My last post to this blog was made eighteen months ago and since then politics and the personal have intervened, one the one hand illness and on the other, the working out of non-participative politics across the world with its consequences, not least in the Middle East, U.K., Europe, United States, India and elsewhere. I will go into specifics in later posts about these examples and others will be added.

In the short-term, I want to explore the impact of the current political climates, based hierarchy and didactic processes, on the workings of educational institutions and the models of learning practised in those institutions. As in the past, we see educational institutions at the level of systems, individual providers and in the activities of learners and practitioners.

What is apparent across the world has been the closing down of architectures of participation for learning and their replacement with centralised organisational practices and instructional approaches to teaching and learning. This post is advance notice of what will be explored in the coming months and how we hope to look at our shared interests in learning and new developments in heutagogy, linking our reflections and explorations of learning and educational systems in this age of austerity.

As always, we welcome comment and discussion.


In this post I am updating the work we did in Learning in the Age of Anger  and would like to offer four links that will be brought together in this post in preparation for World Heutagogy Day (#wHday17) on 26th September 2017.

1. World Heutagogy Day

2.The Author’s introduction to “The Age of Anger”

3. introduction  to Futurability: the Age of Impotence and the horizon of possibility

4. Learning in the Age of Anger, blog from Fred Garnett and Nigel Ecclesfield

This post is being written to encourage readers of this blog to participate in World Heutagogy Day on 26th September as we continue to believe that learning is central to the development of a social Architecture of Participation. Not through the types of learning or education systems being championed in England, the USA or Australia, nor through learning that promotes authoritarian models of teaching and immutable truths of a religious or political nature.
Two recent studies about our world draw attention to the issues faced by the vast majority of the world’s peoples. These are Continue Reading »

Taking Graeber’s analysis from “The Utopia of Rules” to heart, I think he is right to emphasise that despite the rhetoric of reducing administration through a freeing of resources by the privatisation of administrative and bureaucratic processes and outsourcing those services, what happens, in reality, is that we are all further embroiled in filling forms and that much of activity generated by the Internet and the use of Open Source software is focused on forms, administration and data handling. “Meanwhile, in the few areas in which free, imaginative creativity actually is fostered, such as in open source Internet software development, it is ultimately marshalled in order to create even more, and even more effective, platforms for the filling out of forms. This is what I mean by “bureaucratic technologies”: administrative imperatives have become not the means, but the end of technological development.” (Graeber 2015 p142) Following on from my previous post, it seems to me that Lea, and Moore, to a lesser extent premised their view of public sector work and “public value” on the idea of public sector employees being at the heart of policy formation and influencing the direction of policy through their embeddedness in those services and their regular contact with service users and local politicians. Continue Reading »

The End of Mark Moore’s Public Value?

Reading previous posts on this blog, it will be obvious that a great deal of time has been spent responding the concept of “Public Value”, developed by Moore (1995) and subsequently in different directions, both within Moore’s work e.g. Benington and Moore 2011 and Moore 2013 and by others including Meynhardt and Bozeman, reflecting an interest in the term in Germany and Europe. In the UK, from its high point in the mid 2000’s e.g. its use by the BBC in 2004 and the setting up of the Institute for Public Service Value by Accenture in 2006, the concept has been seen less regularly in public discourse where it was not used by the political parties in the recent General Election in the UK, for example. This disappearance from public discourse seems to follow the sidelining of the discussions, initiated by Moore, which focused on the purpose and values of public services and the pivotal role of senior staff in those services in defining those purposes. Continue Reading »

“Notwithstanding the increasing global interconnectivity of human existence, life is lived – culturally, politically and socially – at precise points of interconnection. Globalisation is experienced not as an airy abstraction, but as a located reality.” Nixon J “Foreward”  in (Gornall et al 2014 pxiii).

The book from which this quote was taken looked at the experience of work in Welsh further and higher education in the period 2000 – 2010 and noted that while much attention is given to the “visible aspects of academic performance – teaching hours, exam scripts marked, candidates credentialised, funds secured, research as published units – surprisingly little attention is given to the manner and methods by which academics actually do their work.” (Gornall et al 2014 p1) (continue reading tag here?)

