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Hearts, heads and hands: Learning for Sustainability Scotland co-hosts the 12th RCE Global Conference

Wed 1st December 2021 - Blog Posts

There has never been a more urgent need for the combined skills and knowledge of the global Regional Centres of Expertise (RCE) in Education for Sustainable Development network. Our world is at a crossroads. The climate and associated biodiversity crises, human rights abuses, and political inertia are now evident across the planet.

Introduction to the 12th Global RCE Conference Programme

The 12th Global RCE Conference was co-hosted by RCE Scotland (Learning for Sustainability Scotland) and colleagues from the Global RCE Service Centre from 16-18 November, 2021.

Scheduled to follow on from COP26, this Conference was the last of three global events co-hosted in 2021 by RCE Scotland and the Global RCE Service Centre on the theme of ‘Achieving the SDGs: Action through learning in a time of global crises’

Building on the momentum created by our webinars in February and June 2021, the Conference provided an opportunity for over 300 participants from across our global network of over 180 Regional Centres of Expertise to collectively share, explore and build on the knowledge, skills and values within the network to enhance the capacities and actions needed to achieve the SDGs.

In particular, it provided an opportunity for participants to:

  • Enable and sustain collaborative conversations across the RCE Network
  • Explore, beyond COP26, how to strengthen action on the UNESCO ESD for 2030 agenda in the context of the UN SDGs
  • Share and celebrate good practice regarding action through learning from across the RCE network

Hearts, hands and heads

Education – in all its forms – and collaborative activity between individuals, communities and nations, are vital if we are to achieve the vision outlined in the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of an equitable, flourishing world. Policy instruments such as the SDGs and the UNESCO ESD 2030 Roadmap are useful tools to help us shape the journey we take, but the global crises we face – social, economic and ecological – need a holistic, pan-sectoral educational approach that blends the affective, cognitive and behavioural. Passionate, informed, skilled individuals create passionate, informed and skilled communities – geographically, sectorally and thematically – that, together, can co-create and effect real, place-based, culturally-appropriate and meaningful change.

Scottish 19th century polymath and educational visionary Sir Patrick Geddes (1854 -1932) is widely credited with developing the concept of ‘sustainability’; spanning environment, society and community.  He spoke about the merit in engaging ‘heart, hand and head‘, to achieve this truly transformational learning.  This holistic approach, encapsulating the ethos that underpins Education for Sustainable Development, was used to shape the 12th Global RCE Conference programme.

Sustaining sustainability

Across the three days of the Conference, participants engaged in a series of interactive sharing opportunities; themed around the concept of ‘Hearts’ on the first day, ‘Heads’ on the second and ‘Hands’ on the third. Opportunities on offer included thematic Practice Sharing Sessions; where colleagues from RCEs across the globe shared insights into the wonderfully diverse initiatives they are co-creating with their own networks in their respective geographical areas. Participants engaged in Workshops led by other RCE colleagues; which enabled deeper exploration of particular issues, themes, resources and skills, and heard more about how Scotland is taking action on sustainability through a series of ‘Postcards’. Additional food for thought was provided by speakers from the University of Stirling, Scotland, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network and UN Institute for Lifelong Learning, as well as Lara Freitas, educator and eco-neighbourhood designer. Opportunities for reflection and networking were also made available – including a virtual ceilidh on the second day!

“…changes will need to be political, social and economic, but in all regards these need to be informed by accurate information and critical thinking skills that lead to understanding of the complex interdisciplinary nature of the problems we, and the planet, face. We need to encourage, respect and cherish the capacity to care and act –  whatever age our citizens are – and from the early-years to 18 (and I would argue in Further and Higher Education too). That is a central role of education.”

Professor Pete Higgins, Director, RCE Scotland

We are indebted to our colleagues at the United Nations University Institute for the Advanced Study of Sustainability for their creativity and ongoing support in co-designing this Conference, and to the Ministry of the Environment, Japan, for their ongoing support of the RCE Network. Finally, our warmest thanks goes to all of our wonderful RCE colleagues, whose input, expertise and dedication to Education for Sustainable Development brought this Conference to life.

Full details on the Conference, including recordings of all sessions, are available here: 12th Global RCE Conference Online, 2021 | RCE NETWORK