Finding Your Dancing Hips: 500+ Reasons to be Cheerful at All Our Futures, Rio De Janeiro, October 2013

All Our Futures, Rio is our next international conference for educators set in this iconic Brazilian city. This week involves visits to schools, educational and cultural partners – and some potentially awesome guests – who will be contributing to the event in October.

Reasons 1 – 4: Finding Your Dancing Hips

I started the week in the spirit which I hope will encapsulate the whole programme – a visit to the Rio Scenarium, a four floor emporium of bars, classic antiques, music and dancing opportunities for anyone and everyone. Couples of all ages swung, grooved, shook their stuff and mamba-ed and samba-ed and bossa-ed the night away. Its an old cliché to say that Brazilians have rhythm coursing their veins, but tonight saw hundreds of night-outers dance their way along the streets, in and out of the bars and along to the early morning. So if you can make it to our October conference – remember to bring your dancing hips. (I left mine at home, sorry to say – but that’s white English men of a certain age for you.)

Ana Chapman Fromm, our travel partner from VIE Educational Travel is spending the week introducing us to colleagues, family and friends who will no doubt make a great contribution to the programme. More reasons to follow!

More here too: http://www.aspirecreativeenterprises.com/ACE/aof_rio.html

More on our travel partners here: http://www.govie.co.uk/events/

Calling teachers interested in educational and cultural exchange in Brazil

Over the last two years, Aspire has organised international conferences for Principals and Head teachers from Bulgaria, India, Nigeria and the UAE to visit UK schools. We have also produced student exchange programmes for students from Nigeria, Serbia and Macedonia.

These events have been very powerful in establishing links between UK and overseas schools, developing educational exchanges, facilitating visits between partner schools and offering unique insights into our mutual educational cultures.

This year we are planning a similar conference in Brazil in conjunction with schools and universities there. To set up those programmes, I have been invited to visit schools in Rio de Janeiro between 20 and 28 May to participate in a trade and culture mission with schools, the University, teachers and other colleagues. More information is available at http://www.aspirecreativeenterprises.com/ACE/aof_rio.html

If you would like your school to benefit from my visit – e.g. by making links with schools, connections with head teachers and pupils, curriculum developments, CPD opportunities or other possibilities – then please get in touch to discuss how I could facilitate connections and exchanges between those schools and your own. I can be contacted at nick@aspire-trust.org.

All Our Futures: International Educational Study Visit to Liverpool in partnership with the British Council Bulgaria and Aspire-India

All Our Futures is Aspire’s annual conference for international head teachers took place in Liverpool between 11 and 14 June 2013. The event aimed to introduce pedagogical practices which are being applied at various levels in English schools by providing participants with exclusive, intense immersive experiences in schools and do generate unique, high quality insights into teaching and learning.

All Our Futures was produced in partnership with both the British Council, Bulgaria and our sister company, Aspire-India based in Bhubaneswar, Orisha: and so have welcomed Head teachers from the Indian subcontinent and introduced them to our schools in Liverpool, Wirral and Knowsley.

Further details of our programme in March with Bulgarian Head teachers and the British Council, Bulgaria are here:

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.10151543038237812.1073741827.657337811&type=1

More on the June conference as it happened here:

https://www.facebook.com/nick.owen.3781/media_set?set=a.10151732950132028.1073741829.686222027&type=3

and here:

Does your school need an international cultural attache? Here’s how…

Could your school benefit from international links with teachers, pupils and families? Are you interested in exploring some unique professional development opportunities with teachers and other educators on the other side of the world?

Over the last two years, the Aspire Trust has organised international conferences for Principals and Head teachers from India, Nigeria and the UAE to visit UK schools. We ran the All Our Futures conference in Liverpool and Wallasey this summer for Indian, Nigerian and other international head teachers and educators. The success of that and similar events has led me to being invited by the University of Tasmania with a view to establishing a similar event there in either 2012 or 2013. The first step in that process will be between 25 November and 13 December this year when I will travel there to make initial contacts with the University and schools across Tasmania.

