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Sustainable Ways of Living Issue Brief Series: Collaborative Learning and Co-creation toward Sustainable Living

  • Published on February 19, 2022

Sustainable ways of living cannot simply be defined as achieving fewer negative impacts through raised awareness or actions on a purely individual level.  While such are important, the type, scale and overall effect of the processes differ. Sustainable ways of living in the truest sense are generated and enabled by and within whole communities through collective learning and action.  The key to sustainable living lies in the capabilities of local people and groups to continuously revisit the conditions that shape their daily lives,  such as natural ecosystems,  technology,  infrastructure, rules and norms and to create alternative contexts that support responsible living and reliable livelihoods.

It is important to note that the goals for achieving sustainable ways of living or enabling contexts are not always clear from the outset.  Those working on the challenge of advancing sustainable living need to continuously re-evaluate current and desired conditions through questions such as  What are the challenges that threaten communities and livelihoods?  What resources are available to tackle them?  and  What value can we create for our communities and our lives, and how can we share it?

To continuously revisit these questions and realise fundamental differences in living conditions, those concerned need to continue learning and working together with others with different areas, knowledge, skills, concerns, and desires or needs.

The report showed the two benefits of collaborative learning and co-creation as essential drivers in all efforts toward sustainable living:

  1. Local initiatives aim to create alternative ways of meeting the needs of communities and families.

  2. Facing unexpected challenges like natural disasters, political changes, or economic downturns,  participants carrying out local initiatives will need to reconsider their context and capabilities and make modifications or changes as they see fit in order to adapt to the situation in carrying out objectives.

The report identified some of the key lessons involved with collaborative learning and co-creation from the SLE projects:

  1. All projects place collaborative learning and co-creation as core ongoing activities and engage with local key organisations.

  2. Physical, experimental, and virtual spaces were identified or set up to facilitate collaborative learning and co-creation. Examples include community farms, community conference rooms, online messaging system, etc. 

  3. Collaborative learning and co-creation provide multiple benefits, including

3.1) Sharing current problems and revealing possible benefits of alternative ways of living ---  Starting with local people’s concerns such as income and health, participants can gradually dive deeper into the root causes of the issues, so that people can re-evaluate their capabilities to work together to address both local, regional and global challenges through trial and error in their day-to-day activities.

3.2) Learning and trying alternative ways of living ---  Training  programmes in community centres and  experimental farms, for example, can enable participants to learn and try various  alternative actions, such as using renewable energy sources, improving agricultural production,  or bringing their produce to market, and

3.3) Assessment of achievements and consideration for the way forward --- participants share and review their achievements and failures in order to capitalise on what they have learned.

Lastly, the report suggested 4 ways to facilitate collaborative learning and cocreation toward successful local initiatives:

  1. Engaging with marginalised  people

  2. Listening attentively

  3. Creating spaces for collaborative  learning

  4. Flexibility and adaptability

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