Fostering joyful learning in Espoo

Espoo, in Finland, was one of 12 cities to receive the UNESCO Learning City Award at the second International Conference on Learning Cities in Mexico in 2015. Annica Isacsson and Annika Forstén explain what makes Espoo special

© Jussi Helimäki/Espoo
Espoo cultural centre and tower in Tapiola

In 2015, UNESCO recognized the Finnish city of Espoo for the outstanding progress it had made in implementing the ‘Key Features of Learning Cities’ since the first International Conference on Learning Cities in 2013. The Key Features describe a learning city as one that effectively mobilizes, creates and reinforces individual empowerment and social cohesion, and economic and cultural prosperity, in addition to sustainable development. In fact, the United Nations has invited Espoo to become a pioneer of sustainable development by attaining the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2025, five years ahead of schedule.

Espoo aims to ensure that all citizens can fulfill their potential, succeed in the uncertain world of the future and participate in the development of their local communities. Learning, creativity and innovation are fostered from an early age. For example, in 2019, Tapiola Sinfonietta, the city’s orchestra, invited all expectant parents in the city to its regular concerts so that their children could experience the positive influence of music while still in the womb. And Espoo’s systematic approach to collaboration between artists and schools has been extended to early education centres, giving all children the opportunity to interact with professional artists and foster creative minds. Continue reading

Resources of hope: Why community libraries matter

Former UIL scholar Karma Lhazom, Country Director of READ Bhutan, reading with a group of school children at a community library in eastern Bhutan. © READ Bhutan

Lisa Krolak on the critical role community libraries play in promoting literacy development and lifelong learning

All over the world, libraries serve as proactive community and learning spaces that directly address the needs of children, youth and adults. They are constantly evolving and responding to social, cultural, economic and political changes in their environment. Community libraries, in particular, have demonstrated great potential in supporting literacy development and lifelong learning through diverse services and successful outreach activities. But what is it that make community libraries so effective?

Community libraries are established, owned and managed by and for a specific community, clearly based on community needs. They represent one of many alternative library models that have emerged since the 1970s. In comparison to public libraries, community libraries are often small and usually not supported by government funds. They do not primarily target the mostly literate, urban populations, but rather develop diverse ways to provide various learning opportunities to marginalized populations. This is done not only by providing access to reading materials, but also by offering literacy training and linking literacy activities to practical livelihood concerns. Continue reading