Editorial

Welcome to issue no. 79 of “Adult Education and Development”. In this edition we intend to address two broad thematic issues: climate change and education for youths and adults and the significance of networks and networking.

There are strong reasons for this choice of topics. with “Rio+20” earlier this year, we have seen the most important climate conference of the last two decades. national and international organizations of civil society used this occasion and pointed at the urgency of the global threat posed by climate change, and the need to re-think the paradigms for sustainable development. It has become abundantly clear that economic growth – which still seems to be the undisputed goal of politics the world over – can only be achieved at the cost of the environment and natural resources, and not equitably, either. rather it comes as the result of bitter competition, leaving the weak ones behind.

Threats to the environment and global warming affect the life conditions of the major target groups of Adult education in many ways. changes of climate conditions have direct impact on fishery and agriculture, and natural disasters are becoming more frequent and threaten living and working conditions, in particular of the poorer population strata in developing countries.

The question is: what can Adult education contribute to limit the loss of biodiversity, to build awareness of the human factors and their impact on environment and climate, and to help people learn how to better cope with the detrimental consequences – in other words, to make life more livable and sustainable. what are the issues on which we should concentrate, how can our know-how be translated into effective methods, and where and how can innovative approaches be tested through practice.

Many organisations are focussing their educational work on these issues, and the International council for Adult education (IcAe) has dedicated much energy in the preparation of an independent stance of civil society that reflects alternative roads to sustainable development and outlines options that can serve as a measuring stick for evaluating the results of rio+20 and the subsequent implementation of the agreements that were reached there. together with various regional networks, IcAe considered the implications that the emergence of different paradigms for sustainable development would have on education, and adopted the document “The Education we Need for the World we Want” as a guideline for future action of civil society.

In this edition of “Adult Education and Development” we share a range of informative documents and positional statements concerning the earth Summit “Rio+20” and its consequences, as well as articles that focus on how this translates into educational action for and by the people who are most concerned with climate change.

Since an increasing number of international cooperation projects are carried out in networks, the work of DVV International being no exception, we felt it was time to have a closer look at the concept of networking and find out what it is that makes them so attractive, both for the involved organisations and for the community of funders. For decades now adult educators have shared the belief, and fashioned their action accordingly, that the quality and the effects of the work of individual educators as well as that of institutions and organisations would improve by joining up with that of others, by mutual information, by learning from one another, by defining common interests and fighting for them together, and by organizing joint projects and undertakings, creating synergies and enhancing solidarity and cohesion. the value of networking is considered strong even across boundaries of countries, languages, cultures and geography. networking is held to be beneficial not only for tasks and methods of Adult education but also for political advocacy work designed to promote the standing, recognition and funding of our field of work. nowhere is the value of networking put into doubt.

In reality, however, there are significant differences between organizations, countries, regions and cultures that cannot easily be bridged and should not be overlooked. Ideas and experiences that are valid in one situation cannot automatically be transferred to another. the added value of networking needs to be established. given its standing as an undisputed truism, this should not be hard to do.

DVV International commissioned a study to analyze a number of its projects that support national and regional networks. It delved into the various founding histories, the different dynamics of their creation, their missions and purposes, the mechanisms of operating and working in networks, and the conditions for failure or success of such enterprises. we asked the author of this study, Meike Pasch, to summarize her principal findings. A strong professional secretariat seems to be indispensable, which requires solid and reliable core funding which the members, as a rule, cannot guarantee through membership fees. It also appears that networks that represent genuine and felt interests of their members are more viable than networks that operate on the instigation of outside sources. Both findings are important for donors who should not apply the same funding logic to networks as they would to other cooperation projects that focus on a set of well-defined goals that can be reached in a certain time and can then be sustained independently without continued need of support from outside.

We collected several experiences with the creation and development of networks, global, regional, national and local ones. All of them make the case that achieving their objectives was speeded by pooling energies and dedication with other actors, looked at what made their networks function, and in some cases also at what working in networks has meant for them personally.

Please allow me a word on my own behalf. this is the last edition of “Adult Education and Development” for which I am responsible. In all the years that I have been actively working for DVV International in various capacities, I have always felt very close to our magazine. After my years of active service had come to an end, it was both an honor and a welcome surprise to have been put in charge of its editorship. now, however, it is time to say goodbye, with a big “thank you” to all and everyone that have supported this undertaking, to all the people that work for DVV International in Bonn and in so many places around the world, to our editorial board, and not least to our readers. working for you and with you has been a pleasure.

Michael Samlowski