This is a short description of where ecl has come from, how it began and some of the journeys taken over the past decade or more.
The story so far…
In January 2002 a diverse group of people gathered in London to explore more creative ways of educating our children. Led by Terry Ingham, Judith Hemming and Kath Oram the group held a common concern, that in so many ways, even after unprecedented levels of funding, conventional approaches to reforming education were not serving the needs of our children. As head teachers, teachers, academics and parents, we could see children disengaging from learning as they moved through the education system. We wondered how we could foster co-creation in educational organisations to enable our children to be creative, innovative and enterprising – to prepare them not just for life and work in the 21st century – but to equip them to shape the future.
A spark had been ignited.
As a starting point we built on work already begun within the nowherefoundation which was exploring families as living systems. We wondered if a similar ‘systemic’ perspective, if applied to schools, would enhance the quality of leadership, the effectiveness of teaching and most importantly children’s enjoyment of learning. In the summer of 2002, we received funding from the River Rock Foundation in Maine USA, to set up an innovation and research project in partnership with three primary schools, a secondary school and the University of London’s Institute of Education. The project was called, ‘The Schools We Need’. Led by a team of educationists and catalysts (Judith Hemming, Sue Abbotson, Alison Barclay and Hillary Pinder) with external verifiers from the Institute of Education (Jane Reed and Frank McNeil) its focus was on finding better ways to support leaders in schools. It ran for 17 months and its impact on the levels of performance of the participants and the depth and breadth of ideas that began to emerge from them exceeded all expectations.
Over the next ten years, with two vital sources of funding: the UK Government’s Department of Education and the nowheregroup, individuals and groups in England have continued to explore the nature of schools and families as interrelated living systems. In addition to the initial leadership focus, we have expanded our enquiry into a number of areas of school culture, developing specific aspects of the curriculum, resourcing vulnerable children, supporting behaviour change as well as enhancing parenting skills in the home. At the core of each project is a co-creative methodology that encouraged participants to collect data, make sense of what has happened and be innovative.
Jane James deserves a particular mention for her work during this time. She worked for for seven years alongside Terry and Judith developing ecl and bringing it’s tools and approaches to schools and communities. She was instrumental in bringing ecl to South Africa and Namibia.
It is 2014 and the community is now beginning to extend its reach across the globe with educationists in England, South Africa, the Netherlands and Namibia co-creating a growing library of insights and resources. Knowing there is no one right answer, we are tapping into the incredible diversity of people in their different contexts and with their different approaches and insights. In short we are developing ways to share and release enormous creativity.
ecl is still in its infancy. We make no claims to have all of the answers – but we have an approach to working with creative and learning processes that opens up the possibility to transform how we develop and care for the next generation. We do claim a greater understanding of what needs to be attended to, namely three essential elements of educational practice – emotional wellbeing, creativity and learning. These are what we take our name from. And what we have developed is a ‘know how’ – frameworks, tools and above all processes that allow us to work co-creatively with educationists and others to create new solutions.
We feel now is the time to take the next bold step and become a charity that can stand on its own two feet, the ecl foundation. As we begin this process we would like to turn around and acknowledge the holding and encouragement of our founding company the nowheregroup. It is because of them that the charity begins in such a spirit of generosity, with a strong foundation of theory and practice that we can freely provide.
Welcome to ecl, we hope you find what you need – and see it as the beginning of a creative adventure…