We have recently been informed by the MESS that the adult education budget for 2020 and 2021 has been reduced significantly. In the next few weeks, we will see what that means exactly for our LLW project in 2020 and 2021. We have two sources of financing for this project. For several years, the SIAE has been receiving just over EUR 30,000 per year from the Ministry of Labour, Family, Social Affairs and Equal Opportunities, to cover the material costs of national coordination of the LLW project. This amount (partially) covers the costs of services and goods for the entire LLW network, the organisation of the national opening ceremony and the Adult Education Colloquium and the production of video presentation of those who received awards for the promotion of adult learning, and many other costs. Sometimes even we cannot believe how far we can stretch this rather small amount of money.
However, the activities of local and thematic LLW coordinators, and the Learning Parade coordinators, are co-financed by the MESS. These coordinators are vital for successful expansion of the lifelong learning culture across the country, and the inclusion of many different topics. Having fewer financial resources means that each individual coordinator will receive reduced co-financing, or that we will have to cut the number of coordinators. Both scenarios would result in a much impoverished Lifelong Learning Week, compared to the last few years. This will also impact the celebration of 25 years of LLW, which is happening this year.
Less can (sometimes) be more. Will we be able to step together, face this challenge, and use it to create a stronger LLW?
Last year, we allowed ourselves to dream
In mid-September, the SIAE work group for LLW met with the representatives of the LLW coordinators who agreed to participate in a special work group responsible for the celebration of the 25th anniversary of LLW, and its further development. The first step was to gather ideas based on the following concepts: visual and media campaign to promote LLW; ICT system based on the LLW website and collaboration with the LLW network; amplifying the voice of learners; key LLW events; and LLW content and its implementation.
The workshop in Brdo, led by the experienced moderator Natalija Vrhunc, was divided into two parts. In the first part, the participants formed eight groups to discuss the themes proposed in September. Each group then presented their conclusions to all participants, and after a break, we continued working in groups. In this part, the participants moved between groups and contributed to the topics they found the most relevant. This was followed by a plenary overview of all topics. Each thematic group had a specific focus, which was to approach from two perspectives: from the perspective of celebrating 25 years of LLW, and from the perspective of LLW progress in the next 5 years. In this phase, we did not concern ourselves with any limitations, especially monetary, although we were aware that we will have to face them sooner or later.
More people, more impact, more visibility
Our aim is to celebrate 25 years of LLW with as many people as possible, and include all target groups, for high impact and visibility. We want to highlight the importance of learning for the constant bettering of life quality during all the stages of life, and in all areas, using examples of good practices, and stories of successful learners and celebrities. We plan to operate on several levels, with conviction and a clear goal in mind, both in terms of images and content. One key goal is to create a stronger synergy of national and local/thematic coordinators, and to use the power of this synergy to mobilise LLW providers of events. We believe our role is to inform the public that learning can help combat some important socio-economic trends, which is why we want the LLW to encourage positive changes, and pave the way towards better future.
However, to achieve this, we will need strong support: effective promotional materials, a systematic media campaign, a multi-purpose high-quality ICT system, and more. We have all agreed that we will need to hire a professional agency to achieve a comprehensive graphic image, and manage public relations. We also recognised that this is an opportunity to find additional sources of financing (sponsors), and secure media support. The national opening ceremony of the LLW 2020 was supposed to be the largest opening event in the history of LLW. After 14 years of organising events at local level – with great results – we are returning to Ljubljana, which will also be a challenge in itself. We have considered changing the name of the project to Lifelong Learning Weeks (which reflects the actual duration of the festival which has been from 6–8 weeks in the past years), and cutting down on the duration (this year 5 weeks), while improving the quality of the events. To sum up, we came up with several small and large changes, which are waiting to be implemented in the short or long term.
On one hand, both these meetings of well-meaning, experienced, and creative people led to the decisions mentioned above and several others, which we are bound to try and implement. On the other hand, we are constrained by our reduced finances and insufficient funds for all the commitments which required large investments. The LLW team at the SIAE has a very limited capacity. Counting all our hours of work for the LLW, only a person and a half has been paid by the ministry to carry them out; in fact, we would need two-three full-timers to implement the improved project concept. Despite all this, we will do our best to prepare the guidelines for this year’s Learning festival – in collaboration with the SIAE board, the national LLW board, and both financiers – and make them public as soon as possible.
In the past 24 years, we have faced many challenges with great success. We believe that this new one will leave us even stronger.
Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc (email@example.com), SIAE