PENR3L - A European Commission Project to establish an expertise network on Learning Regions

Target Sector(s): 

Initially, the European Policy Document which resulted from the TELS (Towards a European Learning Society)project recommended that the European Commission should instal a programme for Learning City/Region development as a means of pushing forward its lifelong learning agenda. Thus , the Commission's R3L Programme, which funded 17 European projects Including INDICATORS), set out with the aim of
a) linking European regions within a learning region development network that would implement learning region principles throughout the continent and
b) upgrading the visibility of the learning region concept as a driver of European Lifelong Learning.

Its success in both of these was limited. While Learning Regions remained a key concept for implementing lifelong learning there was insufficient understanding at national and local level of the meaning of a Learning Region, and a realisation that the task was much larger than a single programme could achieve. The first fell foul of the lack of understanding and the second suffered from a difference in interpretation among European member states.

The Commission therefore approached the University of Stirling, then a leader in the field, to create, from different member states, a sustainable consortium of experts who would lead Learning Region thinking and action. This became PENR3L project - the PASCAL European Network of Lifelong Learning Regions.

The subject of PENR3L satisfies the present need, identified by DG EaC, to create a growing network of European expertise centres that can focus on creating new resources and spread both the message of the learning region and action for its implementation. The partners, having worked together in both INDICATORS and LILARA, and having the expertise of the project leader of TELS, LILLIPUT and PALLACE within the project, and being members of the PASCAL world-wide network, are perhaps uniquely qualified, and willing, to expand the Commission’s work in this important field. The overall objective of PENR3L was to develop a dynamic and growing working network of expertise centres and forward-looking local and regional authorities that work together to proliferate the growth throughout Europe of learning cities and regions, ready to meet the challenges of the 21st century. It initiated the network by: • organising 2 lively seminar/workshops for local and regional authorities – one for East, Central and Northern Europe and the other for Western and Southern Europe. They were for existing and prospective expertise centres, with some participation by Chief Executives from cities and regions that have activated learning region strategies. They discussed the state of the art in learning city and region development, and demonstrated existing tools and learning materials that help in their construction. Their main aim was to develop an infrastructure for a network that can accelerate the process of learning city and region development in Europe • organising for all European cities and expertise centres a major conference that brings together the results of these seminar/workshops for a wider audience, and opens up the network to a larger membership with links to European and world-wide expertise. This too focused on best practise and, through guided mixed sessions, on practical synergies between the two types of participant.
The seminar/workshops and the conference were developed to engage the learner and inject a sense of pleasure into the learning process. This means that they encouraged the use of inclusive ideas such as brainstorming, role-playing, small and large group discussion and the use of the talents, experience, ideas, creativity and knowledge of the learners to add to the collective effort of building strategies for developing a lifelong learning region. Documents were distributed before the workshops to outline the topics that would predominate. These were divided into three themes, each with a number of subthemes and questions to be asked. The themes were a) the economic aspexcts of learning city/region development b) the social aspects of learning city/region development c) Networking, intelligence, knowledge, Integration. Putting it all together these represented such a vast range of sub-themes and topics that there is no room to detail them here. They are therefore to be found in the attached file.
There are many outcomes from this project as follows 1. 2 workshops in Barcelona and Kaunas for practitioners and academics from more than 30 European countries. In association with these are a) the preparatory documents containing the issues to be discussed, divided into 3 themes each with seven sub-themes and the major questions that need to be addressed in the workshops.(shown in the attached file 'themes and subthemes' b) support exercises and learning materials related to each of the 21 sub-themes to raise the knowledge of each participant before the start of the workshop c) the pre-workshop guidelines for group leaders and rapporteurs (shown in the attached file) d) workshop programmes and individual group lists for each attendee e) Texts and powerpoint slides of the opening presentations and keynotes (opening keynote attached f) reports on the results of the workshops and the active solutions sessions within them (attached) g) lists of attendees 2. A major European conference in Limerick. Associated with this are a) Programme and guidelines for attendees b) A paper on the PENR3L project (attached) c) Powerpoint presentations and texts and some of the 50 papers written for the conference d) Feedback and reports from the sessions and the conference e) a list of attendees f) A book 'Perspectives on Learning Cities and Regions' published by NIACE and described in publications 3. The PASCAL European Network of Lifelong Learning regions - a sustainable international network of people capable of pushing forward the learning cities/regions agenda, each one with their own local network of contacts, and linked to the PENR3L centre, which in its turn is linked to the global PASCAL Observatory Network on the same topics. 4. The Limerick Declaration. A succinct charter outlining the importance of learning cities and regions for the future of local and regional governance and the actions to be taken to get there. (shown separately under Limerick Declaration) This is accompanied by an addendum on the role of universities in helping with this process 5. Publicity materials on the subject of PENR3L and learning cities and regions 6. A website containing the presentations, materials and background information. Now available to everyone. The CONCLUSIONS reached by the project are many a) Knowledge and understanding of the learning cities/regions concept in local and regional authorities is very low. Vast differences exist between countries and regions in Europe. There is a marked North-South and East-West divide in which some cities and regions in Northern and Western Europe are implementing the ideas but most in South and East Europe are unaware that they exist. b) There is a huge role for the universities in the development of learning cities and regions (as there is for other stakeholders in schools, business and industry, adult education, community organisations, cultural services etc) For universities however this role is enshrined in the Bologna Declaration as their third mission and very few are implementing it. Those countries and universities with little previous knowledge became very enthusiastic about the concept. d) There is a need for internet delivered materials of the sort available from the Socrates LILLIPUT project and those available from e) The cultural differences demand different approaches which have yet to be worked out. This will be one of the missions of the new PENR3L network. f) The PENR3L project unearthed a huge demand for more understanding of the learning city/region in some countries and a need for more awareness and publicity in others before action can even start. The major outcome of the project is that will set the wheels in motion in places that were previously inactive and has provided a network to spread the message further afield, but a huge effort will be needed to transform Europe into a learning continent as envisaged in the Lisbon and other agendas.
themesandsubthemes.pdf23.83 KB
qandA.pdf41.02 KB
supportdocs.pdf241.17 KB
kaunaspenr3lfinal.ppt9.45 MB