Since 1997, we have been giving the Awards for the Promotion of Adult Learning and Knowledge, outstanding achievements in ALE, the implementation of knowledge, and lifelong learning principles. Among the 218 winners there are 114 individuals, 58 groups and 46 institutions. We changed the Rules a few times. In 2019, we received only five proposals for awards, so we decided to renovate the institute of Awards.
Since then, we have discussed this twice with our closest associates, the network of LLW coordinators, and conducted a brief analysis with them. A project as broad as the LLW has real value only if it includes various stakeholders who work together to design, create and implement its elements. Thus, it may not be surprising that all this gathering of opinions has led to several contradictory proposals and strengthened our conviction that it is hard to expect unified, simple solutions with which we will all be satisfied.
This article highlights essential topics around which our reflections revolved, and it presents opinions and suggestions we mainly agree on. I add my idea of how the project should continue. I am pleased to say that the very purpose of the awards has never been disputed; the vast majority of us agree that the awards are an essential part of the LLW project and an appropriate form of promotion of learning in general and ALE.
What is good, and what can we improve?
The award categories remain the same, meaning we give awards to individuals and groups for outstanding achievements in lifelong learning and institutions, enterprises and local communities for outstanding professional or promotional achievements as well as for achievements related to the enrichment of one’s knowledge or the knowledge of others. Perhaps it should be emphasised that in all three categories, we continue to reward learners as well as teachers and other professionals working in the field of learning and education.
We also do not believe that the criteria should change significantly. They differ slightly from one category to another; however, all contain the following information: types and scope of educational or learning activities with which the candidate has enriched his knowledge, achievements in personal and professional life that came as a result of learning, obstacles that the candidate had to overcome on the path of learning, contribution to the enrichment of the knowledge of others, contribution to positive changes in the broader environment.
This concludes the list of topics we mostly agree on and of those that remain unchanged. However, the system for selecting award winners will have to be fundamentally changed. Up until now, we have issued a public invitation, collected proposals, and the commission then selected the winners. The tender documentation was quite demanding; of course, close communication with the candidates was required, as they had to agree to the candidacy and provide various documents that supported the application.
I believe it is challenging to put lifelong learners and teachers on a single scale of success, as there are no losers and winners in this field, but only those who learn and those who could learn more.
If this could be implemented, we would get a dozen new winners every year, seven more than we currently have. The general public would then vote online who they think is most interesting. In this way, one person would receive the most votes, but all of them would be the winners, and they would all be given an award at the LLW opening. This means there would be a double voting system, first professional, local, and then general, national, which would surely increase the reach of our learning and knowledge promotion campaign.
Award winners should be appropriately rewarded and presented
In the past years, we have prepared 3-4-minute video presentations of the winners, which we premiered at the LLW opening, and they were well received. From now on, we would design a brief appearance of each winner for promotion on social networks, and a more extended, 20-30 minute interview with each winner would be posted on the LLW website. Namely because when we admire someone, we do not read their CV but their biography. Another 20-25 minute video would be dedicated to creating one exciting story in which we would include all 12 winners, which would be an extra challenge.
We are also far from reaching a consensus on rewards for award winners. Some believe that public recognition in which their efforts and progress are highlighted is enough. Others believe there should be a reward fund that includes concrete rewards. I think it is best to give them an ‘educational voucher’ and thus provide them with the learning or training of their choice. To best promote knowledge and learning in their local and national environments, it makes sense to equip them with the skills they need to promote it even better. However, not everyone favours this, as some are eager for (self) promotion and active public participation while others are not. Cooperation with the winners is another topic that has been vague for some time. Some offer us regular support in all our activities, participate with us in local and national events and prepare video greetings on special occasions. However, our desires for regular meetings of winners and in-depth work in the Learners’ forum and advocacy of learning and education remain unfulfilled.
Role models attract, actions tempt
When we began giving the awards, we received 50 proposals for awards. It seems to me that this was in some other, different, more romantic time. The SIAE Awards, as I understand them, are our joint story, and I am worried that we will lose it if we do not know how to renovate it. We need to redesign this and perhaps some other unmentioned areas of awards with the closest co-workers and co-creators – coordinators of LLW and give solutions to the commission in order to continue collecting stories that are eternal as soon as possible. With them, we inspire our community to work for their own and the common good.
Darijan Novak (firstname.lastname@example.org), SIAE