Informal learning in the poorest third of the world

Informal learning in the poorest third of the world

by chris macrae -
Number of replies: 7

I am not sure why I want to explore this, but I passionately do. I assume the challenges to learning may depend on trust and transparency and family structures etc, and so be hardest to activate in some of the poorest parts of the world, whilst also being most urgent, and potentially the most extraordinarily beneficial. I also do an increasing number of surveys profiling places which encourage collaboration to those that don't- collaboration (culture) seems to be a human relations system keyword for what learning is doable over time 

Here are a few "thoughts aloud"

Are we assuming that the most powerful (or connected) person in a community wants people to learn? For example, if a community is ruled by corruption or warlords, what kind of learning is possible. Conversely, how can we plant safe or open spaces for learning in a place or in linking people  online?

Positively: imagine a community is ruled by a modern day Gandhi. Gandhi set up a whole educational system in his local region under the motto knowledge is power. In modern day parlance his view of knowledge might be described as vocational action learning. He wanted children to be taught what would lead to work not from a "literary" syllabus. He also experimented directly with Montessori  - have a look at the world's largest Montessori (30000 children) at Lucknow and imagine how different opportunities for informal  learning may be there from an average developing place

I am really interested in what happens if you give a child an extraordinary experience at magic moments of growing up. For example, imagine if at the right age you got the chance to travel with a team of peers. What sort of trip might multiply confidence, social network contacts virtually for the rest of your life, any other seeds of informal learning that you may shortlist as worth giving every child a chance to experience?

In inner cities, my learning friends and I are absolutely convinced that there is a critical age of adolesence when children start hanging out in groups. If there is a local hub where children of every culture are welcomed, use open space circles to discuss how to do stuff in the community that is a wholly different informal learning catalyst to only having the formality of traditional schools or the hi- risk structure of street gangs. If the 3 choices a city offers to the adolescent to hang out in are: the formal education environment, the gang or the informal communal space- do we have a longer list of examples of informal communal spaces we guide each other around?

In poor places, prioritising the deepest learning context of your future lives also matters. If we get the most useful learning context right for kids, then its a gateway to being inspired to learn, and work, and the access a job gives to better yourself, your family (some of which are incredibly large structures in poor regions). What are the contexts?  For example one of these is "health for all projects" being debated right now at adult levels at . I wonder what a school and informal learning curriculum that mapped back childseye view of health for all projects across a community would look like. We might also ask if we chose one surprising context to co-create with, what might it be. The one I have become convinced about in the last 2 years is a complete surprise. Brazil and some other rainforest areas have started developing curricula connecting over 80000 children and 4000 teachers on practical biodiversity projects everyone around here is interdependent on. Two remarkable themes that emerge which are also dynamic gateways to extraordinary networking leverage multiplying exponential value for all who openly action learn: look at each project, business to see how its waste may be another's input. Know what extreme climate variables or locally natural knowhows your community is at a world edge on and find how to do a worldwide ebay with other communities ready to trade commons understanding on natural-edge learnings

chris macrae

In reply to chris macrae

Re: Informal learning in the poorest third of the world: research & action links

by David Millar -
Thanks, Chris and Andy Roberts, for raising the question of social change. You'll find some of my thoughts on it in my Overview posting topics 8-11.

Your "health" links are particularly interesting to me. In reply, here are examples of my own of research & action by NGOs and PIRGs and other online communities.

This is not a comprehensive list; anyone should feel free to add to it internships and its knowledge networks and about PIRGs world independent journalists and Canadian independent journalists and Cogniscope process developed by ex-MIT futurist Alex Christakis, and his son Dimitri of UWash Child Health Institute formerly Transnational Action & Resource Center, f. George Lakey FOE links to >500 NGOs search folksonomy, community, social bookmarking

