next time....
Saturday 1st August
The workshop in which I participated this year was: Children as Researchers - Consultation on the UNCRC General Comment on the rights of adolescents, facilitated (brilliantly) by Gerison Lansdown and Darren Bird. The aim of the workshop was to agree on a short survey that could be undertaken among the young poeple participating in CATS in order to provide their point of view and perspective that Gerison will feed into the draft text, of which she is the author, and take to the next meeting of the Committee. The workshops run for 4 days - 2 hours each session, so it was a tight timescale to discuss the draft General Comment, agree survey questions, carry out the data collection and make an analysis. In 24 hours 51 young people responded to the questionnaire which was very good. It is a totally unique and very enriching experience to work in a group of young people and adults from several different countries.
Together Time today was presentations by the delegations and organisations present:
This year at CATS we ran a Twitter campaign to raise the profile of CATS amongst those involved in the global movement of 2015 as a year of opportunities for international development and sustainable change. The objective was to position CATS on the global discussion about the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and the post-2015 development framework, which will be adopted in September at the United Nations. All the partners and some of the delegations kicked-off the campaign by giving a statement answering the questions: How would child participation help the realisation of the SDGs? Why is child participation needed to realise the SDGs?
And here's the UEF- Learning for Well-being team with out contribution:
Friday 31st July
Every morning starts with the Community Groups - small groups of about 20 people from age 11 up. These groups are one of the characteristics of all Caux conferences and the aim is to support participants throughout the event. The groups enable participants to get to know each other in a deeper way, to have a better understanding of the topics and themes that run through the conference, to prepare for eeach day's agenda, to evaluate aspects of the conference (e.g. the scope and quality of children's and young people's participation) and to have fun together - playing games!
The group I was in was facilitated by Rupal and, one morning, for the discussion about children's and young people's participation we worked with another group facilitated by Dunya.
Friday Together Time focused on debates and activities around moral dilemnas. We were very lucky this year to be joined for three days by the amazing Julie Ward who is a Member of the European Parliament and co-founder of the European Parliament cross-party group and cross-comittee group on Children's Rights.
Thursday 30th July
This morning all the CATS participants worked on the CHILD RIGHTS TIMELINE, by region of the world and country. Some of the groups worked on the development of child rights in their country from early legislation recognising and/or protecting children (e.g. prohibiting factory work in the 19th century) to all the legislation and initiatives since the signing of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. In parallel some of the children and young people worked on at what age they thought they should be able to decide to have an email address, vote in national elections, consult a doctor in confidence, etc.
Thursday evening was the CATS film festival. We were very lucky to have two of the film directors for the discussions after the film. Patrick Dumont, is the director of La Porte d'Anna that was released just a few weeks ago in Paris. The film is both moving and uplifting - it's about the daily life of young people in a residential care centre for children and young people who are different from their peers. We were very proud at CATS to have the first showing of the film in Switzerland and delighted that Patrick could join us for a very interesting discussion. If you haven't seen the film, I strongly recommend you try to see it. This film shows the young people living in the Pavillon Anna in all their integrity and their individual personalities, their likes and dislikes, their relationships with the staff and the other young people comes over strongly and beautifully. Patrick and his colleague François Hébrard spent 4 years filming these young people, getting to know them and their lives as well as the staff.
Gerburg Fuchs who has run a workshop on PLAY at CATs for the last two years presented two parts of her three-part documentary on chiildren and the concept of playing. The children involved range from 18 months to 4 years old.
Wednesday 29th July
Have you ever read a book in a HUMAN LIBRARY? That's what we did this morning during Together Time. We could borrow "books" from different "sections" of the "library" and listen to their story for about 15 minutes in a small group of people who all wanted to listen to the same story. There were lots of books to read. We had time to listen to 3 stories.
I listened to Umesh, who is 13 and from India, who told us the story about how the Children's Group in a village near him were persistent in finding a solution for the over-consumption of cheap alcohol by parents that was making the children's lives a misery. They carried out their own clean up of the containers that were left lying around the illegal alcohol stands, worked out how much was being spent on these drinks in a year and found a way of drawing the attention of the local council to this problem. The illegal stands were finally closed down. Through imagination, persistence, determination and working together they found a solution to improve their lives and those of their families. Fatiha, from Nigeria, who is with the Kittens Club, writes stories. This one was about a village in southern Africa that was dying of pollution - very dirty water, trees cut down, no fruit and vegetables grown ... Her story was about a little girl in the village who showed the villagers how to sieve water to clean it. Again a story about persistence and determination. Sima told us the story of the kindergarten she worked in in London where there was a Children's Committee of 4 year olds who together made suggestions about how to make their transition into primary school a happy one. They made suggestions about what they would like to happen and each had a Teddy bear or other animal that they helped feel at home in their kindergarten - introducing him/her to new friends, ensuring there was a little snack, showing where the toys were, etc. Another great story - it's never too young for participation to start!
The Workshop I'm doing this year is: Children as Researchers Consultation on the UNCRC General Comment on the Rights of Adolescents. It's led by Gerison Lansdown and Darren Bird. In a mixed group of young people and adults we are developing a small research tool to use here in order to obtain the feedback of CATS participants that will feed into the draft text of this very critical and important text. But more later....
