The tumultuous events of 2020 have cast nearly all of our systems into chaos. From the way we eat to how we socialize – everything is being re-evaluated, and institutions are adapting their operations to new realities shaped by COVID-19.
The coronavirus pandemic has also brought societal inequities within our communities to the fore; and the sheer scope of disruption calls for concerted efforts to build resilience for individuals, organizations and society as a whole. Sheridan College is answering this call by launching the Reimagine Learning and Education in Our Communities Challenge, an initiative that emboldens participants to envision a different role for learning and education through active, inclusive community engagement.
“What do learning and education look like in the face of unprecedented disruption?” asks Dr. Catherine Hale, director, Creative Campus, at Sheridan, who is part of a task force that looks at using a human-centred design methodology for engaging a broad range of voices in a discussion about the future of education. “In a moment of disruption, we need to rethink how we engage and transform our action around education in our communities. We think it’s vital that we know and understand the communities for whom we’re designing solutions.”
Achieving more equitable outcomes has to start with the recognition that the ways and things we learn and their intended outcomes – as well as who makes these decisions – have a direct and long-term impact in all areas of society. That’s why education and learning have a key role in transforming existing attitudes, behaviours and policies that impact racism, poverty, environmental degradation, social injustice and the marginalization of community members.
“The Black Lives Matter movement and demonstrations to uphold Indigenous rights, among others, have spotlighted systemic barriers around learning and education that need to be removed,” says Dr. Hale. “We agree that we want to shape our approach differently, so learning experiences are equitable and contribute to inclusive and sustainable community development.”
With the aim of designing a learning environment where all people feel they belong and can thrive, the Challenge is encouraging diverse participants – and especially those who are often under-represented – to share their voices. This research will then inform participants’ ideas about the future of learning and education and creating workable transformation.
“We’re trying to create an opportunity for a broad pool of individuals to share their points of view and come up with things that we never would have dreamed of,” says Dr. Hale.
In partnership with Agorize, a world leader in conducting online open innovation challenges, Sheridan will leverage a turnkey technology platform that allows participants to work individually, in teams and alongside community and industry mentors to respond to the Challenge. From November 2020 to April 2021, participants from across the country – including community members, students, educators, businesses and startups – will co-create and propose solutions to the design challenge.
The goal? In keeping with the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, the Challenge will strive to facilitate the reimagining of learning and education with community-building in mind and create equal access to opportunities to help everyone reach their full potential. In doing so, community members will develop capacity and commitment to engage in local and global citizenship and advance sustainable social, environmental and economic impact.
By building on its substantial expertise in engaging with a wide range of community and industry partners, Dr. Hale believes the time is right for Sheridan to take these efforts to the next level and achieve a greater – national and global – impact.
“If we’re going to change, now is the time,” she says. “The Reimagine Learning and Education in Our Communities Challenge is about collaboration with our communities so that one is left behind.”
To participate in the Challenge, go to: challenge.sheridancollege.ca.
Produced by Randall Anthony Communications. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved in its creation.