Monday, April 25, 2005

6. Learning together for a cause

On May 2-4, the yearly “Dare to Be Your Own” (Våga vara egen) event will take place at the Älvsjö trade fair in Stockholm, Sweden. High school students from all over Sweden competes for the best Young Entrepreneur company 2004-2005. The idea is to start, run and terminate a company during one year as part of their school curriculum. The energy, engagement and creativity these young people demonstrate are what entrepreneurship is all about: realize an idea to the benefit of themselves and others.

In Sweden where youth employment is soaring, where the employment rate among people capable of working is extremely worrying and a well functioning national integration policy is frightfully absent, entrepreneurship is a key area to prioritize.

Entrepreneurship, however, is not only about making money, although this is a precondition. All over the world a new civil sector is growing up between the public and the private. A sector that is driven by social entrepreneurs who are able to find new models to create wealth, social well being and safeguard the environment. Here is a possibility to work for what you care about, with what you are good at and enjoy doing, every day, and make a real difference. One example is Björn Söderberg, nominated the Best Idea Driven Entrepreneur 2004 by the Swedish Federation of Private Enterprisees for his company Watabaran in Nepal, selling designed Christmas cards made of paper wastes.

What we see emerging is something that resembles a market economy of social ideas. During the 1990s, the civil sector grew by 60% in the United States and some estimates hold that that there are 2 million citizen groups of which 70% has emerged during the last 30 years. Moreover, international civil organisations has increased from 6 000 to 26 000 during the 90s. Global initiatives created to meet social problems as environmental destruction, entrenched poverty, health catastrophes, human rights abuses, failing education systems, and escalating violence. Initiatives coordinated via Internet accessible from all over the world with people self-organising faster than companies and government traditionally serving them, as pointed out in the 95 thesis of the Cluetrain manifesto. A collaborative learning process for a cause where distance is no barrier.

Society profits from entrepreneurship. The young people who competed in last weeks Young Entrepreneurship event ”Dare to Be Your Own” should not be just a fresh wind. They should rather represent the norm in a society where building companies and entrepreneurship are seen as invaluable elements in building our common civil society.

Read more
- Ung Företagsamhet (Young Entrepreneurs) (In Swedish only)
- Watabaran, an ethical business in Nepal
- Bornstein, D., (2004), ”How to change the world – Social entrepreneurs and the power of new ideas”, Oxford University Press

Monday, April 18, 2005

5. ICP course in 52 countries

Ensuring environmental sustainability is one of UN´s millennium development goals, which 191 UN member states have pledged to meet by year 2015. The primary agent for transformation towards this end is education, as declared in the UN Decade for Education on Sustainable Development (2005-2014). "Education not only provides scientific and technical skills, it also provides the motivation, justification, and social support for pursuing and applying them."

One example of IIIEE´s outreach activities is the distance education course “Introduction to Cleaner Production and Sustainable Development” (ICP). During the past 18 months, some 267 course participants, or change agents, from 52 countries have been registered on this 20-week part-time course qualifying, amongst other things, web-tutors for the IIIEE Young Masters Program (YMP).

The ICP-course is a living example of entirely on-line collaborative learning. These change agents learn to know more about preventive environmental strategies. They learn to live together (in a web-community) by approaching an ill-structured real-world environmental problem on sustainable tourism. They learn to apply their skills in practice by doing an initial environmental review in a small organisation of 5-50 employees, thus contributing to raised environmental awareness in the local community.

Strengthening change makers far away is made possible by a web-pedagogy that facilitates learning to know, to live together and to do. Ample evidence suggests that this strengthens the course participant’s own willingness to learn to be in conjunction with the sustainable development principles, as demonstrated in the ICP-course evaluations:

Final evaluation (June 6th), 2004
Final evaluation (January 12th), 2005
- Mid-term evaluation (April 19th), 2005

Read more: Eneroth, C. (2000), e-Learning for Environment, IIIEE Dissertation 2000:8

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

4. Electronic chat with potential

Malin Hydén & Carl Eneroth

Prejudice tells us that communication via an electronic chat is needlessly complicated, confusing and not suited for learning. In reality, however, the chat is an important tool for collaborative learning at a distance. This is a conclusion a major Swedish insurance company drew from educating web-coaches on their educational platform.

