Across the globe there are networks of people exploring the ways in which working together can create a movement for positive change. These learning ecosystems approaches are now researched and acknowledged globally as a way to create deep systemic change. Ecosystems are complex, dynamic and are made of interdependent connections that are constantly changing. The focus is on transformation and the development of a thriving learning community, where all have equitable access to learning.
Ako Ōtautahi Learning City Christchurch is an example of this in action. We are using a learning city approach, described by UNESCO as follows:
A learning city mobilizes human and other resources to promote inclusive learning from basic to higher education; it revitalizes learning in families and communities; it facilitates learning for and in the workplace; it extends the use of modern learning technologies; it enhances quality in learning; and it nurtures a culture of learning throughout life.
In May we connected a range of learning opportunities across the city, as Ōtautahi Learning Days. This week focused on catalysing conversations, connecting opportunities and uncovering some of the learning already happening in our city. Our focus of equity, access and innovation was demonstrated in many different ways, for many different audiences. There were panel conversations focusing on a diverse range of equity issues. One group of schools descended on their local shopping mall as a ‘reading flashmob’ – imagine 150+ children all reading, hearing stories in the many languages of their community and actively engaged in storytelling, slam poetry and library promotion. In another part of the city rangatahi had the opportunity to spend three days making taonga puoro using new technologies, while weaving their personal stories through the carved patterns on their finished musical instrument. In yet another part of the city sixty people of all generations walked around their neighbourhood to hear the cultural narratives of their community.
The events themselves were powerful examples of learning but the collective growing of the learning ecosystem is even more exciting. There are patterns of connection and stories of possibility throughout the city. It is about growing the bonds within local community and celebrating these networks. From an ecosystem level is is also about bridging learning across communities, encouraging diverse interactions and growing tolerance for different viewpoints. Ako Ōtautahi Learning City Christchurch is a movement that is connecting people so that we can work together, with mana whenua as key partners and where Te Tiriti is considered in our actions.
In an ecosystem everything is connected and when times get tough it is even more important that we work together to reduce barriers and create learning opportunities for all. Our learning city work whakataukī, gifted by Mātauraka Mahaanui, captures this so well:
Aukahatia tō waka | Tighten the bindings of your waka (so that)
Kia kumea e te au | When pulled upon by the tides
Kia puhia e te hau | And blown by the winds
Ka huri noatia tō hoe | You can but turn your paddle (and)
Ka aro tonutia kā whetū | Continue to heed the stars.