Jordi Díaz Gibson PhD, Trilogy Lead. NetEduProject, PSITIC Blanquerna (URL).
We are thrilled to present the ‘Learning Ecosystems Trilogy’, a collection of three reports that gather the intense international and collaborative research, discussion and practice led by the NetEdu team (PSITIC, Blanquerna- Ramon Llull University) in the last three years (2020-2023). Our key focus in the Trilogy is the urgent need of new educational leaders equipped and empowered to heal, seed and weave human connection and social infrastructure across our learning systems for flourishing futures. This is not about superheroes or superheroines, either about bottom up or top down change, it is about new leaders unfolding across spaces, facilitating and weaving the conditions for our collective emancipation and for a new system to emerge. Our work contributes to ground how ecosystemic leaders -or weavers- are becoming extremely influential in the learning ecosystems’ growth, spanning multiple boundaries, seeding synergies, and empowering people, organizations and whole communities for deeper and wider learning and flourishing.
Learning ecosystems are evolving as a new paradigm that is interwoven with a diverse body of previous influential research as Bronfenbrenner’s ecological systems theory (1974); Paulo Freire’s Critical Pedagogy; Edgar Morin’s Complexity Theory (2001); Provan, Milward, Kenis and Klijn’s work around Interorganizational Networks and Network Governance (2001); Alan Daly’s research on Social Networks in Education (2010); latest work of VanderWeele on Human Flourishing (2020), and the work led by Dr. Jordi Riera in PSITIC, Blanquerna Ramon Llull University, in the last 20 years around systemic and networked-based education. All these studies share a central idea: hyper-fragmentation and isolation within our educational systems’ silos is drastically reducing our capacities to interact, learn, feel well and evolve individually and collectively, a reality that has been globally visualized and exacerbated by the pandemic. Thus, we are aware that we need to collaborate, co-create, co-design, and several co-, but we don’t have the needed infrastructure and culture in place.
Learning ecosystems are complex and difficult to narrow, and we conceptualize them as the natural environments where people learn and unlearn across life time. So, an initial idea is that we all already live in learning ecosystems with diverse and contextualized characteristics as we inhabit the planet. Thus, learning ecosystems are influenced by many social forces of all diverse contexts, as resources, cultures, laws, policies, traditions, leaderships, organizations, people and relationships, among others. Ultimately, our work takes a social and relational perspective to understand and weave learning ecosystems, underlying that learning and flourishing opportunities are inherently and actively shaped by a wide network of people and stakeholders that are specific from each context.
Thus, this complex social network extends far beyond the traditional frame of family and formal education, including a wide range of influential individuals and organizations. Some of them interact directly with children and adolscents -as schools, highschools, universities, libraries, community centers, theaters, museums, after school programs, sport centers, social networks, digital devices, video games, religious organizations, neighborhood spaces, among others-. Others interact indirectly with them -as educational districts, municipalities, governments, Ed tech companies, among others. All of these stakeholders belong to diverse sectors -including public, private, civil society and combinations of these three-; they are part of multiple systems –education, health, youth, wellbeing, technology etc; including professionals from different disciplines -as education, psychology, tech, sociology, health, architecture, research, and so on-; and finally, all of them are learners. Therefore, the relational capacities within and across the learning ecosystem determine the learning and flourishing possibilities and opportunities offered to all people and communities, especially to the most vulnerable ones.
In the Learning Ecosystem Trilogy we take a careful and deep look into how leaders across the ecosystem weave this relational capacity in their contexts for deeper and wider learning and flourishing. And we understand the relational capacity of a learning ecosystem as 1- the social connection between all people, and 2- the social infrastructure that weaves the diverse parts of the system. And we will try to explain this idea a little further. Initially, we believe that seeding social connection becomes a central priority in our learning environments for individual and collective flourishing. We can’t learn and flourish in an unsafe relational environment that makes us feel that we don’t belong. As the Office of U.S Surgeon General states (2023), we live in a fragmented society where isolation and loneliness are a dangerous consequence of the imperative of our times, an epidemic that strongly affects health, learning and growth of children, young people, adults, teachers, leaders, parents, elders, whole schools, whole communities and so on. And we know that most vulnerable people and groups are the ones suffering more from this epidemic and its consequences. Thus, social connection is a primitive human need at the core of the survival and evolution of our species, which is why that for flourishing futures we must prioritize ahead of instruction and achievement, the design of safe and flourishing environments that protects and supports us all across spaces and lifetime: students, teachers, educators, parents, etc. – especially the most vulnerable.
