Cities of Learning Creating Opportunities for Youth: Interview with Nerijus Kriaučiūnas

Cities of Learning is a territory-based web platform that enables cities to create learning pathways for the youth using interactive maps, online learning playlists and digital Open Badges.

In more than 40 cities around the globe where the platform is present, youth can use interactive map features to search and filter their area to find places and events that match their interests.

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Cities of Learning

To learn more about this amazing platform, we spoke to Nerijus Kriaučiūnas, Chief Executive Officer at Badgecraft, who has been working for some time with Open Badges – a digital solution to value and recognize learning and skills anywhere and everywhere.

Nerijus is passionate about using digital Open Badges with Badgecraft for promoting learnings outside the traditional academic records. Today he shares with Youth Time readers how the initiative Youth Co-Design Cities of Learning involved youth since its first activities and we will witness how he and his team are making the best out of it.

A Smart Question, a Smart Decision

Initially, they followed the bold decision of Chicago city to run a summer badging program turning a city into a learning playground.

“Next year this initiative grew into Chicago City of Learning. Later, more cities followed with many inspiring examples of creating connected learning opportunities at a city level.”

At the same time, he was supporting UNESCO ASPnet schools in Lithuania to develop their badging program for global education.

During the badge presentation in a partner school, one student asked him a very smart question:

“So, you are telling me that if I volunteer in a local community organization, do sport at the sports club, and participate in a city festival, I can present my experiences and the school will acknowledge them and give me badges? That’s cool!”

With a smile and spark in his eyes, Nerijus responded, “yes, that is the basic idea of using badges”.

And here a smart decision was made — they needed to further scale badging programs to other cities.

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Cities of Learning

“At first, we started a collaboration with six partners to establish Cities and Regions of Learning in our places. In two years, we had an interest in collaborating with more than 15 partners.”

A couple of more years have passed and they are making changes in more than 40 cities, regions and even some islands of learning, for example, Curacao, Cyprus, and Sardinia.

Nerijus believes that the Cities of Learning’s fundamental idea is very powerful and unique.

“Any city can transform into a learning playground and offer many diverse learning opportunities that are connected and engaging. This is very powerful.”

“It captures people’s attention and sparks imagination quickly. This is a rather easy step to take. It is much harder to achieve a thriving learning eco-system, where various actors of learning are involved, collaborate, and create new opportunities. We need much more effort, time, and resources to achieve this long-term goal,” he adds.

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Cities of Learning

Youth Co-Design Cities of Learning

In this part of our conversation, he elaborates that most of their partners who actively engage in transforming the cities into learning networks have a background in participatory youth work.

“We follow the principle: nothing about young people without young people being involved. The same principle must be applied to any learner.”

“Starting from the first attempts to build Cities of Learning,” he goes on, “we involve young people in consultations on how they experience learning in their cities, what they appreciate, what they lack, what they want to change, and how.”

“As a result, we get a list of themes and skills that young people want to focus on. We also get to know what does not work when young people want to create their unique learning pathways in our cities.”

In addition, they also offer international leadership training opportunities.

“Young people from our cities come together to exchange and learn about life, cultures, learning, career, and civic opportunities in the place where we live and want to thrive. We have already implemented two editions of leadership courses and the last one will conclude the cycle.”

Anyone can follow leadership development activities and get badges for completing them on Cities of Learning platform.

“The leadership course participants then continue collaboration with us as Cities of Learning ambassadors. Together we seek to co-design new learning, civic engagement, and career pathways for the future.” Each city’s team decides what topics and skills to focus on.

Finally, they have planned to organize two large international events.

“A Youth Seminar and Youth Forum – where young people will meet to explore topics that matter to them and develop further recommendations for our cities on how to shape education, youth, and employment policies according to young people’s needs and aspirations. Young people will prepare and facilitate peer-to-peer workshops during these events.”

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Choosing a Future That Inspires Us

While speaking about the role of young people in building better communities, he shares that during recent years, he feels inspired by the work of the Institute for the Future, and especially their Global Youth Skills research and recommendations.

“We have turned some of these ideas into very practical activities to develop Future Makers skills and qualities.”

“I want to encourage everyone to imagine any possible futures, choose the ones that inspire you the most and bring out the best in you. Then strive to create some, collaborating with other people who share your future visions.”

Leave aside utopian or dystopian future scenarios. Go for protopia futures.

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Find your City, Connect and Engage

We could not finish this interview, without letting you know that YOU TOO can find your place on this wonderful platform.

Have a look at the Cities of Learning list.

“Find your city there or the closest city to your place or in your country. Connect and engage with people and organizations who pursue a vision of open, accessible, and inclusive learning for all through making Cities of Learning.”

Search for learning opportunities on the Global platform for Cities of Learning. Join something that interests you. Create new opportunities and invite others to benefit from what you have created.

If your city is not on the map of Cities of Learning, check the StarterKit and initiate a City of Learning where you live, learn, participate and work.

Stay Tuned! Next, we will feature the work of Ljubljana City of Learning.


Read another inspiring story here:

Women in Programming: The Story of Fatbardha Dallku, Co-Founder of Innovation Academy in Kosovo

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