Can a web-based education portal strengthen the course participant’s personal relations? This question was presented to a number of future web-coaches at a major Swedish insurance company t42 worked with in the autumn of 2004. Most of them answered no. The general perception was that communication on the Internet brings about superficial relations or no relations at all. The question is important, as the contact between the course tutor and the participants plays an important part in motivating them for further learning, especially when it comes to distance education.

After a t42-led education at a distance, the web-coaches were asked the same question again. Now, more than 60% of them had radically changed their mind. The course participants had basically reassessed the tools for communication presented on their web-based educational platform, in particular the chat. From being considered as a complicated and unnecessary way of communication, the written chat was viewed as an important tool for personal networking. Several even saw the chat as the most important tool on their educational platform, and suggested other ways of using the chat:

- “I could be a resource person to invite to a chat and share experiences in my field of knowledge”.
- “We (course participants) could become more aware of each other and solve tasks together”.
- “It (the chat) can replace some meetings with our sales staff and thereby save travel time”.

A chat can be used for formal learning, when the web-coach with different methods guides the conversation towards a specific goal, but also for informal learning where the participants are given the opportunity to more freely discuss, find solutions and in other ways share experiences. The written chat, thereby, becomes more personal than many are inclined to believe.

t42 Distance Education
TeaForTwo (t42) is a consultancy focused on distance education and collaborative learning on the Internet. T42 offers to companies to educate their educators. These web-coaches learn to support the group dynamics in a distance education course and formulate constructive assignments. Malin Hyden is a t42 partner with long experience of corporate e-learning.

Read more: Eneroth, C. & Hydén, M.
- Chatt - en outnyttjad potential i distansutbildning (April, 2005), Frukostklubben

- Innehåller är inte allt (October, 2004), Frukostklubben

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

3. Sustainable tourism in Costa Rica

A method well adapted to the coaching principles mentioned in "2. Coaching on the web" is problem-based learning (PBL). This is a approach to learning where the problem comes first and the knowledge is developed as a consequence of trying to solve the problem. A typical starting point for PBL is a picture, analysed in small discussion groups. For example, how would you start analysing this picture from a sustainable tourism perspective?

Kids floating in Manila Bay

A mid-term student evaluation from the CIU/IIIEE/VIDA/t42-developed distance education course: "Introduction to Sustainable Tourism", using the revealed some interesting aspects on what worked and what could be improved. The distance education course was presented in rural Costa Rica for a group of 14 Costa Rican and 14 Swedish youth and facilitated by 4 tutor using the problem-based learning method at a distance (PBLd). The purpose of the course was to help local entrepreneurs support a more sustainable tourism.
What worked
- Contributed to increased awareness of sustainable tourism, and that there are problems in the host community that really needs to be addressed.
- Contributed to increased understanding of specific focus areas in the host community, such as hotels, pineapple industry or contamination of rivers.
- Provided a tool for autodidact learning to observe and explore several aspects in the local community, in addition to creating ideas for the community to develop themselves.
- Contributed to increased awareness in the local community of how to improve their own living environment, besides promoting what is already being done.
What can be improved
- Provide more examples on sustainable tourism more directly linked to activities in the host community, in addition to clues on what kind of sustainable tourism problems to work with.
- Explain more clearly that the very idea of PBL is to both define questions and find answers, which involves time-consuming detective work and independent thinking.
- Provide more help when introducing the web-based educational platform to the students and facilitators.
- Involve more external resource persons to help with contacts and content, in addition to work more extensively with solutions to identified problems in the project work.
The group as whole worked with the following projects in Costa Rica:
- Food farms (fishery and coffee plantation)
- Natural reserve (trekking, plant-a-tree, marketing)
- Pineapple industry (river contamination)
- Hotel industry (waste management)
Concluding comment
Reoccurring problems identified are time limits, language barriers, difficult course material, lack of tourism activities in the host communities and lack of support from resource persons. On the positive side is the well-cemented belief that sustainable development is a good thing and that the course has great potential to tackle this issue if the conditions are right, such as existing tourism activity in the host community.

- SanDiego State University - Problem-based learning