“The future belongs to all of us”: such is the opening statement of educators who facilitate workshops in a community setting in the south of the Hague. According to the person interviewed by EAEA, it is important to emphasise to learners that this is not an opinion, but a fact, and that everyone, no matter their age, gender or background, can and should have a say in shaping the future. Yet as we discuss major policy agendas, from the Sustainable Development Goals to the European Green Deal or the European Skills Agenda, it is easy to miss the voices of those whose lives and communities are the most affected by the multiple crises that Europe is confronted with.
Concluding EAEA’s thematic work on adult learning and green transition in 2023, the new background paper brings forward the perspectives of adult learners, educators and community organisers in Europe. It is based on the conversations from the EAEA podcast Beyond Learning, recorded in a variety of learning settings – adult learning centres, community spaces, urban gardens and museums – and on the results of the EAEA Annual Conference on Adult Learning and Green Transition, which took place on 7 June in Zagreb. The paper explores learners’ motivation to engage in green transition, and the values that they see at its core. It closes with a set of recommendations, which are summarised below.
Strategies for ALE and the green transition take a long time to build. They need to include the communities, the providers, the learners, the educators, trade unions, and decision makers at different levels to have robust foundations.
There is a sense of urgency that something needs to be done in terms of designing and improving adult learning policy frameworks, but a lack of clear vision on how sustainable ALE policies could look like. We need more leadership and management training in ALE for sustainable development to make our voices heard.
There are inconsistencies between what is said or planned, the actual capabilities of the people and organisations involved in the implementation, and the actions/outcomes. Even when there are inspiring ideas and the implementation works well, there is still a need for more monitoring and quality assurance.
Organisations that aim to address green transition need to accept that they will need to constantly re-imagine themselves. A forward-looking perspective should include an analysis of not only the broader policy agendas, but also the local context in which their learners are living in.
Adult learning for green transition can and should be intergenerational: multiple examples showcase that different generations can learn from each other about community action, but also about traditional practices that are now coming back to the fore, such as mending one’s own clothes. Adult learning also needs to be intersectional and recognise the different struggles that learners are facing in their own lives and communities.
Learning needs to be strongly connected with the reality and lived experience of the learner and their immediate community, and foster a sense of belonging. When possible, adult learning providers should reach out to the communities that are not included in learning to make sure that their voices are heard.
Adult learning providers and educators should address and encourage sustainability in all its dimensions. It is a spectrum that is not just reduced to environmental sustainability, but also social sustainability, and the importance of keeping meaningful relationships.
Practise what you preach. A whole institution approach to sustainability should be encouraged when possible.
The decision to engage in green transition is a necessity for adult learning providers, but it is also a political choice. It requires advocacy at different levels to both raise awareness of the urgency of the climate crisis, and to highlight the role of adult learning and education in addressing it.
Learning spaces should be diverse, bringing together communities of all walks of life in a safe environment. As illustrated by the examples cited in this paper, they can range from classrooms in adult learning centres to museums, libraries, urban gardens and online spaces.
In many countries and communities, bottom-up initiatives and grassroots projects remain greatly underfunded. Community spaces cannot run solely on the motivation of their members, and need funding and coordination that will support sustainable action without taking away the autonomy of the initiative.