Sofía Ávila

The 2nd ICAE Academy of Lifelong Learning Advocacy (IALLA) was held over three weeks at the Buskerud Folk High School, Norway, in summer 2005, with participants from many different countries. The aim of this three-week intensive seminar was to give emerging leaders in adult learning and social movement activists the opportunity to empower themselves and to acquire the skills to advocate for and support adult learning for active citizenship and a broader vision of adult education and lifelong learning. IALLA was supported by Buskerud Folk High School, Norway, the Norwegian Association for Adult Education (VOFO), Ovre Eiker Kommune, Norway, NIACE, United Kingdom, NORAD, Norway and SIDA, Sweden. The following text is from “Voices Rising” No. 158, Vol. 3 No. 3, October 21, 2005. Sofia Ávila is a staff member of the Popular Education Network of Women from Latin America and the Caribbean (REPEM Colombia).

Report by IALLA Graduate

Over the space of three weeks, men and women from different countries got together to develop the ICAE Academy of Lifelong Learning Advocacy (IALLA). Through their activities and experience, all present were involved in the subject of adult education, lifelong learning or popular education, the reason which brought us together to share and increase our knowledge and competitiveness in order to act in the wide and challenging field of adult education, which in recent decades has become a crucial point on agendas and the discussion of the wide and varied social movement, in order for it to be established as a public state policy.

The Institute took place between 27th July and 19th August. The location where these talks, cultural exchanges and knowledge sharing took place was in Buskerud Folkehogskole, Norway, in the city of Darbu, in the midst of extensive fields of wheat and near a lake which gave us a sumptuous and relaxed surrounding and was a refreshing alternative at the end of the day.

For three weeks we were blessed with the presence of social actors who shared with us their empirical knowledge, the result of years of study and political activism, commitment to the social cause and especially to lifelong learning, popular education, education for adults, etc. Each individual contributed from their own cultural, social, intellectual and professional background to the resignification, deconstruction and construction of new ideas, strategies and sentiments in response to our duty as activists in the field of advocacy in the area of lifelong learning.

In my opinion, the experience of these three weeks is a perfect example of education as a right, in a space for the exchange of experiences which make up the developing of new ideas, for the fulfilling of individual and collective potential, and the forming of new strategies of advocacy for changes, but especially these three weeks enabled us to “learn, do, be and live together” , which is fundamental in the wide field of education for life as a concept, exercise and policy. However, the task of training which we have taken on did not begin or end in this Institute: it has been a crucial space for the ratification and gestation of new projects within the area of commitment and action on advocacy for lifelong learning as a fundamental right that is indivisible and inalienable.

We shared many discussions, experiences, questions, doubts, and emotions in relation to the issues that were introduced and presented, issues that are not solved in a simple classification; for this reason and with the aim of presenting this report in an orderly manner that is accessible to others, I will use the following “focal points in the devel- opment of the course” under which I organise a large part, although not all of the content we studied, independently of its deconstruction and reconstruction, over the three weeks of the Institute.

From the experience which the Institute became I refer to four fundamental focal points of development: i. Cognitive, ii. Praxiological, iii. Attitudinal and iv. Methodological, each of which is neither rigid nor schematical but rather a practical tool of bringing together and organising the process. The Cognitive section contains the conceptual part and all that is related to the diverse contributions of the participants and presenters from their experiences, which contributed to the deconstruction and formation of knowledge and ideas. The Praxiological section refers to the propositive part of the course in relation to the implementation of new methodologies and strategies of action and advocacy, starting from the basis of the knowledge reconstructed here. The Attitudinal section is related to the resignification and ratification of knowledge and commitment in our political action. Finally, the Methodological part includes all the technical and didactic support which supported our formative, informative and deformative process.

