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STRENGTHENING DEMOCRACY

Foreword This resource pack for adult educators is the product of an ‘active citizenship’ project supported by the Transformation Fund. The Active Citizenship Education Project (ACEP) brought together the Workers’ Educational Association (Yorkshire and Humber Region), York, Sheffield, Rotherham, Barnsley and Doncaster Councils, Take Part, NIACE, Parliamentary Outreach, the TUC and the Regional Empowerment Partnership in a creative, albeit short lived, project partnership.

We had the following tasks from September 2009 - March 2010: 1 Develop a strategic network of those engaged in active citizenship education across the region. 2 Work with partners to deliver day courses for council staff on the duty to involve local people and the link between local government and Parliament. 3 Write a series of 5 hour courses, supported by short pamphlets, and made accessible on-line. 4 Pilot some of the courses. 5 Hold a national dissemination event to highlight and share active citizenship educational work. This pack is the product of the third task.

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The chosen themes address a variety of topics of enormous contemporary importance, and each course includes lesson plans, activities and resources, including a short pamphlet to run alongside the course or to be accessed online for distance learning. The sections of the pack are themselves split into two documents: the pamphlet and the course documentation. The first theme, the crisis of democracy, includes two courses which seek to explore the nature of the problem and how the situation might be improved. One – entitled E-Democracy – explores the meaning and practice of edemocracy and raises questions as to what e-democracy can contribute to strengthening democracy. The other –Why Vote?- goes to the heart of politics today, with the fall in voter turnout at all elections being the focal point for a much wider dialogue about contemporary political engagement. The second theme is Climate Change. The International Copenhagen conference on Climate Change held at the end of 2009 was disappointing and inconclusive, but it did place the issues firmly on the agenda. A new scepticism is abroad as we go to print and so the publication of this pack could not be more timely in offering activists the opportunity to develop awareness and look at how they might influence change. The third theme concerns Migration and Racism. The world has not witnessed such movement of peoples ever before; looking for work, fleeing war and dictatorship, seeking security and increasingly escaping the effects of climate change. At the same time racism and Islamaphobia have grown, as has the far right. These developments again highlight the importance of two of the packs. One offers an opportunity to Understand Migration, whilst the other specifically seeks to involve tutors in Challenging Racism. Finally, women continue to outperform men in many areas but that is not reflected when it comes to pay, job status etc. and it was felt that a specific

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course, Women Be Heard, would also be appropriate. This grew out of a course called ‘Politics and Public Life’ and, as with the others, it is hoped will play a small part in efforts to strengthen democracy and bring about positive change. The packs are a resource and will be used flexibly by tutors and providers. It is hoped they will encourage further development of resources that can be made widely available in the sector. Views expressed in the materials are not necessarily those of the WEA but in every case the task, one that is fully shared by the WEA, is to provide information, to challenge our thinking and practice and to encourage further study and action. A great deal of work has been put into this publication and set of packs. My special thanks to Maureen Hewitt for the proofing job. If there are any remaining mistakes they are not hers but mine alone! Thanks also to David Pittaway who got the whole thing into its final printed version and made it look attractive. He’s done a sterling job as ever.

And then there are the course writers, all WEA tutors and all ‘active citizens’: Cilla Ross

e-democracy

Helen Jackson Women Be Heard Ted Hartley

Understanding Migration and Why Vote

Jenny Patient Climate Change Graham Birkin Challenging Racism My thanks to them all for sticking to horribly tight deadlines and for helping to sustain the tradition of education with a ‘social purpose’.

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R.H.Tawney said in 1931: “Our business is not to organise classes for those whom, in the circumstances of today, it may, for one reason or another, be easiest to attract. It is to create a demand for education in individuals and bodies who at the moment may be unconscious of its importance to them but who, if a tolerable society is to be created, must be won to believe it�. I think that remains as pertinent as ever and it is hoped these packs will play a small part on the road to a more tolerant and tolerable society.

J.Miskin WEA Yorkshire and Humber Tutor Organiser/Regional Education Manager

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1 foreward