Can a Learning Marathon help us get our need for connection met, in the midst of multiple crises?
On these pages, we have often described the fast-emerging future as one in which citizens - of every kind - experience ownership of the democracy they are participating in.
But that is no easy transition. We can’t simply switch from a top-down structure of power to something far flatter and distributed, at will. There is as much to un-learn as to discover.
We invited AlterNative Alana Bloom, prominent activist in Extinction Rebellion and Noisily Network amongst other fronts, to describe the challenges she faces and how she plans to meet them through the London Learning Marathon:
We live in an increasingly fast paced environment in a rapidly evolving world. Technology has continued to advance and spin into mind boggling levels of possibility. Whilst phones and social media offer ever quicker connection, we can still feel hugely isolated and alone. Our unmet need warps into endless scrolling.
Our learning system has a lot to answer for. Many leave the education system feeling disempowered, disconnected and confused. We feel the lack of ‘real world’ knowledge that was shared and would have supported us both emotionally and mentally.
When did we ever get to learn about how to actively listen to one another, to support our growth? Or get to explore a question that really mattered to us? Or did we ever truly get a sense of the immense possibilities that collaboration and co-creation offer us? What about having the skills to continue learning on our own terms?
This is what is so exciting about the work that Enrol Yourself do and the opportunities they offer. Take the London Learning Marathon, a six-month decentralised peer to peer learning journey where you explore a meaningful personal or societal questions like the ones above.
Since finishing my training as an artist and performer some years ago, I have felt a craving for a space that would support my continuous need for learning and allow me to adapt and grow with these questions in mind. My career has covered a range of creative practices from facilitation, coordination, producing, activism and working within horizontal or decentralised organisations like Extinction Rebellion & The Psychedelic Society.
My own personal journey means communication, mindfulness and interpersonal skills have become a hugely important part within every aspect of my life. And yet I have so many questions that still go unanswered and need the space to be explored.
I think there is a need for a learning revolution, a need to create access to learning environments that aren’t institutionalised and require unlimited finances to participate. Rather, we need spaces that can ignite curiosity and creativity, that cultivate the tools and skills that aren’t just about knowing everything but are also about feeling and communicating.
Opportunities where we can learn the skill of co-creation and collective collaboration—what that means in practice. Somewhere that fosters connection of community & interpersonal relationships as part of the process, rather than a continued individualistic (and often competitive) approach to learning.
It is this spirit of evolution that informs Enrol Yourself; a humble grass-roots project started by Zahra Davidson. As she describes it:
Enrol Yourself is an ongoing enquiry into how groups of people can turn to one another to produce powerful learning experiences outside of institutions and traditional formats. We base our activity on the assumption that there is enough experience, wisdom and creativity within groups of ‘ordinary’ adults to make this possible. We’re exploring how this assumption within adult education might empower people at the individual level, and contribute to a collective consciousness shift at the societal level.
The Learning Marathon is a framework to hold us and keep us accountable whilst also being the intersection where learning meets community. It comes in a format that is more widely accessible and allows people to focus on the things that are important to them. This is a structure that continues to be fine-tuned, and which hosts and cohorts use to hold their process of research and development, refining their discoveries in relationship to a learning question. The group I will be hosting come September will be the tenth Learning Marathon!
I recently facilitated a discussion that explores possibilities that co-creation and creativity offer within community spaces. It was hugely insightful into how we might pool together our ideas and different experiences to find unique responses to the challenges we come up against. This is essentially what Enrol Yourself and the Learning Marathon exists to explore.
My sense is that these types of opportunities have the potential to create new hubs - where everyone is invited to participate and the more you put in the more you get out. Spaces that offer inventive and creative ways to approach the social, economic, personal and wider issues that define the times we live in. Spaces that can meet our needs for growth and connection and begin to answer some of our deeper needs. A place to explore purpose whilst also learning how to cultivate healthy and thriving communities.
These issues could span huge economic disruption, ecological collapse, extreme weather patterns, shortage of food and mass migration. We will all need ingenuity, creativity and the collaboration that is collectively available to us, if we are to truly be able to look after one another in the face of adversity.
Applications for Alana’s learning marathon group are currently open until 23rd August. To find out more visit: www.enrolyourself.com/alana-bloom. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org for an information pack.