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Think Big, Teach Local

It’s an exciting moment in the Area Based Curriculum project in Peterborough. We’re at the point where we try to move away from bothering busy people with important jobs, asking them to do things they wouldn’t normally do, and towards a role supporting people moving ahead with their own projects. Where the RSA stops being ‘doer’ and begins to act in the role of ‘supporter’. Communities and schools work together to design a curriculum. We don’t do it for them. We don’t determine who gets involved, or what goes in the curriculum. That’s the whole point.

The point of an Area Based Curriculum is that communities and schools work together to design a curriculum. We don’t do it for them. We don’t determine who gets involved, or what goes in the curriculum. That’s the whole point. Eleven years of working with schools on Opening Minds has convinced the RSA of the power of a curriculum that is conceived, designed and implemented by teachers in a school. The Area Based Curriculum goes one step further: reaching out beyond the school gates and asking the people in a local area to pitch in and work with teachers, bringing their ideas, resources and expertise.

The problem is, of course, that in order for the work to be worthwhile we of course do have a view on what should go in the curriculum, and who should be involved. We insist that the curriculum reflect the diversity of a local area, and seek to engage those not normally involved in education. We ask that the projects take proper account of the national entitlement of all children to a certain set of shared knowledge, at the same time as reflecting local knowledges and priorities. Our reasons for doing the work in the first place are based on principles – educational and ethical and political. For it to be worth doing we must care about the outcomes, and take responsibility for ensuring that our intervention is not a hollow one that reinforces existing power structures and exclusions, fails to secure different outcomes to what existed before, or worse.

Our project in Peterborough is at the point where we do what we said we went there to do, and try to provoke a genuinely community owned and led curriculum. We have to hope that we have got the balance right: between providing enough steer to the work so that we achieve and can measure what we set out to do, and stepping aside at the right time to allow the teachers and community partners in Peterborough to develop and own their own projects.

The Big Society must intend to achieve better outcomes for society, and someone has to define what those are – otherwise why bother?

This tension between the stated aims of a given intervention and local ownership, of course, is present in all work by agencies seeking to enable people to do things for themselves. This includes central government espousing ideas like the Big Society. At the beginning the intervention, or policy, or suggestion for change is just that – ‘centralised’, ‘top down’, ‘external’. The Big Society must intend to achieve better outcomes for society, and someone has to define what those are – otherwise why bother? At the same time the enactment of the Big Society needs to be internalised and owned by communities, professionals and individuals. What are the mechanisms for making this happen? How do we establish a shared sense of what we are trying to achieve? And how far does or should the original intervener (in this case the Coalition Government) retain responsibility for the outcomes?

The Area Based Curriculum is, ultimately, about culture change. It’s about subtle but crucial shifts in perceptions of ownership, responsibility and expectation. So too is the Big Society. We will soon find out whether our assumptions about how to effect change in a way that empowers have been correct, and we will learn a lot on the way. Sharing this learning with others doing similar work will be crucial to informing the success of the Big Society.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

John Kay – A good economist knows the true value of the arts

Activities that are good in themselves are good for the economy, and activities that are bad in themselves are bad for the economy. The only intelligible meaning of “benefit to the economy” is the contribution – direct or indirect – the activity makes to the welfare of ordinary citizens.

Many people underestimate the contribution disease makes to the economy. In Britain, more than a million people are employed to diagnose and treat disease and care for the ill. Thousands of people build hospitals and surgeries, and many small and medium-size enterprises manufacture hospital supplies. Illness contributes about 10 per cent of the UK’s economy: the government does not do enough to promote disease.

Such reasoning is identical to that of studies sitting on my desk that purport to measure the economic contribution of sport, tourism and the arts. These studies point to the number of jobs created, and the ancillary activities needed to make the activities possible. They add up the incomes that result. Reporting the total with pride, the sponsors hope to persuade us not just that sport, tourism and the arts make life better, but that they contribute to something called “the economy”.

READ ON //>  John Kay – A good economist knows the true value of the arts.

Creating Sustainable Theatres: Part 1

This excerpt from Curtis Kasefang follows up on Bob Usdin’s August 2008 “How Green is Green?” Piece for LIve Design. Remember, November 2009 is Green Day at LDI.

In general, many speak of sustainability as having three overlapping components: economic, social, and environmental. Theatres, by definition, score high on the social sustainability scale as places where cultures can mix, and they exist to communicate ideas, broaden our points of view, educate, and entertain. When looked at with a wider lens, theatres also play a role in the economic sustainability of the urban environment. The impact that performance facilities have on communities by fueling jobs in the hospitality, food service, and retail industries, as well as their supply chains, is well documented. Theatre Communications Group, among others, has published studies on theatres’ economic impact on the larger community. Environmental sustainability can further economic sustainability in the operation of a theatre. If we use resources more efficiently, we save money. Environmental sustainability is usually what we are speaking of when we talk about “being green.”

via Creating Sustainable Theatres: Part 1.