Tonight was Disco night - always a great evening!
Tuesday 28th July
Three amazing and inspiring presentations this morning. Kirsten Sandberg, who is from Norway, Former Chairperson of the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child talked about why children's rights is not just important but absolutely essential for transforming society.
Kesz Valdez, the International Children's Peace Prize winner of 2012 and Co-founder of Championing Community Children talked to us about his journey from 4 year old street child in the Philippines to his extraordinary work with other children and young people to improve the lives of street children.
Nkem Orakwue, or Auntie Nkem, as she is known in Nigeria, is a broadcaster and child rights advocate. She is President of the African Children Broadcasting Network. Nkem talked about the key role of media in communicating about children's rights and getting the decision-makers to listen.
Monday 27th July
Opportunities for participation are filling up. There will be a consultation discussion later this week with children and young people about CATS leadership - their involvement in making decisions:
Just before .....
At last ....!! Welcoming all the participants, hosted by Ted and Arshad. Presenting the programme.
Sunday 26th July
This year's programme is all about children, young people and adults working together for change. Over the week we'll be building the CATS house. On Tuesday the theme is the blueprint for the house - the idea. The next day we'll be building the foundations - the relationships among people and age-groups. The the following days we'll build the walls, put on the roof and ensure that the house is well-anchored in its community! On the final day out focus will be the key learning that we'll take down the mountain. You can click here for the programme.
One of the elements in all Initiatives of Change CAUX conferences are the Community Groups where small groups of conference participants can deepen discussions, prepare for the next topics and reflect together on how the conference impacts on them, their groups and their lives. This year there will be 10 Community Groups of mixed ages from 11 years up to over 70. Today is the training day for the Group facilitators - 10 people from a range of countries and experiences who are keen to ensure that the Groups provide a space where young people and adults can reflect together on their practices, thoughts and hopes for the future.
While these groups are meeting every morning, the younger children will meet in the Kittens Workshop where a team of facilitators have designed a programme that reflects the themes of each day building the CATS house.
The HUB - Discovery Time - is empty today but will soon be full of shared stories, new ideas, evening programmes being prepared, discussions, exchanges and opportunities for participation.
This evening we presented CATS to the Caux house team, to the staff, the volonteers, the Caux Elders, the Interns, all the people who make the conference season possible. Every year Caux runs two months of conferences "Exploring the Human Factor in Global Change". CATS is one of them, the only one bringing children into the discussion about transforming society. As a reminder, the CATS vision is: "A world where children, young people and adults are working together in mutual respect towards a more just, inclusive and sustainable society where all can realise their fundamental human rights and potential."
And best of all, today the participants started arriving....
Saturday 25th July
This year we have 315 participants registered:
- 36 children under 10
- 93 young people between 11 and 17
- 39 young adults between 18 and 25
- 146 over 25s
Participants will come from more than 40 countries! The Caux Conference Centre will welcome people from Japan, Kosovo, Tanzania, Canada, the UK, France, India, Azerbaijan, Uganda, Estonia, Poland, the Philippines... And many other countries.
26 delegations will be present to share the work of their organisations. We will welcome:Partnerships for Every Child (Moldova), Safer Internet (Bulgaria), World Vision (Kosovo, Zimbabwe & International), MUHAS (Tanzania), Apprentis d'Auteuil (France), EPIC(Ireland), Cyprus Children's Parliament, Kids Rights (Philippines), CYDPC (Nigeria),Reflection Group for CRC (Moldova), Academic CHDC-MUK (Uganda), Estonian Union for Child Welfare (Estonia), TPO (Uganda), UCLAN (UK), Speak Out! (Switzerland), L'Albero della Vita (Italy), Ariel Foundation International (Lithuania), Institute for Peace and Dialogue(Azerbaijan), Polish ombudsmen (Poland), La Source (France), Maison des enfants le Dauphin (Canada), Office of the Commissioner for Children (Malta), Kfar Weradim (Israel),MDK Korczak (Poland) and Save the Children (Kenya)!Friday 24th July.
Friday 24th July
Arrived in 'Caux Castle' today to work with the CATS core team on the final preparations. This year I'm coordinating the evaluation with Ted, one of the young people who's been part of the CATS team since the beginning, and Séverine who works for Initiatives et Changement France.
Why is evaluation important for CATS? Because we want to learn more about children's & young people's participation in designing, planning, preparing and running the CATS conference. That's key to finding out if we're progressing towards achieving our objectives. We want to find out more about the outcomes and impact for organisations and schools of bringing children, young people and adults to CATS. What difference does it make in children’s lives, for schools, communities or society? And of course we want to tell the world about our successes and achievements but also to learn about how we can improve. To do that well, children, young people and adults are all going to be involved in a range of different ways, through games, interviews, exchanges, etc.
In the CATS conference office: Preparing the Kittens workshop:
Coming up the mountain on the little train from Montreux is always a special moment full of the promise of working with a team of friends in an amazing atmosphere to bring to life the conference we've been imagining since last autumn.
The light on the lake and the colours change all the time
CATS starts soon! Just over 2 weeks to go. Find out more about CATS 2015
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