An ACE Community of Practice (CoP) is being established in Otautahi Christchurch.

It is being organised by Jennifer Leahy, Ako Aotearoa’s Sector Services Manager for the Southern Region.

Ako Aotearoa facilitates three online CoPs to support the tertiary sector in emerging areas of enquiry and need in teaching and learning. They are: the Adult Literacy, Numeracy and Cultural Capability CoP; the Online Together CoP; and the Neurodiversity CoP.

Ako Aotearoa has found that these spaces have become even more important with the impact of Covid-19, offering members the opportunity to connect and share ideas, issues and professional learning with other group members.

The ACE sector is not new to communities of practice – but by another name – networks.

The need for local providers to work together was first identified by the Adult and Community Learning Working Party in 2001.

Their report, Koia! Koia!, recommended that all ACE providers participated in local ACE networks. As a result of the report, networks were established throughout the country and for a while participation in local network meetings was required for TEC ACE funding.

But with no funding to support network organisation, this requirement was eventually dropped and only a few informal networks survived.

Otautahi always had one of the strongest ACE networks so it is not surprising that, led by Jennifer, they are going back to the past – but now as a CoP.

The first CoP meeting was held in February. Analiese Robertson, ACE Aotearoa’s PD and Networks Manger was there:

“Having a community of practice is important, not only for PD activities, but also because knowing what other providers are doing locally means that people can pathway or refer learners. Getting together also provides an opportunity for people to share ideas and good practice. The collaboration in Otautahi for the Festival of Adult Learning last year was a great example of what collaboration can achieve – people need to do less but can achieve much more.”

Jo Fox from Hagley High ACE, who was unable to attend and will definitely be at other meetings, agrees:

“I think there is a lot of value in getting together. Firstly it helps us with pathwaying our learners. Once they have been with us, we can let them know about other courses they can do. And collaboration is important. You get ideas from each other. Brainstorming ideas or issues is always the way to go and collegiality stops you feeling so isolated. Having a regular meeting together also provides us with an opportunity to discuss issues such as changes in TEC requirements.

Last year we all worked together on a single Festival of Adult Learning event, and that was much more successful that just doing our individual ones. We reached a much wider audience. Next year we plan an ever bigger collaboration and event.”

Analiese says that the challenge for other regions is to find a person who is funded to facilitate the network. Without that person a CoP may not survive.