At a European conference on Lifelong Learning held in Oxford University in November 1992. ELLI, the European Lifelong Learning Initiative, was formally founded, though it had had a preparatory, informal existence for a year before that. It concentrated initially on giving an industry and employability focus to the development of Lifelong Learning, though it has, since that time, broadened its perceptions and activities in response to the demand from its members. Its main mission is to clarify the direction, definition, scope, strategy, and development of Lifelong Learning in Europe, and to propagate information, ideas and action across all sectors through collaborative projects, information dissemination and the stimulation of research.
ELLI, in 6 years, has a fast-growing membership of 140 organisations, about 10% from industry, 50% from Universities and the rest from Professional Associations, schools, teacher training institutions, adult education organisations and others. It has achieved considerable European credibility. In that time, and with the help of its members, it has produced innovative and path-finding newsletters, books and policies on Lifelong Learning, and become an influential professional organisation. Largely thanks to ELLI, the European Year of Lifelong Learning and the strategies of Intergovernmental organisations such as OECD and UNESCO, most of Europe has awakened to the need for Lifelong Learning strategies which take into account the needs of organisations, communities and people right across the age and function range.
Lifelong Learning is, more than anything else, an all-embracing, interdependent concept relevant to every organisation, every nation, every community and every citizen. This is why ELLI addresses a reservoir of European needs and demands, including
- The creation of Learning Communities in every city, town and region;
- The development of Learning Organisations in every company, school, university and government department;
- Advice to Governments on Lifelong Learning strategies for all and how to implement them
- The development of a society in which the habit of learning throughout life is a part of everyone's personal growth and culture;
- The use of learning techniques and tools of the 21st century - technology, personal learning plans, audits, mentors, purposeful learning partnerships etc
- The development of new skills and values to enable individuals to cope with a rapidly changing workplace and world
- Defining, measuring and monitoring progress to the acquisition of lifelong learning skills, values and habits in schools, universities, government departments, companies, communities, individuals
Each one is a mammoth task. Each one, and more, presents challenges to those organisations with an awareness of the needs of the 21st century. These may comprise organisations from:
- Business, Industry and Commerce - which is pioneering Lifelong Learning as a part of its survival strategy, but can improve immeasurably its performance and understanding when it co-operates with other sectors of society.
- Higher Education - which lies at the hub of local life in all sectors of activity. It is a natural place to initiate, develop and maintain lifelong learning programmes within its geographical area while also maintaining links with national and international projects and activities.
- International, National and Local Government Organisations - which play a leading role in providing vision, creating development opportunities and in setting and monitoring policies and standards for Lifelong Learning.
- Professional Associations and Non-Governmental Organisations - which must keep themselves and others up to date and need to know how the concepts of Lifelong Learning can be applied within their own organisations and for the professional development of their members.
- Schools and Teacher Training Establishments - which, since Lifelong Learning begins in childhood, are crucial organisations for shaping those attitudes and values which prepare future adults for a world in which flexibility and adaptability are essential, and in which the enjoyment of learning may be a matter of personal survival.
- Adult Education organisations in the formal and informal education sectors - which provide a wide range of learning opportunities in a wide range of subject areas
- Vocational Education Organisations - which influence the creation and maintenance of employability for the future and need to employ innovative strategies to do so.
And of course:
- Individuals - who in the final analysis have to develop the personal values, skills and understandings which enable them to adapt to the world as it is and will become.
If ever we thought that lifelong learning could be implemented easily the (initial) task list should make us stop and think again. Everywhere and for years to come, there is much to be done. It demands insight, wisdom, energy and commitment - and leadership through a professional organisation. Interested people and organisations are invited to contact.
Thus ELLI exists to help all of these achieve a Lifelong Learning future. It defines Lifelong Learning as a process which develops the whole individual throughout a lifetime. This is a radical departure from the sectional and functional approach currently taken in education and training. ELLI is, through its membership, urgently addressing the many implications and issues inherent in this.
Legally, it is a non-profit-making International Educational Organisation registered in Brussels with a Board of Directors from various Belgian and other European organisations. In addition the Administrative Council, comprising distinguished people from industry, Professional Associations and Universities throughout East and West Europe coordinates the guidelines for ELLI activities. Appendix 2 shows the structure in diagrammatic form. The ELLI Executive Bureau comprises a President, and 3 Vice-Presidents. The latter are the immediate past-President and the President-elect together with the obligatory Belgian member of the Board, who is currently the Director of the IBM International Education Centre at La Hulpe. They are supported by secretariat based at Napier University College in Edinburgh. But it is the members who are the executive arm of ELLI. They help to organise the learning development groups, conferences, workshops and seminars, participate in European educational programmes and working groups, and develop reports on various aspects of lifelong learning. These activities are increasing through the establishment of the ELLInets - networks of people and organisations which act as centres of Lifelong Learning expertise in their own countries. ELLInets are differentially active in UK, Finland, Germany, Sweden, Rumania, Russia, Iceland, Norway, Benelux, Poland and the Czech Republic, and others in Spain, France, Greece, Ireland and seven other countries are in the process of being created in 1999.
Among the conferences which ELLI has organised is the highly successful European Commission’s theme conference for the European Year of Lifelong Learning in Helsinki through ELLInet Finland, and the equally seminal Global Conference on Lifelong Learning in Rome, at which the World Initiative on Lifelong Learning (WILL) was created. Several others are planned, including a large pre-millennium conference 'Preparing for the Learning Century' also in Helsinki in Autumn 1999, and a millennium conference on Learning Cities in Glasgow in the autumn of 2000. Other projects carried out by ELLI in the past include the development of a work package to find the learning needs of people working in organisations (Learning Audits), a book on Lifelong Learning in Schools and Teacher Training Institutions and a brainstorming seminar for the European Commission TEMPUS Programme, which produced an ELLI-written report for greater University-Industry collaboration in Central Europe and changed the focus of the programme in most countries. Members of the ELLI team have given seminars on Lifelong Learning to Government, Universities and Industry in Poland and the Czech Republic.
ELLI involves itself in and leads funded action research projects. Two of these, both supported by the European Commission through their Socrates and Leonardo Programmes, will serve as examples. The 'Learning Highway' project invites new and old members into an electronic learning space into which lifelong learning courses and case studies can be inserted and accessed. The 'Eurotoolls' project creates, among other things, a Personal Learning Plan template which people and organisations can adapt for their own purposes. These are accessible to old and new members at the following sites on the First-Class conferencing system on the world-wide web -
ELLI's vision is of a Professional Association relevant and necessary to all organisations, communities, governments and individuals in Europe, and serving its members and Europe with the ideas, information and action which will enable them both to learn from each other, and contribute to the development of Lifelong Learning of others, both nationally and at European level.
ELLI concentrates on practical activities which push back the frontiers of what is possible in Lifelong Learning and on establishing infrastructures which can make it happen. It distributes a quarterly magazine - The Learner‚ - to 800 organisations including its members, and makes other publications available to them. But despite all this activity, there is so much more to do. The subject is becoming a part of the lexicon of every government, every business organisation, every community and every educational organisation. It is a professional organisation's task to make sure that it becomes more than just a buzz-word, meaning everything and signifying nothing. This is why ELLI will grow in membership, in importance and in stature.