Second, is the fact that social connection becomes, beyond a human need to be fulfilled, an invisible but powerful infrastructure that can enable or inhibit learning and flourishing opportunities for people and the planet. This idea suggests that any desired change and transformation in education that we can dare to imagine, such as a new learning reform, method, strategy, tool, mindset, culture, leadership or policy, is directly influenced by the quality of our social connection among the people that are involved in all levels of the system -from design to implementation-. Thus, change is inherently relational and systemic, starting with the inner relationship with ourselves, with relationship with territory and nature, including relationships between students, between student and teacher, between student and all educators that interact in the wider and natural environment; and last but not least, change is interdependent on all social connections between educators, leaders, social workers, health professionals and/or parents, among many others, that are also part of the natural environment where we all live and learn. It is across this invisible social infrastructure -also named as social capital or social fabric- that we all interact, challenge ourselves, exchange resources, access new opportunities, learn, grow and find sense and meaning to our lives. Thus, the better we weave the social infrastructure in our systems and organizations, the greater will be the opportunities and possibilities for all to learn and flourish.
The Learning Ecosystem Trilogy relies on initial descriptive studies emerged in the last decade where we have collectively explored and framed the learning ecosystems paradigm and learnt from worldwide experiences –UNESCO, Jacobs Foundation, WISE, Dream a Dream India, Global Education Futures, The Weaving Lab, Learning Planet, Remake learning, Education Reimagined, among others-. The Trilogy opens the door to a new level of development of studies in the field, presenting new experiential research-practice that aims to support leaders that are not aligned or even familiar to the ecosystemic approach to unfold the relational capacity in their communities and organizations for flourishing futures. Thus, the work presents the experience of more than 500 world wide education leaders playing and experimenting with new tools and frameworks, facing contextual resistances and contributing to understand real needs and elevate new thinking around our purpose. The Trilogy is formed by three complementary action-research reports where we explore crucial questions around how to weave Learning Ecosystems, claiming to inspire new leaders across the system -macro, meso and micro- to accelerate the development of our flourishing futures.
The Trilogy is a direct call to governments, policy and decision makers to support, train and give wings to these new type of leaders to weave the relational and collective capacities in our learning ecosystems, taking care and empowering them is strategically fundamental for our flourishing futures. And finally, we deeply hope that this work offers all amazing weavers in the world a whisper of experiential inspiration, with new frameworks, guidelines, tools and processes, all of them to be discussed, adapted and lifted with new meaning and purpose to design and lead flourishing learning ecosystems worldwide. They truly are one of the philosopher stones for our flourishing futures.
Trilogy Presentation next November 23rd 2023, from 4 to 5.30 CET. Hosted by the Weaving Lab, the session will be facilitated by Robyn Whittaker (NetEdu team) and Jordi Díaz Gibson (NetEdu Lead), and other team members will be in attendance to contribute to the thinking. Nadia Chayney (The Time Zone Research Lab) and Pavel Lucksha (Global Education Futures) will engage as reflective thinking partners to the team. Please respond to this survey if you plan to attend, or would like to contribute your thoughts to this ongoing work. In the session we will open and share the published reports, and will also present a Learning Journey where we want to deeply discuss the work with all of you.
The Learning Ecosystem Trilogy is a reality thanks to UNESCO, Jacobs Foundation, the Government of Spain and the Ministry of Education of Ghana that have supported and funded the action research developed. Special and deep thanks to Valtencir Mendes and Borhene from UNESCO; Ross Hall, Nora Marketos, Romana Kropilova and Donika Dimovska from Jacobs Foundation, thanks for trusting us to lead this amazing learning journey.
The shared learning journey has been rich and complex, deeply impacted by the COVID 19 pandemic and post pandemic forces, but full of inspiration and meaning. It has been a complete honor to share this journey with a team of amazing human beings, extending our collaboration across more than 1000 thoughtful and committed educators and leaders from the five continents. They all meaningfully enriched every single thought and piece of this Trilogy.
NetEdu Team and Authors of the Trilogy Reports
Jordi Díaz-Gibson (Ramon Llull University); Robyn Whittaker (Kaleidoscope Lights); Mireia Civís (Ramon Llull University); Yi-Wha Liou (National Taipei University); Dale Allen (DXtera Institute); Peter Fagerström (Educraftor); Enikö Zala-Mezö (Zurich University of Teacher Education); Akwasi Addae-Boahene (T-TEL Ghana); Eric Ananga (T-TEL); Avril Kudzi (Jacobs Foundation); Lana Jelenjev (The Hum); Anna de Montserrat, Annabel Fontanet, Mireia Lerena, Míriam Cos and Estel Torruella (Ramon Llull University).