This was my speech to the Agora event on September 16th 2013 as part of the Leonardo Corporate Learning award.
I want to tell you about my experience.
My academic career is not distinguished. I struggled with passing exams struggled with written work , and struggled with getting recognition for my learning. I enjoyed school but was just not very good at it.
At least that’s what I thought.
But there was another side to this. I was motivated and had self confidence . I knew I could learn and would often win arguments with people who were academically better than me. I was perceived to be a communicator who engaged with people and presented well.
Where did that come from?
I volunteered in a Jewish youth movement which used informal adult education as an approach, this included peer to peer learning, participatory leaning activity such as role plays and discussions, and involving the learners in all aspects of the learning.
I could do that, not just do it but I was good at it. I could learn facts, I could present things I could lead groups I could be part of a team
What a revelation.
I was diagnosed with dyslexia during my second year at university, something I never realized I had but explained why the education system did not fit my style of learning it also helped me recognise that my dyslexia was an asset it allowed me to think differently and creatively and gave me resilience and a desire to succeed.
However, was the world ready for Gary Copitch the answer was no.
I applied for over 300 jobs got one interview and was rejected from that.
I mentioned earlier that I volunteered for a youth organisation and this is how I got my first job, volunteering has saved me . And once working my skills in team work and communication shone. this lead me onto an international community development job training people in community work.
My next role took me into the world of Corporate Learning, when I went on to work for Intel . During my time there I did some cost control developed a CPD and certification programs for the Facilities and Health and Safety department which lead me to became a senior manager in the training department where I ran Intel University a corporate leaning programme
So I went from the community to corporate world what was the difference
My experience of community education was there was:
- a high motivation to learn but few resources including poor environments ,
- whereas at Intel, like many corporate, there were good resources but not a willingness to freely participate in learning activities In most cases people were asked politely by mangers to go on training because it would be good for their career or advised to join to improve their skills
Why do I tell you this history? Because I believe that my experience has shaped People’s voice Media a community learning provider and the way we train.
We have clear goals for are learning
- we want to impart a passion for learning
- we want people to be active and engaged participants in our programmers
- we want people to contribute to there leaning
- and we want people to continue to learn
So we created a learning community of community reporters.
people who want to tell their stories and have a voice.
people who were often from disadvantaged areas where formal education has failed them
But they shared common emotions, values and beliefs, they are actively engaged in learning together and from each others
sounds lofty and in reality people also joined us because they wanted to part of something, wanted to improve there self confidence, wanted to learn new skills.
Paul a community reporter found it helped him socially, boosted his confidence, reconnected him with his local area and improved his job prospects
We recognized that our role was to provide individuals with the tools, technical knowledge and confidence to express their own lived experience and To share their experience with others,
we said tell us your story and will support you to tell it to others. We will give you a voice.
This leaning community is 2000 strong and is spread across the UK and Europe and it is growing and are target is 10,000 people involved
so what do we do?
we create different interventions.
These may include
- formal training sessions on video, photography, audio or blogging they decide the path .
- We undertake social activities such as film evenings or xmas parties
- we run regular meet ups drop in sessions, and peer led training session where people swap skills and advice
- We“technology in the pocket devices” to develop stories
- we recognise that they part of a network through our community reporter badges, which not only identify them as part of there community but also a wider network they are part of a movement of community reporters. the badge gives them validity with peers but also represent the individual’s own achievement and self worth which has been externally validated by their peers and beyond .
One reporters said that “the badge gave him recognition in his community and status ”
Our Community Learning model doesn’t just teach skills, we have tapped into the need people have of wanting to belong and feel part of something, a chance to express their thoughts and feelings, a chance to help each other and listen to each other, a chance to show that they care about the world around them. But most importantly through our social licence or franchise model people can do this within their own communities with the agencies and the people they know.
Embedded in our learning community is the notion of peer to peer learning, the notion of doing and not just listening, the notion of sharing and the notion of supporting others. or as we say
Teach it, practice it, peer review it, share it.
Kevin one of our reporters said
“The main point I think is that you don’t feel like you are in an education process where you have got to achieve something by the end of the year, it does feel like a much more gentle process, I don’t feel like I am under achieving if I mess up, I feel like I am part of it and we are all in the same boat.”
But there was another side to this.
I mentioned story before as a motivator i want to go back to this.
People like telling their own stories, In fact we found that everyone has a story to tell they want to articulate that story to others, and that people want to hear other peoples’ stories.. Perhaps this is unsurprising, as storytelling is a constant through all cultures.
we wanted to validate that story and developed the community reporter programmer as a way to do this.
One of our a reporters said
“community reporting gives you a sense of importance, that you are important to the community because you are also reflecting the good side of that community.”
But the stories also serve another purpose.
They showed insight into issues and the way things could be better.
We worked with a group of young people struggling to find employment. they were frustrated and isolated They struggled to tell there story and be heard. They struggled to fill in the forms needed to apply for jobs because of literacy issue or simply not understanding the process or what was required, and were never offered an interviews. they had skills and experiences and wanted to participate. Sound familiar
There had to be a different way? We listened to there stories and then developed with them multimedia CVs,
Effectively allowing them to tell there own story through video, and blogs and in some case other people talked about them. including their tutors, and teachers.
This not only increased their skills and self confidence which helped them in finding jobs. But Just as importantly we changed the way that a number of organisation recruit staff. they know use multimedia CVs and video application forms as standard parts of there recruitment process.
This gave companies access to people they would never have previously considered. It worked and companies and people have both benefitted.
Another group of people were from communities that one could call difficult or disadvantaged, communities that from the outside seem to be “not nice places to live”.
These people were tired of only hearing negative things about their communities; They wanted to tell the story of the positive things that were happening.
Their stories included how people came together to improve their communities, how the community were growing their own veg, putting on community events; how they overcame the barriers they were facing.
Fundamentally, they were trying to change the narrative from a negative to a positive, and in the process they were increasing their self-confidence and at the same time learning communication and technology skills and well as sharing their knowledge and skills .
In short, the Community Reporter programme supports its participants in being involved in learning through telling their stories, Through this combination of telling and listening, we engage with real people’s learning, while encouraging the listeners to use the reporters’ input to consider new ways of working and provide different type of services
so some challenges
Lets cross the divide between community and corporate and co produce solutions together linking people who are networked inside communities and can open doors but at the same time ensure a two way relationship a partnership where mutual learning and skills sharing can take place
Lets experiment and explore ways to create passion and self belief in learners
Let’s swop are stories let’s swop are lived in experience and let’s build together
But the core message is if we want to support young people back into employment Lets listen, lets listen to what young people are saying, listen to their stories and experiences and then and most importantly let’s change the ways we do things-