Manoeuvring between Instructions and Unknowns
LLW 2020 were courageously held between 4 September, when they were opened virtually to pave the way, and 9 October. The ceremony, which celebrated the tradition of 25 years, was boldly different. In previous years, the main focus of these events was on the granting of awards to exemplary individuals, groups, companies, etc. This year, the committee decided not to select new award recipients. Instead, we agreed to concentrate on overhauling the Awards for the Promotion of Adult Learning and Knowledge. This was the first hint of just how noticeably different this year’s opening was going to be, and that other content will need to be found.
From 2006 to last year, openings were organised in collaboration with enthusiastic coordinators at the local level. They added a cultural programme, speeches and accompanying activities that tried to reflect the pulse of the respective place as best as possible. This year, the opening was supposed to be in Ljubljana. For this purpose, we came up with some ideas for a boisterous celebration of our anniversary. In the capital, educational content is not likely to garner much attention of the public and the media, which is why we were frantically looking for an approach that would make a strong impression – from parades with banners to hiring a huge venue … We started talks with a potential partner to undertake this ambitious endeavour together …
Then COVID-19 came (and stayed). We moved the LLW and the Learning Parade to Autumn and decided to actually go through with them as late as 20 August. We were still a little hesitant on the day of that network meeting, but then the coordinators who had been hard at work in making preparations and acquiring permits insisted and convinced us to go ahead. And we are not sorry.
In all, there were fewer events than in previous years, but the ones we did have were all the more instructive and endearing. We observed the recommendations and instructions and were flexible in looking for new approaches to manage the unknown. Our goal was to preserve learning and increase socialising, to strengthen and to bring joy. For this reason, we contacted Zlatko and together created an anthem to lifelong learning entitled Moč in radost (Power and Joy), which can now be heard at many LLW venues. We have a feeling that the anthem will be with us for a long time and in many places.
But let us go back to the virtual opening.
We often tried to have the highest state representatives give speeches. Although their support is important, we rarely received it. The “if it happens, it happens, but if not, that’s also fine” attitude proved useful in this case. Over the summer, we worked on the other aces up our sleeves – the 25 advocates for lifelong learning who answered questions by video about how lifelong learning affects them and what their definition of it would be. In late August, as we also received both official video addresses, all pieces of the mosaic fell into place and then some.
The opening was broadcast on the LLW website, the SIAE YouTube channel and social networks on 4 September. We dare say that the opening reached far more people than a live event ever would. Parts of it are played even now, as all of them are illuminating and inspiring. The wonderful experience of working with the President of the country and the Minister of Education has given us courage to continue our search for allies at the highest levels of public life in collaboration with LLW coordinators. At the same time, we also pay tribute to the less famous people whose messages are based on their own learning experience, which makes them invaluable.
This year, we also received a lot of support by media outlets at the national and local level. Some even said that they really could have used the LLW in May, when there was no other encouraging news. But now was also fine, they assured us. Bad stories sadly still outnumber the good ones, they said. They feel they should spread heartening news that brings unity and encouragement to people. This means that shifts are happening.
Our digital skills improved whether we wanted them to or not.
Our attitude to modern technology also experienced an encouraging push. Sometimes it is our only bridge to our loved ones, classmates, friends, colleagues … Adversity breeds courage; a positive experience feeds curiosity and makes you willing to tackle tools you might otherwise never choose to do your bidding.
Many LLW events were held in virtual environments, and many were recorded and will continue to speak to the public from these environments for a long time to come. Nearly 250 events in the joint LLW campaign Digital Transformation of Society provided learning or the expression of digital skills in order to help us navigate this world better as individuals and as a society. In the venues, however, we heard that human contact cannot be replaced. This is true, but if this time has taught us anything it is that there are many types of contact. Some are greener, cheaper, faster … than the established ones. This year’s LLW events taught us modesty, flexibility, ingenuity, perseverance in the good … and forced us to re-evaluate our values.
We appreciate this year’s LLW experience, whose uniqueness makes it a personified learning lesson. And this is exactly why it is welcome and a great start for the future.
Zvonka Pangerc Pahernik, MSc (Zvonka.firstname.lastname@example.org), SIAE