If you would like me to represent your school with a view to establishing some active, realistic links then I am able to offer you a number of services:

1. Taking promotional material to schools in Tasmania, complete with contact details, so that schools could contact you directly. I will be doing this for 12 English schools so your information would be viewed in this context. I would take 10 copies of your promotional pack which should be no more than 2 sides of A4 paper and one CD / DVD. Materials should be clearly labeled and packaged.

2. or, I could take a more active role in promoting your school by coming to see you, developing an action plan with you, and taking a more proactive role in promoting your school to the schools I visit. In this option, you could supply me with additional promotional material and I would aim to identify a specific named partner school for you as a result of the trip. As this option would require a heavier investment from me in my time promoting your school, I would be looking for a sponsorship from you of £300 towards the costs of my time in this promotional activity. On my return to the UK, I would then revisit your school with an activity report which would specify who I had met, details of your potential partner school(s) and other information as specified in the action plan.

If this is of interest to you, please feel free to get in touch with me at nowen.aspire@btconnect.com

Continuing Education, Economic Growth and Changes of Mind and Culture

Life is what happens to you
while you’re busy
making other plans.

John Lennon, Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)

This paper is about metamorphosis, and in particular the changes that occur during the process of transforming a publically sector driven education policy initiative into a third sector arts based education social enterprise. It will consider those changes that are forced upon the protagonists in that process; the changes the protagonists initiate for themselves and the effect of these changes on organisational structure, culture, identity, programme and the raison d’etre of the enterprise itself. It is particularly timely given the recent upheavals in the public sector and the Coalition government’s intention to broaden the supplier base of public services like to health and education to the private, charitable and social enterprise sectors.

It will do this by focusing on the Aspire Trust, a social enterprise based in Merseyside and will focus particularly on its current business activities in the field of continuous education and lifelong learning. Whilst it will demonstrate that its continuous education programmes have had a beneficial impact on its economic performance, the more significant findings and implications for practitioners who are considering the leap from public sector to social enterprise will be in relation to the structural, cultural and attitudinal changes took place during the company’s set up and establishment phases.

The changes that this company went through involved challenges on many practical and theoretical fronts: personal, social, political, artistic, and educational. Orthodoxies such as ‘The Business Plan’; ‘The Bottom Line’; ‘The Job’ all came under scrutiny in the company’s early years and the results of this scrutinisation are tangible in the company’s existence and will be drawn out through this blog.

The paper concludes with four specific transformations the company has undergone since its inception which have contributed to strengthening the linkage between its education programmes and its economic performance. These transformations are not however offered as a potential ‘toolkit’ for future social enterprise development but as the provisional and partial results of an retrospective analysis of the company’s birth and growth.

The paper will continue to develop here until its presentation at ISBE, Sheffield in November.

Kenya Day 2: signs of hope and leaky intentions.

We arrive at Charter Hall at 10.30 and encounter a group of about 50 – 70 young people sat in the hall, waiting.  All sorts of memories, half snatched ideas, hunches and rumours fade in and out consciousness throughout the time here…. Heart of Darkness, Out of Africa…

I have a brief chat with Albert Opamo Barasa about the role of the arts in developing groups. He runs a club which helps people see beyond the tribe: realigning relationships and developing understanding that people are interdependent and rely on each other for trade. This echoes a large article in the paper  lamenting the lack of independence since the declaration of the same: pointing out how dependent the country still was but without perhaps recognising that everyone’s in the same boat: we’re all interdependent.

John, the chairman of KCGF, arrives explaining that cash donations are not a good idea. I agree as we’re spending money on transport and juice at the moment so I need to see what’s left. Allegedly he has flown in from up-country via, according to Jackson, a chartered jet. Through the day John proceeds to tell me that if we want anything done, he is the main man to fix it. This is hugely ironic given our last morning in the country when he’s driving us to the airport: the car runs out of petrol, leaving us stranded temporarily in the middle of a security zone. He later takes a wrong turning to the airport, gets lost and takes about 3 hours to do what is a 45’ car ride.

