Taking steps towards safe spaces for adult learning: co-creating the SAFE Board Game

In February we had a workshop with members of the European civil society in Brussels in order to start with the co-creation stage of the SAFE Board Game. The participants agreed that a safe learning space is not just a place but is essentially how we create relationships that are self-reflective and inclusive.

At the beginning of February we had the great opportunity to host a workshop at EAEA in Brussels on safe spaces. Our aim was to launch the co-creation process of the SAFE Board Game on establishing and maintaining a social contract to facilitate safe spaces in adult learning. These social contracts will aim at understanding safe and unsafe elements of learning environments. The game also provides solutions and highlights the struggle and necessary work towards resolving conflicts through mutual understanding.

Personal meanings attached to safe spaces

The workshop participants gained understanding on what safe spaces are, what they mean to them individually and also how to think of safe spaces in physical and non physical forms. The participants were predominantly women, coming from European associations, agencies, activist organisations and the general civil society.

It was particularly interesting to see that in the initial reflections on personally perceived safe spaces, the participants gravitated towards nature and relationships. As one of the participants noted: “We’re surrounded by women, this is a safe space!”

The concept of safe spaces has more than one meaning, which was communicated and mediated through prompts given to discussion groups. The abstract understanding of the concept can include online spaces, and people, while more grounded understanding is the physical space we occupy with our bodies.

One of the emphasised notions on safe space was that people who live or have lived in unsafe environments previously in their lives will have a vastly different perspective of what we deem a ‘safe space’.

people gathered around tables and discussing

Looking at a problem from a helicopter view

During the workshop we had to consider what is important for a learning space to be safe and inclusive, how and why we get disengaged from a learning process and how can conflicts and injustices be resolved.

The group had an amazingly rich discussion especially on the topic of conflicts with the importance of changing perspectives to be crowning:

“Look at a problem from a helicopter view. You have to change your perspective to solve a problem. Look from above at people like they are playing a game. Then by bringing it to an abstract level – you may see what we are doing here?”

During our workshop, we had a valuable conversation about safety and privilege. It was the highlight of our meeting. Through our discussion, we agreed that to ensure people feel safe while learning, we need to establish certain understandings. These understandings should apply not only to our board game but also to society, by addressing the emotional and material needs of every individual.

This workshop, and the creation of the board game, are part of our project Safe Spaces for Learning (SAFE) which strives for social inclusion and change through improving learning opportunities for adults. Already the project consortium has created an experiential field research, a visual library and a set of guidelines on creating and maintaining a safe space. These results are created to be as transferable as possible so that they can be adapted to different circumstances and needs of the learners, subjects and target groups.

In SAFE project we strive to highlight that feeling safe means feeling free in the actual space, the online space and in one’s own sense of creating and seeking safeties in the adult learning process. We do that by creating a set of guidelines, a board game and a policy paper to engage all levels of our society. For more visit our SAFE project website.


Text: Angeliki Giannakopoulou, Marina Sakač Hadžić

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