By Heila Lotz-Sisitka

The United Nations Education, Science and Culture Organisation (UNESCO) in the Global Action Programme for Education for Sustainable Development (2014) suggests that there is need to ‘scale up’ education for sustainable development efforts worldwide. Expansion, or scaling up of education and learning for sustainability is seen a key process in transformations to sustainability.

This was recently the topic of deliberation at the annual Environmental Education Association of Southern Africa (EEASA) Conference, held in Johannesburg, South Africa. What should be scaled up?  How do we understand scaling? And is scaling of education and sustainability just a vertical process, or can we also contemplate horizontal scaling? Is  deepening our understanding, ethics and empathy a processes of scaling in sustainability transitions?  And can scaling of ESD be a learning process in itself?  These are some of the questions addressed in the workshop on scaling and learning processes.

Leading the discussion with EEASA members was Professor David Kronlid from the Swedish International Centre of Education for Sustainability (SWEDESD), one of our T-learning partners.  He presented a method for scaling research called ‘Re-Solve’, which draws its inspiration from Rittle and Weber’s (1975) point about wicked problems – most often problems in the social world are resolved over again in new ways.  He proposed a concept of scaling as ‘functional and spontaneous transgressive migration of scaling objects across vertical and horizontal levels and scales’, offering a more complex and nuanced view of scaling than that found in most policy oriented scaling processes.

The workshop focussed on a range of scaling objects:  scaling of education for sustainable development teacher professional development, scaling of climate change adaptation social learning processes, and scaling of local adoption of sustainable food gardening practices via social learning were a few of the scaling objects examined in the workshop.

Workshop participants noted that there are various scaling drivers that influence scaling such as visioning and leadership, incentives and accountability, external catalysts, communication, and story sharing to name a few.  Scaling is also shaped and influenced by resource related factors such as funding, institutional frameworks, organisational capacity, and professional competences.

Discussions also identified that there are many diverse actors involved in scaling processes, most often working in various collective configurations, making scaling a strongly relational process.  Policy makers, children, professionals, workers and community members were some of those identified as being involved in the various scaling processes that were discussed.

Most interesting to t-learning research are the ‘generative moments’ in scaling processes, and how these give rise to new ideas, new possibilities, critical reflexivity and changes in movement and direction, sometimes occurring in ‘leaps’ or ‘bounds’. Most often these are unpredictable and occur in the moment and in process.

Scaling research will help the t-learning team to identify such generative moments, and to evaluate and review t-learning processes and those moments along a transformative learning pathway that can be seen to be ‘transgressive’.

Watch this space for a forthcoming handbook on the Re-Solve approach to scaling.  A number of publications are also in process on scaling as a learning process.