Vestas: what is the protest about?

This morning I was handed a flier by a nice man standing outside Brighton station: “Vestas Workers fight to defend their jobs and the environment.” Featured on it, that photo of the two workers clenching fists above the banner that reads, “Forced to occupy to save our jobs.” An old blogging colleague of mine Justin aka Chicken Yoghurt was at the Isle of Wight yesterday and took the photo above.

Three points to make:

One. This is a pivotal protest that’s not going to go away in a hurry. It’s about the gap in what the government say they’re going to do – Ed Miliband’s fine white paper and the 2008 Climate Bill – and the absence of any real infrastructure to achieve those carbon goals. It’s about how the most substantial part of Gordon Brown’s “green recovery” plan has been the looking-glass scheme to scrap cars before they need to be scrapped. Vestas is closing because of “lack of demand”. It is absurd that, at this late stage, there is lack of demand. To blame that lack of demand on Conservative councils turning down planning applications for wind turbines as Ed Miliband does in his response to LabourList’s Alex Smith is the “dog ate my homework excuse” – a silly attempt to turn this into a divisive party political issue.

Two. This protest has to watch out it doesn’t unfold  to a dangerous script. The lockout has quickly turned it into a workers versus employers dispute, in the mould of Grunwick and Wapping.  Not only do those disputes traditionally end very badly, but this script kind of misses the point.  However poorly the employers may have acted towards the workers, and their contradictory statements that they’re closing for “lack of demand” and that the factory makes “the wrong type of blade” for Britain indicates a certain slipperiness, they too are victims of the government’s failure to support demand for renewables. This should be about how the goverment needs to pull its finger out.

Three. Last year’s meeting between the National Union of Miners and Climate Camp protestors showed how far adrift most eco-protestors were from workplace politics and how little they understood the more old-school union levers of power. This is a chance to learn how to build bridges instead of burning them.

Go to RSA Arts & Ecology

Job Openings with the Arts:Earth Partnership

Arts / Environmental Program Administrator

Electric Lodge Visual and Performing Arts Center, Venice, CA.

Salary: $25 per hour / 10 hours per week. (flexible schedule)

Do you love the Arts and the Environment? If so, this job may be for you…

The principal responsibility of this part-time position is to administrate a new ‘green standards’ program called Arts:Earth Partnership for cultural facilities, art galleries, performing arts companies and individual artists.

The successful candidate will serve as the main contact for both the general public and for AEP members who might have a question about the program as well as keeping the website up to date, managing the Materials & Exchange Bulletin Board and keeping track of the facility auditing process and needs.

This is a growth position as hours and responsibility will grow as the program expands.

Requires: High school graduation or the equivalent.  A passion for the environment. Two years of recent, paid progressively responsible work experience in cultural programming, environmental programming or facilities operations. A degree in the arts, cultural programming, environmental sciences or a closely related field is highly desirable. Ability to handle most office software and manage websites a big plus. Good customer service skills and phone manners a must.

Application deadline5:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7th, 2008.

Please send resume and cover letter expressing interest to:

livearts@electriclodge.org or mail to:

Electric Lodge c/o AEP
1416 Electric Avenue
Venice, CA. 90291

 

Arts & Cultural Facility “Green Standards” Auditor

Electric Lodge Visual and Performing Arts Center, Venice, CA.

Salary: $80 per site visit  (1-3 hours per visit) (flexible schedule)

Do you love the Arts and the Environment? If so, this job may be for you…

The principal responsibility of this ‘As-Needed’ position is to audit cultural facilities, art galleries, dance studios, individual artist studios and offices to advise them on how they can gain compliance with Arts:Earth Partnership requirements necessary to become a member.

The successful candidate will be trained on Arts:Earth Partnership guidelines and sustainable practices and audit facilities that wish to join the Arts:Earth Partnership. Auditors will have an initial site visit at which they assess the facility and provide a to-do list for membership. Once the facility is in compliance the auditor returns to validate and hand them their AEP materials or advise them on what they still need to do.

Requires: High school graduation or the equivalent. A passion for the environment. We are looking for regional auditors who use hybrid or alternative fueled vehicles or prefer to use alternative transportation to and from facilities such as bus, bike or foot. Experience in environmental sciences or the eco-auditing of facilities or a related field is preferred but not required. Good customer service skills and professional appearance a must.

Application deadline5:30 p.m., Friday, Nov. 7th, 2008.

Please send resume and cover letter expressing interest to:

livearts@electriclodge.org or mail to:

Electric Lodge c/o AEP
1416 Electric Avenue
Venice, CA. 90291