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International workshop, Brussels, 2-3 March 2012

H. Janne meeting room, 15th floor of the Sociology Institute of the Free University of Brussels (ULB), Solbosch Campus, Avenue Jeanne 44, 1050 Brussels.


We are living in times of change in the life-support system of our planet and in our societies. Within the lifetime of today's young people we need to accommodate up to an estimated 9 billion fellow-humans, compared to our current population of an estimated seven billion citizens, predominantly living in urban areas. We need to ask ourselves what type of education, knowledge and skills young people need to live peacefully and sustainably with one another.

This also begs the question how we may all want to revisit the way we live, exercise our respective professions and relate to nature, the seas, and to our global neighbours of all ages, beliefs, races and gender. The sciences produced assessments of the state of our ecosystems, the climate and the oceans, which are extremely worrying. They also give us a better handle on how we might cope drawing on the knowledge that is already available in the public domain, even create new opportunities for lifting more people out of poverty and live dignified lives.

But clearly, our ability to make our societies more equitable and able to cope through harnessing collective intelligence and capacity to act, does not only depend on scientific or technical knowledge.

It critically depends on interpreting and using such knowledge in a humanistic framework. It depends on honing social responsibilities and cooperative skills, which have been neglected in some of the 'Western' societies in recent decades. Rethinking education and sustainable living will also have to lead to the emergence of governance frameworks to enable much required cooperation from local to global levels, well beyond the practice within the UN system.

Against this backdrop, and taking into account research and exploratory practice in several scientific fields, in the arts and in education, the objective of the workshop is to reflect and co-create new insights about the need of accompanying young people into sustainable forms of shaping their adult lives. It is about how to enable alternative practices inside and outside formal educational situations. Such practices need to be based on robust pedagogical concepts centred on the whole person in the context of the local community and social group, yet also conscious of interdependence of other local and global developments.

This is to enable young people to meet their global peers on our crowded planet and to learn how to cooperate for better futures. The joint reflection adds to on-going efforts under the UNESCO Decade for Reorienting Teacher Education to Address Sustainability and other efforts.

To this effect, the workshop will bring together experienced professionals and practitioners with diverse backgrounds in education, the sciences and the arts to cross-fertilise their knowledge and experience.

It is also expected that some action lines will emerge from the conversations and cross-wiring that offer participants the opportunity to follow-up on the results. This could entail cooperation on specific projects after the workshop, some of which may be already ongoing by Mundus maris and/or driven by participants. We also offer the possibility to establish a community of practice for continued joint learning through the practice of participatory methods of teaching and living to help sustainable living to emerge.

The workshop will be convened using participatory working methods and thus not be built primarily around presentation of research papers and a formal setting, though impulse presentations of selected speakers can have their place. The main thrust is focused on enabling a real conversation between participants around these issues allowing them to weave their combined expertise and experience into a better shared understanding.

Participants are invited to prepare by bringing case material from their own experience about good practices in teaching and practicing acquisition and sharing of knowledge and social skills along the lines which may be useful or necessary in the future.

The workshop is organised by Mundus maris asbl in collaboration with SEDIF asbl in the context of the 2012 edition of Campus Plein Sud at the Free University of Brussels (ULB), coordinated by SEDIF / ULB.

You can find some background reflections about underlying approaches in aesthetic formation as developed in the context of the Mare Nostrum Project, particularly by Carla Zickfeld. Further material can be found in the presentations at the Mundus maris panel about rethinking (sustainable) development at the EADI conference in York, September 2011, titled 'Rethinking Development in an Age of Scarcity and Uncertainty'.

Interested in participation? Click here for the prospectus. Do you have questions? Want to contribute but can not participate yourself? Contact Julia Malaise at SEDIF.

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What an experience!

Welcome to the workshop 'Learning, teaching and practising - together - sustainable development'!

As from the welcome coffee, participants engaged in getting to know each other, exchange of experience and in intense conversation.

What do young people need to know? What do they need to be able to do? What should they value enough to act upon when they graduate into adult life? What can we do together to be fit for the transitions and huge challenges of our societies?

Considering that we have to feed and house 9 billion people by 2050, produce four times more energy while decarbonising our economies?

Revert the impoverishment of the oceans, which lost more than 90% of their big species in the last century in the North Atlantic alone.

Cornelia E Nauen and Annamari Erdei of the hosting team opened the session (photo Piotr Robouch)

The workshop thus started with these challenging questions and a warm welcome to the participants.

The hosting team was composed of Annamari Erdei, Piotr Robouch and Cornelia E Nauen, doing their best to create a welcoming atmosphere in the premises at the Sociology Department of the Free University of Brussels.

In the open circle each participant gave a brief self-presentation and explained what had attracted him or her to attend.








Discovering the diversity in the room, with participants from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America and very diverse background, the appetite was wetted to discover similarities and differences of mind.


Next came a cycle of appreciative enquiry. Participants were invited to sit together in groups of three to tell each other a story about a good experience of learning, teaching and practising sustainable development.

Each one was rotating from one role to the other, story teller, keeper of the record and 'journalist' asking clarifying questions to tease out why the story was considered a success and what had been contributing factors to the success.

Volunteers then narrated their individual stories back to the plenary or already condensed some factors across stories they had traded at their table.






Participants wrote down key concepts onto cards and then arranged them in a structure that allowed to visualise the principal ingredients of success.

This harvesting of the concepts was done in a collaborative manner by clustering similar cards and developing links between concepts so as to develop the major success factors identified out of the combination of all appreciative enquiries.

The day went on after lunch with an open space, where those wishing to get support from others to discuss their project came forward on the open market space.






Four project ideas were put forward and four groups formed to discuss them in three cycles in a pro-action cafe format asking questions - what is the project about? - what's missing? - what needs to be done next to make it happen?

The host developing the project idea remained at the table, while other participants rotated from one group to the next with each round of questions. This way, most participants got a sense of all projects and could contribute their ideas and perspectives, while learning by intensely listening to the others as well.

The wealth and diversity of past experiences shared in this format among the participants opened new insights and a strong sense of togetherness and trust. The enquiry into these and other project opportunities went on the following day and joint activities are on now envisaged among several participants.


Among the project proposals discussed in some detail were how to set up a resources centre for youth in the Niger Delta, how to get schools to work together across border to equip young people better for the challenges ahead and how to ensure that grass roots initiatives are sufficiently aware of the wider political and socio-economic context.

As someone was putting it, you are either at the table or on the menu. That sounds like an easy choice, even if it's not always easy to do.

A few snapshots taken by Piotr Robouch of the hosting team convey the intense and hopeful atmosphere of the workshop.

We acknowledge with many thanks the financial support for air travel of African participants by the Association Couleur Café,  Dietlind Jering and members of Mundus maris. Catering for participants was gracefully contributed by SEDIF.

We are also happy to acknowledge much in-kind support through accommodating at home of participants from outside Brussels and hosting of the workshop. Those making particularly substantial contributions are Nafi, Dietlind Jering, Annette Schneegans, Annamari Erdei and Piotr Robouch. Many thanks as well to numerous friends of Mundus maris who helped in many other ways to make the workshop a success.