Here, in conversation, Toni Spencer, one of our newer members of staff who has been developing the Certificate of Education and Ethical Pioneers programmes, tells us how they came about in response to the direct needs of College participants, plus she shares her views of why these inspiring courses are so needed in today’s learning environment.
Over the years, a number of people who have attended Schumacher College courses have been moved to set up their own projects around the globe, inspired by the model of Schumacher College. In April we gathered some of these College alumni to present their ideas, dreams and projects, and in turn we shared our vision for the Certificate in Education that we were already developing.
It became clear that participants’ needs were two-fold:
Firstly, to develop and explore ideas and practices of adult education for sustainability within a really rich process – this exciting opportunity has become our Certificate in Education.
Secondly, the provision of practical support to help set up their projects. We need to enable them, within a community of peers, to develop the nuts and bolts, and the confidence to go out and do it! – this has evolved into the two-week Ethical Pioneers short course.
We were also really clear that where Schumacher College presents a tried and tested model of education for sustainability, there are many others out there. That’s one of the most exciting parts of designing these curricula: to bring together such diverse approaches with diverse participants and see what emerges!
The Certificate in Education will offer a space to experiment around the theme of education in a supportive, challenging and nurturing environment. This part-time action learning model enables a mixture of the deep journey and the practical – with holistic thinking as the foundation for the course structure. This certificate has been introduced and inspired by a specific model donated by ICIS (the International Centre for Creativity, Innovation and Sustainability) in Denmark. In the development process we have also been inspired by other educational groups and institutions, making this a very rich mix of experience and practice within one programme. People will be encouraged to apply what they already know, grow this and have the confidence to use and experience transformative learning. They will move from the holding space at Schumacher College to their own work with new knowledge, ideas and skills. A truly vocational programme.
Being an entrepreneur can be a lonely experience. The Ethical Pioneers Short Course will provide people with supportive and experienced contributors and a peer group of fellow participants – this will be an invaluable learning experience. The group as a whole will include people who have experience integrating strong values into their work and applying radical thinking to what they do – and the contributors in particular have an impressive wealth of experience of this: they have been there, done it, and have the T-shirt. They will help the participants be the best they can in the context of their dream.
Overall, the bringing together course contributors and teachers, participants and Schumacher College staff will be a hugely exciting thing for all concerned. What a wonderful interaction. This is a massive opportunity for transformative learning for sustainability: we provide the best ingredients, the participants create new recipes, and together we make a delicious feast to offer out there in the world!
Looking a year into the future I anticipate hearing about the plans and existing activities of people completing their Certificate, or from those a year into their enterprising project. These will be people who have a clear sense of what it is to be active and pioneering. They have developed unique professional ways of communicating what they do. They have created projects and methodology that dances between the radical and the mainstream, and which powerfully influence those who engage with them the world over.
I believe that more and more people are feeling that there is a need for radical change – it’s in the air. And I also believe that Schumacher College can provide the space for important practical and experiential exploration beyond the normal what and why, into deeper aspects of culture, transformation and complexity. Our courses challenge how we understand the world and how we make decisions – in education, in business, in general.
This is a natural progression for Schumacher College as we widen our work and our sphere of influence and respond with an expanded range of vocational courses. Extending the best of what Schumacher College is traditionally known for, and moving ideas towards an explicit action phase.
The Short Courses and the MSc in Holistic Science have given the College years of understanding the learning relationship within adult education. It has been a very rich time. We are now using this to offer a new set of journeys – the Ethical Pioneers course and the Certificate in Education open doors to a wider educational and practical experience.