I recently returned from the 13th PASCAL International Conference – June 3rd to June 5th, 2016. The conference took place at the University of Glasgow and focused on the future directions for Learning Cities. The weather was exceptionally beautiful as delegates from over 30 countries were treated to over 60 papers in parallel sessions and 17 city showcases. Keynote speakers included Professor James Conroy, Vice-Principal Internationalisation, University of Glasgow; Professor Christina Slade, Vice Chancellor of Bath Spa University and Raul Valdes-Cotera, Senior Programme Specialist at the UNESCO Institute for Lifelong Learning and Programme Manager of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities.
Speaking on the theme “Cities in the 21st Century and the role of the UNESCO Global Network of Learning Cities (GNLC), Raul Valdes-Cotera highlighted the role of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development which was adopted by the United Nations in 2015 as a plan of action for people, planet and prosperity within the context of learning cities. Some of the UNESCO learning cities represented at the 3 day conference included Cork and Swansea cities. These are part of The Global Network of Learning Cities which consists of cities that are keen to benefit from participating in international policy dialogue, action research, capacity building, peer learning, and to effectively use learning city approaches to promote lifelong learning for their citizens. Pathway to become a UNESCO learning city include the development of a plan to become a learning city; creation of a coordinated structure involving all stakeholders; initiation and maintenance of the process with celebratory events; making sure that learning is accessible to all citizens and establishing a monitoring and evaluation process to ensure the city progress.
Speaking about learning cities for a good sustainable future, Peter Kearns, Director of PASCAL Learning City Networks underscores the connection between learning cities and the UN sustainable development goals and how the strategies that underpin learning cities complement other agendas such as Healthy Cities; Creative Cities; Resilient Cities, Smart Cities and Green Cities. As I ponder over the concept of Learning Cities, I am reminded of our own version of a learning community being promoted by BU’s festival of learning. Perhaps, being part of the global network of Learning Cities can impact on what we do and vice versa.
I couldn’t have been happier of the fact that I found the conference and the presentations very insightful and useful. Significant connections were made for future collaboration and my presentation on “the instrumentality of community-based service learning in instigating local transformations: An investigation into the role community voices” was well received. The next PASCAL international conference has been scheduled to take place from 17 to 19 October 2017 at Skukuza, Kruger National Park, South Africa.