In reply to David Millar

Re: Informal learning in the poorest third of the world: research & action links

by chris macrae -

thanks David - that's quite a list; I have asked whether someone near the centre of will browse through it; I know its naughty of my dad and I but since 1984 we have tried to collaboratively map 20 urgent change areas I believe the world needs most without aiming to be expert myself in many of them . This particularly upsets the modal type of web-logger - but I believe captains logs circa 1500 multiplied the most value (as well as emerged fair world trade) wherever their integration networked transparently into a world atlas, not as separate pieces of daily journalism; and I am interested in webs that become so deep that they integrate all the most useful logs in the web author's mission for life - that makes a weblog an extraordinary destination and game to learn co-playing

It's also my belief that I should mentor my 9 year old to find one web she wants to be a collaboration epicentre of by 15 and help as many of her peers to do likewise; I have no idea if I have strayed off subject of informal learning; in fact the way I see the world tight boundaries (subject classifications, professionalisms, organisation's ring fencing of responsibilities) destroy the most actionable ways of team working and communal networking we need; I am in an extreme minority of how connectivity of webs as systems times systems times systems are sustained, but then as a mathematician who also made a very bad career move of working at coopers and lybrand for 5 years I would never trust measuring myself  by any of the current performance or accounting measures out there; they are perfect maths for destroying maps, social networking and integrating learning communally, especially in areas where human beings are dying out for innovation. Why was I never told about...

In reply to chris macrae

Re: more research & action links

by David Millar -
Dear Chris:
I was quite moved by your idea of enlisting 9-year-olds, as was Daniel Bornstein, How to Change the World: Social Entrepreneurs and the Power of New Ideas (2004) and 13-year old Craig Kielburger who f. Free the Children in 1995, one of a plethora of NGOs trying to end child labour (google "child labour labor" for an exhaustive list). Among others: which incl an online course on desertification, with scholarships

Your reminded me of the LETS invented by Michael Linton in Comox BC which has since spread around the world. It is a community-based value exchange/credit/jobcreation system, aka "green dollars" -- not to be confused with mere barter or local farm purchase/"agricultural security" schemes, though these are empowered by it. See
In reply to David Millar

Re: more research & action links

by chris macrae -

I have met michael linton several times. However currencies are different from mapping exchanges that will grow value around all participant roles whilst not harming any person or society that does not participate

mapping asks us to explore: do we really want to live in a zero-sum world as opposed to one that compounds wealth and health on all sides? do we really believe the only investment ever made is money? not learning? not communal trust and energisation of positive emotional energies and co-creative intelligencies?

 cashflow or currency is in fact a very unusual flow because it does not breed, multiply in use; it is of an age when one person owned and the other did not; where a thing's comnsumption ends in waste; while part of us will always exist in thing worlds, thye magic inquiry of learning happens through multipiers of colaboration and connecting diverse conetxts that are more than separate parts 

I understand that a currency can be designed so a community is responsible for it as opposed to say a bank that makes money from getting more folk in debt. However, designing all sorts of separate communal currencies is not going to free us from being ruled by the great mathematical mistake. Globalization's great mathematical mistake is that all our world's largest organisations are governed by how much can be taken from the rest of the world each quarter no matter what conflicts we compound. If goodwill was accounted for truly, then the more people saw organsiations were prepared to profit however much they put human lives at risk, the more they would withdraw such organisational licences to operate. However that is not being done. In fact we have an economics and an accounting that only rewards the big gets bigger, the speculative more speculative. I have added in a section to the valuetrue blog which asks what are the most depressing investments all peoples can make. Suggested answers include the following. Does this help us see the big brother systems we are increasingly all being trapped in?


Investing Big democratic nations 1.0- these are now ruled by a system where a leader gets hugely in debt to be elected and then has to deal to have a career in 4 years time; consequently such leaders tend to spend their time either in very distant communication with the peoples or very close contact with 250 leaders of the world's biggest businesses Investing in the world's 200 largest global corporations 1.0 - each of these belongs to one of 50 global market sectors such as arms, drugs, debt maximising, drugs, retail chains, petroleum energy, water, agrichemicals and basic foods, land speculation, building materials, administration of health care, lawyers, other professions- the success of each sector is judged in term of becoming ever bigger financially and by no other overall criteria - this is the perfect measurement paradigm for destroying sustainability of future generations

In reply to chris macrae

Re: more research & action links

by Greg Verhappen -
Chris, you raise some excellent points.

