Festival of Learning
The importance of Community Based Research (CBR) as a methodological tool and values based approach for helping the process of co-creation of knowledge is uncontested. In an attempt to achieve its broad objectives, the UNESCO Chair in Community Based Research and Social Responsibility in Higher Education undertook a two year project titled ‘Training the Next Generation of Community Based Researchers (NextGen)’. The project focused on mapping current demand and supply of CBR training internationally, especially in the global South. Dr Rajesh Tandon, President, PRIA is Co-Chair along with Prof. Budd Hall at the University of Victoria. The NextGen project has been supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC) and the many partners with whom the Chair has worked over the past two years.
The UNESCO Chair organised a Festival of Learning to create a series of diverse opportunities for sharing knowledge generated and the results of the ‘NextGen’ project. State-based workshops and seminars across four states in India on the importance of ‘learning CBR’ was organised as part of the Festival. The events were organised in collaboration with respective higher educational institutions, civil society and policy makers. Broadly, the purpose of organizing this Festival was four-fold:
• To disseminate findings of the global study on curriculum and pedagogy of CBR
• To provide opportunities for different faculties and students to share and discuss various good practices in designing curriculum and teaching of CBR
• To support various universities, colleges and civil society research and training organizations to include such training in their own work
• To enhance visibility of relevance and capacity for CBR as an integral element in deepening social responsibility of higher education institutions in India
The Festival of Learning was a series of events in four different locations in the country -- Hyderabad, Raipur, Jaipur and Delhi. Students, faculty, community (civil society) leaders, local government officials and media were key interlocutors during the events.
The Festival addressed researchers, civil society leaders, local government officials and others on issues that linked the project findings on the role of CBR to the solution of local problems. They met with senior national level policy leaders, communications leaders, senior state officers and many activist scholars and community leaders. Discussions included how CBR might best be used as part of the national campaign in India (Swachch Bharat Mission) to build latrines and toilet facilities for the 70 per cent of the population that still has no such facilities. The Co-Chairs engaged with post-graduate students in Chhattisgarh, one of the poorest states in India, in a four day training programme. In Hyderbad they met with policy makers, educationists, and students over two days.
A Festival often implies a spirit of joy, and this Festival of Learning was chosen as a way to share the NextGen research results because it should be a joy as well as an opportunity to learn. And, as with most Festivals, there was a sharing of knowledge back and forth. There was sharing between community leaders and academics, between those from the city and those from rural areas, between those from outside India with those from India, between those with massive administrative responsibilities and those individuals who simply care deeply about making this a better world. The reception and the spirit that the Festival of Learning met with and what the Co-Chairs learned has re-dedicated them to continuing their work and shaping it in the way it can best bring visibility to the deep issues that people in our communities care about, so that we can all hear from those who have been invisible for far too long.
The Festival itself was supported with generous funding from the Canadian Commission for UNESCO. Participating in the Festival of Learning were Dr Budd Hall and Dr Rajesh Tandon, along with Dr Darlene Clover, Professor, University of Victoria; Walter Lepore, Project Coordinator, UNESCO Chair; and Dr Takayoshi Kusago, Professor, Kansai University, Japan.