Picturing adult and community learning’s impact

One of the shopping bags that I used at the supermarket yesterday has an image taken from a postcard that the WEA used a few years ago as part of our campaigning activities. It struck me that its message is still very relevant following last week’s launch of Family Learning Works and celebration of European Social Fund Community Learning Grants in Manchester.


The image reinforces the message that modest funds can make a big difference to individuals, families, communities and society. It also gives a subtle nod to the WEA’s deep and longstanding roots in communities and our network of branches.

Statistics and stories of achievement and the distance travelled by people who benefited from the ESF Community Learning Grants programme show evidence of this, as does the research presented by the Independent Inquiry into Family Learning. These were the focus of the last two blogs here.

Evidence from projects supported by the Community Learning Innovation Fund tell a similar story and there’s a quick video summary showing the impact of WEA work last year at http://www.wea.org.uk/about/whatwedo/impact. Our Pound Plus research at http://www.wea.org.uk/about/whatwedo/pound-plus adds further evidence.

Are any other past campaigns that are still relevant? Perhaps we should revive a few.

Community Learning Innovation Fund (CLIF)

NIACE, the National Institute of Adult and Continuing Education, organised an event this week to share and celebrate the progress and impact of projects from around the country supported by the Skills Funding Agency’s ‘Community Learning Innovation Fund’ (CLIF).

Projects supported by CLIF were set up to:

  • widen participation and transform people’s destinies by supporting learning and progression in the broadest sense for adults, especially those who are most disadvantaged and least likely to participate in learning;
  • promote social renewal and develop stronger communities with more self-sufficient, connected and pro-active citizens;
  • maximise the benefit and impact of community learning on the social and economic well being of individuals, families and communities;
  • include effective strategies to ensure that the work and its impact can be sustained when project funding comes to an end;
  • align with the work of emerging Community Learning Trusts – a distinct but complementary initiative.

(Source: Prospectus for Community Learning Innovation Fund)

Learners from a dozen or so organisations shared their stories, displayed their work, showed their videos and sang their songs in an event that provided variety and inspiration as the evidence stacked up to show how projects had met the CLIF aims. As is usual on such occasions, there was plenty of proof that adult learning had improved people’s lives in a short time – often with an impact on whole families and wider society – for relatively little investment of public money.

CLIF-supported projects in the WEA are reporting outcomes that complement those showcased at this week’s event.

WEA CLIF projects include:

  • Community Enterprise Pioneers (Eastern Region)
  • The VIEW (Virtual Interactive Educational World) Project (North West Region)
  • Welcome to Bolton (North West Region)
  • Living Life and Taking Part (North West Region)
  • Creative Wellbeing (South West Region)

We will be reporting on the projects and producing relevant data but in the meantime there’s more information about the Creative Wellbeing project on Pete Caldwell’s blog at: http://pcaldwell.wordpress.com/2013/06/26/a-creative-and-sustainable-approach-to-volunteering/.

Living Life and Taking Part - Photos courtesy of WEA Cumbria blog at http://bit.ly/1avBKxB

Living Life and Taking Part – Photos courtesy of WEA Cumbria blog at http://bit.ly/1avBKxB

The Living Life and Taking Part project brought adults with physical disabilities together to campaign for social equality and wellbeing. The benefit system is changing and students were keen to research information and to share their experiences through creative workshops, performances, their blog, website and local events.

They have been amazingly productive. Students organised a photography exhibition during Adult Learners’ Week based on the theme of isolation / inclusion. More than 200 visitors attended and the feedback was impressive. They produced a book of poetry in conjunction with Parkhill Poets, a ‘Help you to help yourself’ leaflet and a set of Conversation Cards for Disability Awareness to be used as an educational tool. They have also made a DVD to look at the recent changes in disability benefits.

You can see the group’s blog and their own words at: http://coscblog.wordpress.com/ and you can find background information about all CLIF projects a funded by the SFA and led by NIACE att: http://www.niace.org.uk/current-work/clif/community-learning-innovation-fund