Experiences of Invisible College in Action

Dougald Hine has been talking about the “Invisible College” that’s growing around the edges of our education systems. I have been a free-range learner who is also enabling others to learn outside the formal system since around 2000, so I found much to appreciate in what he was saying.

Dougald's talk A Storm is Blowing from Paradise is about the future role of universities, but he begins with a much wider overview of how things are changing. These are ideas he's been developing for some time, and as I've been influenced by his thinking I'm delighted to have so much of it brought together in one talk. I expect to be referring people to this often.

He describes how we are moving from societies of mass prosperity to societies of mass precarity, with no route back to the world in which we grew up.

He maps out five main areas:

  1. Stalling of economic progress
  2. Tilting of global economy
  3. Networked disruption
  4. Ecological unravelling
  5. Crisis of measurement

I'm interested in all the above. The ones most relevant to how I spend much of my time are networked disruption and crisis of measurement

1 - The University Project, the Invisible College and my reality

Dougald's description of the University Project and the Invisible College describe my reality. His talk was addressed to academics. He was only able to touch briefly on examples of the Invisible College, so I'm going to share more details from my experiences.

2 - The University Project 

The University Project is "a loose international network of collaborators inside and outside of existing institutions". It became wonderfullly visible through "Universities: Past & Future" at the newly opened Hub Westminster on 14-16 October 2011. Dougald explains more in his talk, so I'm simply stating my appreciation of the event and then expanding on realities such as the University Project and the Invisible College.

3 - Hub Westminster

In my mind I still connect the University Project with Hub Westminster. I'm often at "HubW". I'm there less for its "hot desking" provision and more for its events (including Trade School sessions) and for connecting with people. To me it is a "collaboraton and learning space" - where I can also use a desk. Now that HubW hsa achieved its initial business targets for sustainability it is able to nurture other aspects of its emerging identity. Informally and formally, so I'm hearing more there about collaboration, "the Hub community", knowledge sharing and peer-to-peer learning - maybe the Invisible College will become more in evidence there.

4 - Wikiquals and Everything Unplugged

Dougald mentioned that Fred Garnett launched Wikiquals at "Universities: Past & Future". People that I value, such as Tony Hall, are Wikiquals sqolars and I have intentions of being one too

I often meet Tony Hall, Fred and others at Everything Unplugged. This slideshare captures the history of, and the learning from, the Everything Unplugged project. Everything Unplugged is an ongoing conversation that always moves my thinking further on, so I would count it as part of my ongoing free-range learning, an idea of learning which overlaps Dougald's idea of the Invisible College.

5 - Meetups, GN21 learning groups and the Invisible College

Dougald mentioned Meetups as an example of the Invisible College. I belong to several but will limit my references to GlobalNet21 (GN21). It demonstrates the rich variety of study topics and learning opportunites available, not just face to face (F2F) but also online. Since GN21 began in 2007 its membership has grown to over 10,000 people interested in expanding the public square of debate, learning and action, on major 21st century issues. None of it is dry theory. The information that we get comes from people who are practically involved, and up to date, in the topics that they share.

Details of all the meeting topics are at the GlobalNet21 Meetup site. The full variety of G21activities, including citizen journalism, social media, webinars, meetings with MPs at the House of Commons, politacal activism, study circles and more beside can be discovered through the GlobalNet21 website. 

My personal contribution to GN21 relates to the development of informal learning networks. Various members have been asking to study in greater depth some of the topics that are covered in the meetups, so we want to create appropriate structures to do that. I'm starting with a focus on learning about learning in the 21st century, which includes the practicalities of peer-to-peer learning and the use of online tools for collaboration and learning.

It will be an ongoing dance between what people want to learn, and how they will choose to learn it. Structurally we will draw on the rich opportunites that GN21 offers both for organising F2F meetings and also to share information and knowledge online. For content we will draw on the immense knowledge of people within GlobalNet21 and also from our wider networks. 

GN21 is a network, not a top down organisation. The GN21 content is defined by the members though regular F2F planning meetings, or through online communication. You can find out more and register here ….

6 - Other examples

When I think of Dougald I think especially the Dark Mountain and Uncivilisation Festivals, Temporary School of Thought, Really Open School, and Redrawing the Maps. They have all been important to me in my ongoing learning. They could all be included as part of the Invisible College.

The Invisible College as Dougald calls it is alive and well and increasingly visible.

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