A couple more questions to ponder though.

If we are entering a knowledge revolution, wouldn't knowledge become the new currency?

If that's the case, and knowing that the 'have nots' typically do not have technology such as we are using, would it be worthwhile considering what kind of knowledge revolution could be created with 'old' technology readily available? Unfortunately knowledge is constructed by social interaction which might have been a key to human's evolutionary adaptations (I think it was Timothy D. Wilson who suggested this in 'Strangers to Ourselves'-2002), so to keep up the have nots may have to develop alternative quick communication sharing strategies.

I remember a story I read recently about the US doing a 'virtual simulation' about what might happen if they were to engage in conflict with a middle eastern country. They put a very creative person as the opposition. The first time they ran the simulation, the US experienced significant casualties almost immediately. Why? Rather than using high-tech, the renegade used low tech pigeons, motorcycles, small boats, oil-based runway lights, and a flexible/dynamic informal structure, etc. for communication and action. The flexibility from lack of structure and technology created a distinct advantage. In the second simulation, many more limitations were created...different results.

Sometimes, maybe, when we ask the right questions at the right time we get much different answers? Maybe, to create knowledge equity, we need to begin to ask different questions such as what knowledge might be available to the have nots that the majority is looking for? Where are we looking? What are we assuming? It used to be that western philosophies dominated global economies (I think), but as the limitations of these philosophies was discovered more and more have explored eastern philosophies...Hmmm...

Don't know...Knowledge is relationships in adaptive action....Informal knowledge is where and how....Hmmm...

Keep it up, Chris!
In reply to Greg Verhappen

Re: more research & action links

by chris macrae -

I am at risk of writing too much seeing such big questions raises and anticipating a need for iterative answers. I will try and put up more over at but in general I find these hypotheses worth trying:

there's lots of evidence that entrepreneurial people appear in most localities if we can free them from wasteful or corrupt government; the porest have often been systemically dumped on as underclasses which we have accidentally externalised onto over time

education for every child: right back in 1920 Gandhi developed a whole education system around knowledge is that which liberates but he was concerned with experiential & context-deep projects being core to education; he detested exams around literary syllabi

if you look at a project jam like health for all projects at ,its interesting how much can percolate up from the grassroots; I am not saying that we in rich countries don't have knowledge to share but its not always as contextually useful as those who charge a lot for it seem to believe -also this web is working through mosains built on 28 year learning curves on particular themes- well worth looking at to see grassoots up knowhow projects

what we have thought of as government in 20th Century needs another look; has education increased in productivity? or is that government is often very wasteful and worse steals the space for other ways of developing what is socially needed; I am not in any way advocating that the arenas of need that government has been assigned to are unimportant, bit perhaps people can do better in context than standard governments and big politics 

generally if the most trusted person in a community is the combination of loving to teach and knowing a minimum about medical priorities, extyraordinary results gravitate around such a community; the really common/collaboration stuff people need to get started seems ultimately to depend on whether the leader in the community earns everyone's trust or in some way lords over it

In reply to chris macrae

Re: informal learning and universal primary learning

by Nancy Riffer -

Sugata Mitra writes for eGov monitor about how lack of schools does not have to mean no learning and no education, and shows us a different way in bringing internet, thus information, to disadvantaged children in India

   This article describes research that was done in rural areas of India to determine whether giving young children access to computers in playgrounds and other public spaces and allowing them to use the computers without teacher participation might be a way to bring meaningful, quality education to underserved areas in India.
   The children learned almost immediately how to use the machines and some were browsing within an hour.  They taught each other.  The specially designed computers that were weather "proof" and protected from theft were mastered by children playing on them.  There was one computer for every 200 children.
   Girls and boys learned to use the computers.  Use by girls was related to the safety of the public spaces in which they were placed.  In the schools that had computers, the children were resistant to learning the computer -- what's the catch?  On their own, they learned rapidly and without hesitation.
   Author concludes this use of computers may be a way to rapidly develop learning in rural areas of developing countries.