Community Learning in the... United Kingdom

My Neighbourhood, Our World Project, Leicester Masaya Link Group, Leicester, UK.

The Community Learning Innovation Fund (CLIF) provided grant funding from the Skills Funding Agency for 96 community learning projects across England to run from September 2012
to July 2013. The projects aimed to empower adults, particularly those who are socially and economically disadvantaged, to improve their own lives and those of their families and communities. Through new partnerships and a wide range of creative approaches, CLIF projects engaged more than 15,000 learners, many of whom were from groups that are among the most excluded and least likely to participate in learning.

1. ICICLE

The ICICLE (Inclusive Co-development and Implementation
of a Community) project aimed to reduce digital exclusion for people with learning disabilities. It did so through the use of a co-developed multimedia learning platform, using images,
video and sound clips to engage people who were otherwise
excluded through difficulties with reading and writing.

“The project aimed to reduce digital exclusion for people with learning disabilities.”

The project focused on establishing the right combination of technologies with teaching and learning approaches. This would enable learners with various disabilities to identify individual goals, gain knowledge and insight from peers, teachers and volunteers, make plans together to achieve their goals and take steps to increase their active participation in their communities.

Of the 116 participants who took part, 44 were adults with learning disabilities, 25 were support and teaching staff and the remaining 46 were volunteer undergraduate students. Learners used the platform for goal setting and planning. They also built effective support circles to help them achieve their personal goals. The result was an improvement to their social and digital inclusion and their employability.

Support workers developed individualised community learning pathways with the learners, planned courses of action and created collections of online resources, which they shared with learners.

The use of multimedia allowed ever y user to communicate her/his preferences and interests, overcoming barriers of ten encountered by people with speech, language and
communication challenges. The collaboration between learners and volunteer students was beneficial to all concerned and created opportunities for people with learning disabilities to form friendships outside their usual circles.

Nominated adults with a learning disability acted as 
‘Champions’ and mentored their peers as well as presenting the project and their achievements to visitors and new staff. Tutors, support staff and volunteer students assisted participant learners with disabilities to work towards personal
goals which were broken down into achievable tasks. The learners could assign each task to any of their online supporters for help, and experiences and progress were recorded in various digital media formats and added to the online profiles of the individuals.

The volunteers accompanied the learners in outings in their communities to gather material and information. This formed the basis for a website showcasing local opportunities and services available for people with learning disabilities.

More information
ICICLE Project in a Box: bit.ly/1ndDGLg
Rix Centre: www.rixcentre.org;
Contact: Andy Minion (A.T.Minnion@uel.ac.uk)

2. My Neighbourhood – Our World

My Neighbourhood – Our World was a cross-generational community project which aimed to bring people from disadvantaged areas of Leicester together to explore identity and belonging in their own neighbourhoods and across the city. It also built an understanding of diversity and sustainability by connecting daily lives with wider global issues.

Workshops looked at how food contributes to health and wellbeing, who is involved in food from plant to product, and how the things we eat impact on the producers and our environment. The group also shared favourite recipes and food tips and discovered how food features in celebrations across cultures.

Learners were supported to develop a number of transferable skills, including teamwork and organisational and presentation skills, which they put into practice during their final showcase event – the Food Glorious Food Festival.

This dynamic day included displays and demonstrations, food tastings (from Leicester, India, Nicaragua and the Caribbean) as well as seed-planting, smoothie-making and other food-related activities which the learners helped to develop and facilitate. The event took place during Adult Learners’ Week and provided an occasion for the participants to showcase what they had learned as a result of the project.

The project reached over 200 people of all ages who
attended the taster sessions and the final showcase event.

To succeed, the project

     

  • used Leicester’s link with Masaya in Nicaragua to provide examples and case studies for the local to global links that are inherent in the programme;
  • involved learners from the start in co-creating and shaping their learning;
  • used a variety of teaching and learning methods including dialogue and critical thinking/debate on the issues raised in the sessions;
  • enabled progression to community activism. It has been
a springboard for participants to start to organise similar sessions and events in their communities.
  •  

More information
My Neighbourhood – Our World Project in a Box: bit.ly/1sTbbHQ
Leicester Masaya Link Group: www.leicestermasayalink.org.uk 
Contact: Claire Plumb LMLG@leicestermasayalink.org.uk

Author
Sarah Perry, Project Officer Learning in Communities, NIACE,
sarah.perry@niace.org.uk