The Cognitive

During the Institute wide and varied concepts were introduced, ideas and outlooks of the world in relation to the current context, spaces of advocacy, action and logic in the area of education for life. In summary: a contextualization of worldwide problems, dynamics and current campaigns was made, through the presentation of key themes such as The Complex of Global Governance, which presented to us a vertical World where institutions such as the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank and other of the Washington Consensus, organizations such as the World Trade Organisation, transnationals and governments such as that of the United States, pressurize international agreements and national legislation with the typical regulation of private, imperialist (capitalist) and fundamentalist interests. Gigi Francisco presented the current impacts on the nation states and the national and international civil dynamics in her analysis: Globalization, Development and Geopolitics. Another relevant aspect in this contextualization was introduced from an environmental perspective on the specific subject of global warming.

The introduction of concepts such as lifelong education, advocacy, civil society, state, intersectionality, networks, amongst others, acted as a support for the analysis of the context, global activism and the identification of action in relation to advocacy in education for life, to which special attention was given for the exercise of active citizenship: the World Social Forum as a place of learning and action where civil society is the main protagonist; the conferences of United Nations where society plays a less important, even limited, role as opposed to that of the nation states, which can be seen in the task of establishing practices of action such as network-based working and strategies of communication, representation, mobilization and action which this implies.

During the development of the course the genealogy of the social movement and of the United Nations conferences established a thread between processes of advocacy and social activism which allowed us to see that concepts change over the space of time, conditioned by a temporality and speciality according to the evolution of the context in accordance with the circumstances, necessities and new paradigms. In synthesis, the revision, development and construction of concepts is a key exercise for the learning and the construction of knowledge, it is a tool for the analysis and understanding of the current context and for the definition and identification of spaces of action for the social movement.

Advocacy is an effort by individuals and groups to put a problem in the public sphere, on the political agenda (Gigi Francisco) and from these supposed different instances they advocate for the right to education for life. An example of this is the work which ICAE and REPEM amongst others carry out in different spaces of learning and action such as the World Social Forum, United Nations Conferences such as CONFINTEAs, the Global Call against Poverty, the Global Campaign for Education and their work as a network.

The Praxiological

A fundamental part of the work which we carried out during the three weeks of the course was the analytical and propositive part in relation to subjects such as lifelong education, HIV/AIDS, objectives of the millennium, the World Social Forum, United Nations Conferences, and the concepts and issues introduced by the facilitators. The proposals and strategies of action and advocacy in the subject of lifelong education and the search for a better world, from civil society and within these spaces can be classified as strategies of communication, mobilization, training, education, work as a network (Internet working), organisational strengthening, the securing of resources, at all levels, with the aim of working for change and to achieve a better world with equality and dignity for all.

These proposals were the product of work, discussions and group plenaries, made up of the participants, who from their different experiences and knowledge contributed, each in a different way, to the construction of strategies and actions to advocate for lifelong education in the public and international sphere and in the different spaces where civil society and the diverse manifestations of the social movement can participate.

The Attitudinal

The course, as a space to learn, to do, to be and to live together, was at the same time an opportunity to ratify and value the work which we have been getting on with in our different organisations and networks, advocating for education for life, for adult or popular education, depending on the differences particular to each regional, national or local context. As the course went along relationships were consolidated, knowledge exchange flowed and each day we became better cultural translators, our desire to contribute to the transformation of the world increased, our conviction of our acts strengthened and all thanks to the knowledge that we built up during these three weeks of learning.

The Metodological

The methodological support for the construction of new knowledge within the course was the key to strengthening our cognitive processes. The visual support was constant and greatly facilitated the retention of subjects as well as promoting reflection on the subjects. The group work promoted the strategization and was a valid exercise of interaction. The implementation of exercises and activities enabled the reflection, relaxed atmosphere and bringing together of different ways and the creation of strategies and actions.

In the search for a better world education is a fundamental part of the process. Finding and facilitating spaces for training, for exchange and social strengthening is necessary for the promotion of human rights, the campaign for equality and dignity and for strategizing in networks advocacy for lifelong education. In this sense, the opportunity which ICAE gives us is fundamental for the realization of new methodologies, interventions and actions. The ICAE Academy for the Advocacy of Lifelong Learning is a space of learning so that persons representing different organizations get together with a common objective: the promotion of a fundamental human right: the Right to Education, in public spheres and on the agendas of the social movement and governments and other important arenas for the exercise of active citizenship, such as United Nations.