What Gornall and her collaborators identified was that much working practice in colleges and universities descried by them as “how I work” (ibid p1) has been hidden because it was seen as unimportant. In our terms the how I work is defined by a constrained set of performance outcomes/performance indicators which mean that the individual teacher’s work (although we would prefer to use the term “practitioner” to capture the wider sense of what individuals do both inside and outside of classrooms, workshops and lecture theatres) in terms of their activity and the duration of that work has been unobserved as much of this activity is carried out in private both at work and at home. “From what I can see a lot of work appears to be carried out, and very methodically, especially … in the mornings and in the evening. These are before and after the main ‘office’ (campus) day.” Partner of a practitioner (ibid p2)

Continue Reading »

Digital Hubs supporting Participation

This book chapter, written by Fred Garnett & Nigel Ecclesfield, discusses the question of what needs to be addressed in “the major infrastructural, cultural and organisational issues if integrated formal and informal eLearning environments are going to affect any change in the institutional regime,” which came from the chapter brief.
It argues that two conceptual models that we developed can help address these issues;

Firstly a social media participation model, Aggregate then Curate, that was developed on a JISC-funded project, MOSI-ALONG, which itself was designed using an integrated model of formal and informal learning called the Emergent Learning Model.

Secondly a “development framework” for institutional flexibility called an ‘organisational Architecture of Participation’, which was co-created with 15 UK Further Education colleges to better enable e-learning within educational institutions.

Recommendations are made concerning how to address the various infrastructural, cultural and organisational issues that emerged during MOSI-ALONG, as we worked with local partners to better enable adult eLearning. These also includes looking at broader proposals concerning the need for individual adult learning institutions to have ongoing support from collaborative hubs if they are to evolve a community-responsive institutional life-cycle appropriate for adult learning.

The full book chapter is available as a PDF by clicking on this link http://www.slideshare.net/fredgarnett/towards-an-adult-learning-architecture-of-participation

Policy 2.0

Policy 2.0 An Overview

Nigel and I started developing some digital approaches to policy development whilst working in the UK Government for Becta, then the  government’s e-learning agency. This is a short overview of those developments with links to related online resources

lastfridaymob; In 2001 & 2002 a large Advisory Group of 168 Civil Society organisations were involved in a UK govt project to “solve the digital divide” called “Cybrarian.” We came up with a prototype “social network,” but the term didn’t exist then. We were aware of the need for a high-concept description of what we had come up with, however we called it an “Amazon for e-gov” when our client (the UK govt) understood neither Amazon nor e-gov. When our proto-Facebook was rejected (they decided on commissioning a search engine instead – yeah I know) a bunch of us from the technical committee formed lastfridaymob as a silent protest. We were smart enough to realise that the problem was that government didnt understand how to evaluate new Web2.0 technology projects, so we thought we would help by coming up with the criteria for them.  We came up with 7 key points, but simplified it to 1; “Encourage innovative, creative and participative uses of ICT within government initiatives.”

An Information Architecture for Civil Society; One of the more laughable (OK, hilarious) aspects of the “Cybrarian” project was when we handed the project management over to a highly-paid management consultancy. It was quite clear they had no idea of nascent Web2.0 tech projects, so I wrote a piece called An Information Architecture for Civil Society in 2003 to explain how a national civil society tech project needed to be designed. I was concerned that business corporations design social infrastructure using what they understand about business systems architecture. Civil Society, the social DNS of cultures, operates differently, and we need to understand the social information architecture that enables social discourse. (We are currently a facing the same real problem with smart cities).

