From 12-18 October Ako Ōtautahi Learning City Christchurch convened a series of learning events with a focus on equity, access and innovation. Originally planned to take place in May 2020, the Learning Days events (took place in October 2020) were reformatted for the times and the seeds of ideas for 2021 were planted. 



Ōtautahi Learning Days provided the opportunity to explore how Ōtautahi Christchurch could engage with different members of the community to extend learning conversations. We know that learning is changing rapidly and we wanted to celebrate this and to set the foundation for future conversations about learning for all. 


Our Ōtautahi Learning Days were launched by our trustees and supporters talking a little about what a learning city is and why it’s important. Importantly, the conversation was started by Liz Brown from Mātauraka Mahaanui who have been part of our journey from the beginning. We believe that no city can grow as a learning city without acknowledgement and partnership with the indigenous people of that place. For us this is Ngāi Tahu, with Mātauraka Mahaanui walking alongside us. Liz reminded us that we need to examine the past in order to inform the future and to help us determine what a learning community should look like now. 

The learning city movement exists throughout the world in different formats. We were lucky enough to have a conversation with Gregg Behr and Dorie Taylor from the Remake Learning project in the USA. This is one of the learning city movements we feel most aligned to. One of their key messages was to “recognise the goodness in a neighbourhood,” “make learning sticky not faddish” and grow “learning in family friendly ways.” There are video snippets and the whole zoom conversation here.



Another important conversation that was held was with Rosie Clayton, one of the leaders in the learning ecosystem space. She talked us through five learning ecosystem projects and reinforced the importance of transversal or fusion skills. The Cities of Learning approach is one of my favourites examples of a learning ecosystem in action. This model has a learning spine that focuses on leadership of a city vision, mobilisation of formal and informal networks and having a platform that acts as the connected tissue around the initiative. Watch the video here.

During the lockdown or rāhui the inequities in learning opportunities were exposed , a ‘wicked problem’ that needs to be addressed urgently. We wanted to continue the conversation, focused on one small part of the issue – digital equity. As part of our Learning Days we brought together a panel of six to discuss digital equity from diverse perspectives. We developed a document of shared links that we can use for ongoing conversations and we also plan to follow up with a three hour action sprint exploring actions we might take in Ōtautahi to address this need. Workshop facilitator Helen Johnston, has developed an excellent process for identifying key ideas using an online tool called Miro. We are so lucky to have her expertise to guide us.

Paparoa Street School and Hornby High School collaborated to run an EPro8 Challenge prototype, with the idea being to form teams of four to take part in intergenerational technology challenges. While this event didn’t have many participants it was a really successful prototype that can be built on for next year. This event reminded me of the power of young people to influence the world and to the role of reciprocal mentoring. The young people were great role models and were able to articulate what they were learning about technology, why this was important and how their knowledge could be used across curriculum areas. Watch this space!




One of the things I loved about the Learning Days was that it provided the catalyst for some ideas that had been percolating to surface. One of these was run by Lex Davis and Josh Hough, from Core Education. Their workshop focused on Racism and Homophobia in Secondary Schools. This is such an important topic and I know this will be just the start of the conversation. 

The team from LinC (Leadership in Community) held a well attended event at Tūranga, with four community leaders sharing their thoughts about leadership after a decade of rebuilding our wākāinga (home) in a post-earthquake world. The importance of relationships was a key feature from all four leaders.



Te Papa Hauora ran an excellent event where local health researchers talked about their research and answered audience questions. This is an example of an event already planned that was able to link into our Learning Days, acknowledging that learning happens in so many different ways across the city. Te Papa Hauora, the Health Precinct, has many fine examples of learning across boundaries and using the talents of many to make a positive difference. The event was recorded so we can continue to share, rewind and reflect. Check out the speakers here.

Our closing event was a conversation focused on Ōtautahi Christchurch in a COVID recovery environment and what this means for the future of learning. Chief Executive of ChristchurchNZ, Joanna Norris, led us through some of the key skills Canterbury Growth Industries need in the current climate. The first five skills were team work, verbal communication skills, interpersonal skills, self management and problem solving. It is important we share this conversation with community and parents as we live in uncertain times and require different competencies in order to thrive in the future. Joanna’s messages are critical as we explore our next steps for learning beyond exam results. You can check out a small snippet of her talk here.

I haven’t mentioned all the events that ran during the week. However, we really did appreciate all those who put events together. We have kept the events online at so you can see who contributed to these days.

We are now finalising dates for 2021 and hope to have a more extensive programme that continues to find ways of growing a connected learning city where access, equity and innovation really are widely considered.


Our YouTube channel has a number of recordings from our Ōtautahi Learning Days. Check them out, subscribe to our page and think about how you might like to contribute to our work. You can contact us through