Learning for social inclusion

3rd February 2014

NIACE has hosted a series of events – Learning for social inclusion – to help providers understand how community-based learning can better contribute to the delivery of local strategic priorities.

The events highlighted and shared good practice and lessons from Community Learning Innovation Fund (CLIF) projects, and also gave participants:

  • A better understanding of the ways in which learning in communities can contribute to social inclusion and tacking disadvantage.
  • Knowledge of robust evidence showcasing learning impacts on health, families, digital inclusion, employability, volunteering and work with socially vulnerable groups.
  • The chance to learn about innovative approaches to capturing evidence of the impact of learning in communities.
  • Tools to build cross-sector partnerships to address local priorities.
  • The opportunity to discuss ideas on influencing the future direction of policy and practice.

To complement these events, NIACE also published a final report assessing and sharing findings from the Community Learning Innovation Fund. NIACE is also publishing six thematic reports based on evidence collected from 96 CLIF projects and demonstrating the contribution of community learning to key policy areas – health, volunteering, employability, families, digital inclusion and work with socially vulnerable groups.

Two of the thematic reports are already available for free download. Community learning and volunteering found that 55,800 hours of volunteer time were contributed through CLIF – from disabled learners in Derbyshire who became active citizens, to learners in Exeter who ran computer drop-in sessions in their community centre – and highlights how instrumental volunteers were to the success of the projects.

Community learning and health shares evidence confirming that community learning brings a wide range of health benefits, including supporting people to feel more positive about life, through to increasing understanding of a health condition. All six thematic reports illustrate how modest amounts of investment can produce significant outcomes for learners, families and communities.

Cheryl Turner, Head of Learning and Communities at NIACE, said:

“NIACE is delighted to offer, with Skills Funding Agency support, these free events and associated reports setting out the many, wider benefits of learning based in communities. Together, they show the transformative power of learning that is designed with and for local people to meet their needs and aspirations.

“The first two reports published – on health and volunteering – demonstrate the rich diversity of settings covered by ‘community learning’ and how it reaches those of us who are most excluded, disadvantaged in some way, or at the margins. Case studies include a Recovery College for people with mental health issues building a new sense of purpose in life through learning; a Hospice where people with life-minimising illnesses have rediscover their talents and the joys of creativity; a volunteer centre offering learning for active citizenship for people with chronic illnesses; and a Time Bank fostering a wide range of initiatives of individual and community benefit like a community garden and family activity days.

“In all cases, the resulting development of self-esteem, independence, and specific skills impacts not only on individual well being, employability and health, it benefits us all through the contribution this makes to stronger and more prosperous communities.”