Learner-generated Contexts Research Group; however our plan to explain to government how to deal with the post-Web 2.0 technology back in 2004/05 foundered so we decided to re-configure as a research group interested in post-Web2.0 models of learning. We accepted that social media, Web2.0 and user-generated content was a given (as would an interactive, creative and participative education system) so we thought of developing criteria, descriptors and pedagogies that allowed for all that. We decided that the way to describe post-Web 2.0 learning was that it would entail Learner-generated contexts (shaped with learner-generated content) where “coincidences of motivations” led to “agile configurations” of learning systems. We held some public events, developing the Open Context Model of Learning. At our event on learning spaces Nigel & I were asked to develop an interactive policy forest so we could identify the policy elements that would enable the social construction of learner-generated contexts.

Policy2.0; Nigel Ecclesfield and Fred Garnett also spent 18 months working with Continue Reading »

Before & After Institutions

How we might develop Education Institution 2.0

Before and After Institutions is a Slideshare which summarises, in general terms, what we have learnt about developing organisational Architectures of Participation; how institutions might become more adaptive to facilitate digitally-driven behaviours. Slides tend to be pointed rather than discursive so this blog post will elaborate on some of the key issues that slides don’t make particularly clear.

Background Nigel Ecclesfield and Fred Garnett started looking at the issue of e-maturity at Becta in 2005 when a key issue of national UK policy concerning e-learning was noticed. It was thought that existing institutions were not e-learning ready and we were tasked to find a solution concerning their overall e-maturity, or e-readiness for e-learning. On a personal note it was working together on this project for over a year that cemented our enduring friendship.

Assumptions Nigel and I each have over 15 years of experience working with e-learning and embedding it within organisations Continue Reading »

9 Key Findings in the Executive Summary

In February 2013 the final report of the public inquiry into the management and poor practices within the Mid-Staffordshire Health Trust was published; consisting of an Executive Summary and three volumes of more than 1000 pages. The reason for the size of this report was the intense public and political interest into the way in which the operations of a public body, the healthcare trust, had failed to promote patient care and had seemed to create a climate where abuse and neglect of patients, particularly the elderly, was commonplace under a management that was more focused on financial performance and the status of the organisation than supporting and sustaining a culture of professional care. The background to the setting up of the inquiry can be found here on WikiPedia  and there is a huge range of commentary and resources which can be found by using the search terms “Francis Report” and “Mid Staffordshire Health Authority Inquiry”. One year on from the publication of the report there is much literature on what has changed as a result of the inquiry and now seems a good time to review the main findings and the recommendations of the committee of inquiry from the perspectives being developed in this blog. After this overview the next post will look at “progress” one year on from the publication of the report and how this exemplifies the issues discussed below.

The key to the Francis report was the disconnect between a managerial focus on finance and organisational status and the public expectation of professional and ethical care for all patients. This latter was overlooked, and sometimes suppressed, in an environment focused on organisational efficiency in order to achieve “Foundation Trust” status. Both the nature of this status and the Mid-Staffordshire Trust’s concern to gain this status are well described in the report, and the key issues clearly elucidated in the Executive Summary.

Francis’ 9 key concerns with the running of the Mid-Staffordshire Health Trust are summarised below. Continue Reading »

Readers of this blog will know that I have discussed an outline of the alternatives to conceptions of “public value” developed by and from the work of Mark Moore in the US and the promotion of this work in the book “Public Value: theory and practice” edited by Moore and Benington (2011). My key criticism of this approach remains that the “public value” defined by Moore and others is not “public” in the sense that publics are engaged in deliberating and defining public values and that there is an underlying acceptance that those engaged in government and public services as senior managers are best placed to form and articulate these debates and, ultimately, determine what “value” is placed on public services. Another strand of this argument could be characterised as “you can have too much democracy!” where political thinkers are putting forward ideas that support restrictions on democratic processes and criticising their application in given circumstances e.g. Berggruen and Gardels (2012), who argue that intelligent governance should replace liberal democracy as it faces crises in terms of funding and legitimacy. Similar perspectives are put forward in Michael Lewis’s “Boomerang: travels in the new third world” (2011)

As I have noted before, this approach is driven by ideas from neo-conservative economic theories and their focus on markets and financial values and “market forces”. This influence is carefully explored in Ben Fine’s work in critiquing the term “social capital” and his key arguments apply here. Continue Reading »