The role of adult learning in the uptake of bioeconomy practices

How can we support the uptake of bioeconomy?

In October 2022, EAEA and 3 affiliated entities (VOEV-VHS in Austria, NHE in Hungary and Learn for Life in The Netherlands) joined a consortium of 21 organisations from 6 countries for the launch of the Horizon Europe project  Engage4Bio, to support the development of new ALE activities in bioeconomy.

The aim of this new initiative is to support the uptake of bioeconomy practices at European level and in 5 Regional areas represented. In particular, the project activities focus on developing and strengthening regional Bioeconomy Hub visions, and on designing and implementing actions to reach these visions. In the upcoming 2 years, the hubs will conduct training and mentoring for adults, knowledge gain and awareness campaigns and explore innovative governance practices in all five engage4BIO regions.

The core approach of the initiative is also to expand the pool of stakeholders actively engaged with and in the Hubs to the so-called quadruple helix, which aims at leveraging and reinforcing the connection between science, policy, industry, and society, including education and in particular Adult Learning and Education. The second pillar of the Engage4BIO approach is looking at a new role for creativity and design within innovation processes as well, which is not only limited to create awareness and promotion activities. The consortium aims to explore how artists and designers’ interaction with science, governance and education processes can help to develop new strategies and new ideas for making bioeconomy practices a reality.

Which dimensions we should look at?

A strong conceptual framework (available online soon) was designed, that supported an in-depth analysis of the Hubs landscape and constituted the base for their region-specific visions to be developed further. Four main pillars were identified: bioeconomy technology in each Hub (the specific value chain in each regional area); regional development (strategies and governance); art and design (its role in innovation); and education and mentoring activities for adults (related to specific and transversal competences). Based on this framework, in Spring 2023, the 5 Hubs carried out map and gap analyses. Through interactive workshops and interviews with stakeholders they explored concrete regional needs, which they target with co-created activities in the following 2 years.

The key role of learning and awareness activities

The map and gap results show that adult learning activities and awareness raising actions have a fundamental role to set the ground for the implementation of new bio-based or circular economic models in regional contexts.

The five hubs (construction and wood, blue growth, agriculture and food, textile and design, and packaging) vary in terms of their context and value chain maturity. However, regardless of these differences, it becomes evident that there is a pressing need for learning and awareness-raising initiatives aimed at all citizens.

These activities should focus on new sustainable models that are co-designed by various stakeholders. It is essential to address all citizens, also with basic competence in the field, to promote a broader understanding of the concept of bioeconomy.

Furthermore, new education activities should focus on bioeconomy as an interdisciplinary approach and support engagement between all relevant stakeholders from the quadruple helix. They should integrate more artistic and creative practices and focus on awareness and knowledge sharing or on experiential learning approaches, such as project-based and challenge-based learning, which support a general lifelong learning mindset for all. Finally, this holistic approach could be extended even further to develop activities that include learning, awareness raising and design/business-oriented creative practices in joint programmes.

If you are interested in bioeconomy and the role of adult learning in supporting it, join our community and get involve in co-design activities or contact us directly!

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We suggest you also read our statement on Adult learning and the green transition: preparing the ground for EAEA’s annual theme 2023 – EAEA’s concept paper December 2022