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Learning cities and literacy development: Thinking About How To Meet The Challenge

A Word from the Executive Director of the FCAF, for the 2010 edition of the journal A lire

Why are we devoting an entire issue of À lire to place-based learning communities? To explore, to question, to discover, and, most important, to address the need for all of us to think differently about this challenge, together. In the 2009 edition of À lire, I stressed the importance of making this journal a “serious vehicle for influencing opinion and for making people think”. When it comes to literacy development, the need to explore new approaches is undeniable, because what is at stake is the fundamental need to reposition adult education and traiNormand Lévesquening in a social, political, and economic world that is complex and ever-changing. We believe that learning communities based on geographic places—be they cities, village, or neighbourhoods—can be central to meeting the challenge of developing our societies sustainably. As Paul Bélanger put it in a speech at a symposium on cities, knowledge, and local development presented in April 2006 by the International Association of Francophone Mayors, “to meet this challenge, what is a city or region’s primary resource, the asset that it can generate from within and deploy to best advantage? Beyond whatever physical assets that city may possess, and indeed, in order to make the most of them, the main resource on which the city can rely is the knowledge that its people already have and the knowledge that they may acquire.” (Villes, savoir et développement local, Association internationale des maires francophones, www.aimf.asso.fr/).

To my mind, proximity and citizen participation are two factors that make place-based learning communities a promising approach to the challenges of literacy development. Two concepts that need to be examined in light of each other, because their complementarity seems readily apparent. In the same speech just cited, Paul Bélanger clearly explained that cities cannot survive unless they become knowledge cities, but that they cannot become knowledge cities unless they also become learning cities! Which means cities that rely on “citizen knowledge”, cities that mobilize, cities where, as Mr. Bélanger put it, “individuals, working through 1001 different associations and movements, together consider new ways to identify and solve problems in their workplaces, their neighbourhoods, and their homes”.

The city thus becomes a placed-based learning community, one where this “geographic place becomes the setting for development of social capital and innovation,that is, its ability to mobilize and capitalize on all of that place’s assets: its human capital, its relationships, its heritage, its organizations, its businesses, its government agencies, its networks, and so on, all in the interest of inclusive, sustainable development”.

This edition of À lire was assembled by our guest editor, Ron Faris, an expert on lifelong-learning communities, and his team. As you will discover in these pages, every place-based learning community has unique, diverse characteristics, which is why it is so important for us to learn together in our community. As you will also see, we are maintaining our firm commitment to change things! Building a place-based learning community, for the purpose of literacy development is no small challenge. The question now is how do we meet it.

When the FCAF offered Ron Faris the challenge of producing an entire issue devoted to this question, he quickly picked up the ball and ran with it. He has been an open, generous, and effective guest editor, and I hope that you will enjoy this issue of À lire that he has produced.Page précédente