Writing to Illuminate Learning for Change
Fourteen People Development co-creators and other colleagues just finished a book! We are excited to share with you our reflections and insights about writing, publishing and launching Seeds of Radical Education at the Coady International Institute. The entire process was an invigorating experience of learning for change. In the book, long time facilitators of learning programs shared their behind the scenes stories of delivering radical education.
Why radical? Radical because it nurtured the belief that people have within them the possibility to create a world of justice, peace and equity for all, and that many of the conventional structures of society are currently built on another set of values and practices that have marginalized many and benefited the few. When we look around at the many systems of which we are part — both systems exist, the conventional and the radical. As we do our own analysis of what strengthens citizen voice and what builds confidence to move toward a just society, away from inequitable structures, we learn and reveal more of what’s possible.
The approaches described in the book that were used for motivating people to learn were also considered radical because we deviated from formal approaches to knowledge acquisition. Participants were challenged in their learning process to go deeper in their own reflection and understanding of why they believe what they believe. This analysis built confidence in the voice of active citizens and mastery of the knowledge and skills to make collective change happen. The approaches are also considered radical because the stories are based on the premise of a caring society. Love was present in the hearts and minds of people who welcomed participants and facilitated the courses discussed. Recognizing “you give what you get”, staff practiced a leadership philosophy of care and respect , and were eager to learn and cooperate with others to bring useful learning experiences to all, staff and students alike.
Writing collectively! So how do you write a book about the experiences of so many people? To begin we gathered a small group of dedicated, reflective practitioners, who all had long histories at the Coady Institute and developed this initiative to write our stories of living and working there. The process started with the first gathering (some in the room, others virtually) where each one shared their connection to the Coady and the impact it had in their lives using an exercise called the River of Life. From there, this small group developed a list of themes emerging from our stories into a draft table of contents for a book. We began writing and reading to each other in that first meeting to try out a buddy system as a way of creating a peer review process. We set out a writing schedule and paired people with a buddy to provide encouragement and suggestions as the essays took shape. After two months the group convened again to check-in on progress and hear first versions. The process took off from there! Six months of collaboration and feedback produced the essays you will read in the book.
Launching the book. We went to where the people are and where the heart is! Using the principles of adult education and the Antigonish Movement we created a launch that engaged all the authors and invited the community. We chose a community location, the People’s Place library in Antigonish in recognition of the many players it takes to make an international institute like the Coady work in such a small rural community. For the launch we invited a member of the Coady family (also faculty of the Adult Education Dept at StFX) to emcee and chose a date, the 60th anniversary of the passing of Reverend Dr Moses Coady, as an auspicious occasion to honour the legacy of the philosophy he brought to this region and to the world. All the authors stood from the audience and read two paragraphs , which were interspersed with fun activities that engaged the body as well as the intellect of everyone present. We ended with time to share food together, talk, ask questions of particular authors, get autographs and so on.
As one attendee wrote afterwards:
“It was an honour and an experience to witness/be part of this very inclusive collective event. It demonstrated the incredibly high skills, commitment, creativity, solidarity, and grace you have as agents of social change--Jimmy Tompkins, Moses Coady, Zita Cameron, Kay, Marie Michael (+ others) , and the St Martha Sisters--all would be so proud of their legacy and how you embodied it in this short 2 hours.”
The whole process was such a positive experience! We’re planning another collaboration to reflect, capture more lessons on radical education, and document our “learnings for change” to share with others.
For more info on Seeds of Radical Education and order information: https://www.pdltd.net/seeds-of-radical-education