Stanley urges us to  plan for the need to talk to other artists and hints at the disorganisation of the programme. I think I say I know what you’re referring to but you can never be too sure that you know what you think you’ve said, and that others have heard what you think you said: or indeed if there’s any correlation between what I want to say, what I actually say, what you think you’ve heard, and what you actually heard.

2008-06-06 12.09.48

Albert’s group is relating  the narrative piece of the programme, based on a Massai culture story and they need a microphone. God knows why. Do they use mics in the desert? Savannah? Up the Rift valley?

When the Saints come marching in” is now steadily and mechanically played out on the electronic key board besides me. Perhaps an echo of a church room somewhere? Something these guys sing every Sunday? The PA has materialised and is steadily being assembled. A memory of the song sung at St Filomena’s to the effect of… ‘you can do whatever you like, but if you don’t believe in Jesus, it’s all in vain, all in vain..’

It’s all purposeless, based in vanity, self glory. The kids in white and grey are Filomenas kids with their teachers at the back of the room somewhere although perhaps they’ve come with the pastor: a figure right out of the Adams Family if ever there was one. Filomena’s group start off with the small mime about a heart operation. There’s a visual, graphic disembowelling of a patient by a doctor who throws the patient’s heart out the front door.

2008-06-06 15.02.24

Leakage was a theme for this Nairobi week: money leaking out of one person’s hands to another; leaking into exaggerated bills; something is placed on the table and it leaks into someone else’s pocket; peoples loyalty to one organisation leaks away the moment some other organisation offers them a better pay deal; invariably leakage applies to anything financial but it applies to agreements too (I agreed to pay for 3 days care hire, not 5); and organisation (the schedule didn’t stop leaking the moment we set our feet on Kenyan soil.)

What I might have said at the end of the ‘conference’ , but didn’t as the opportunities to talk with the groups continued to leak away through the afternoon was to:

Filomena’s group and the young patient who had his guts ripped out but made a miraculous recovery: this is a sign of hope.

Albert’s student and his Mr President Sah monologue: there was no need for the mic. Your voice is strong enough to carry and the message you carry is already amplified when you are at the front of the stage. This is a sign of hope.

The Nairobi School performance and the burning of the house where the family were hiding tells us more that any CNN broadcast can ever do: this is a sign of hope.

The Muslim orphanage and the spirited dance and recital of the poems by the groups youngest member, a three year old, two foot tall girl: this is a sign of hope.

The Massai Narrative group and the humour of the big bulls, the willing udders and the ‘mauing’ of the missungu cows: these are signs of hope in the humour which can be shared with all audiences, black, asian, missungu.

Instead of “conference”, we might better write ⎣Conference⎤ – an event which leaks intention, direction, purpose,  so that all meaning of the word has leached out.

This is not the same as the knowing, nudge nudge irony of the “conference” terminology as “XXX” implies, ‘oh yeah?’ or ‘so you say’ or ‘allegedly’: a kind of cynical superiority signage.

⎣XXX⎤ means leakage of meaning of the term in the brackets. It doesn’t question the sincerity of the owner or user but knows that before too long, meaning and value will actively, visibly drain away in an inexorable perhaps irreversible process.

2008-06-06 12.10.02

The difficulties of feeding international conferences

Food and its connections to our inner deeper emotional world  and how /why we feel insulted if people turn up their nose at what’s out in front of them – it’s not like home – whatever that is – and it’s not what you expect – it’s a statement of this is who we are, like it or not, and if you reject it, you reject us, and for all your laughter and hilarity and our liberal flexibility, this moment when a gulf of difference between us appears – says so much about our difference in our upbringing and emotional connections and ties -culture is too simplistic a word to express how we do things and how -if you’re not of our culture – how we expect you to do things..

The process of going to a restaurant is one of a microcosm of assimiliation, acculturation or rejection, of (in)tolerance and (dis)respect -and fear.