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June O'Sullivan, LEYF CEO

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Will Technology Based Networks Lead to a New Age of Enlightenment and an Early Years Wiki?

Last week was a week of networks and networking.  On Wednesday I was at an event organised by the Social Business Trust (SBT.)  It was called ‘Social Enterprise Potential in UK Education’ and a central theme was how we connect and form communities of like-minded people where we can converse and debate and learn from each other. I ended up having a very lively conversation with the Development Head of Ark Academies and Brett Wigdortz of Teach First or as I said to him Teach Early Years First! I think we will continue the discourse as we had much to say.

On Thursday we hosted the annual Margaret Horn lecture, ‘United World Entrepreneurial Leaders and our Creative Future’ and we were really looking at how entrepreneurial leaders are using technology to develop networks that connect people. We had presentations from Greg Kyle-Langley from Coutts Bank and One Young World and Thomas Sweetman from Sticky Board both in their own ways pointing to the importance of connecting globally and regionally.

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We also had a powerful piece from Paul Spinks co-chair of the London Network of Men in Childcare (MiC LDN celebrate its 1st birthday this week  – look out for my blog on the  huffington post) reaffirming the need for networks based on issues and finally, as I was host I could use some of the time to present the idea of the global portal for Early Years in the form of an Institute of Early Years where we can network with people interested in  or working in Early Years and who want to freely share, connect or campaign on issues relating to small children across the world.

Finally, on Friday I was invited to an event at Channel 4 exploring the notion of public value and one of the speakers was Jimmy Wales who set up Wikipedia particularly because he wanted people to have free access to information. His main point is that a successful network depended on having a shared sense of purpose that ensured a wide reach and a group of supporters who ensured the business retained its vitality and kept them motivated and engaged.  I was heartened by his story and thought that the global portal in the form of IEY was not such a crazy idea after all. An Early Years wiki!

So do you think we are engaged in a New Age of Enlightenment ? In Immanuel Kant’s famous essay “What is Enlightenment?” (1784), he described this as the freedom to use one’s own intelligence.  For others in the17th and 18th centuries enlightenment was a process of spreading and discussing changing sociabilities and cultural practices and this was reflected in the great explosion of books.  Is the new age of enlightenment reflected in our digital proliferation such as Google, Wikipedia, Twitter and Youtube ? Can we use it to get us to think more, consider more and learn better from each other?  I certainly always learn more about music, check out my latest discovery – Nightmares on Wax.

There is no doubt that it can provide access to a wider world but will that be enough to change sensibilities for the long term and for the better. What do you think?

  • Catriona Nason

    This new technical telepathy in the form of social media and networking has many positive aspects for Early Years such as greater interconnectedness, easier communication, and the exposure of information that in the past could have more easily been suppressed. We just have to look at the great communication going on just recently between Early Years professionals and the wider public as well as Government departments such as The Save Childhood Movement, #OfstedBigConversation and others. Obama used social networking to fund his campaign through crowd funding. Not only was he financially successful but he won the hearts and minds of people via email with his daily dose of Barack. People were included, involved, valued and they all shared a common purpose. Negative effects include information overload, Internet predators, forms of social isolation, and media saturation. I guess just like anything else in life, it can be abused. What really inspires me about this new interconnectedness however is that it transcends borders and other obstacles. The outcome is the enabling of views, experiences, knowledge and practical skills to innovatively and sustainably solve social, ethical, educational, developmental, environmental, and economic problems, locally and around the world. Global teamwork!

  • sue egersdorff

    Thank you June – it was great that we had a platform last week to talk about the Institute for `Early Years and encouraging to receive offers of support from a range of experts who would like to be engaged. We know we have some distance to travel to achieve our vision but it feels like the journey will be a rewarding and collaborative one for sure!

  • Penny Webb

    I agree with you June – and with Wendy, the opportunities available these days are fantastic and increasing on a almost daily basis. Certainly I now connect and work with far more people than I have ever done in the past, Information sharing can be almost instant and can be very effective.

    I also agree that social enterprises are a very effective way of like minded people working together ( I am a member of a childminding social enterprise, and currently going through the process to be a foster carer with another social enterprise).

    I hope that we can all unite and as a result be more effective in our communications and our work

    • June O’Sullivan

      Penny, you say two things that excite me in one sentence – early years and social enterprise.

  • wendy ellyatt

    Hi June, I think we are engaged in a new era of global collaboration and (hopefully!) enlightenment and that technology is going to be playing a massive part in this. The Save Childhood Movement is very supportive of the idea of a global portal and would like to be an active partner. It could be exciting times for the early years, but there are also clearly many challenges ahead. It’s great that you are now leading the debate in this area.

    • June O’Sullivan

      Thank you for your support – we would love you to be an active partner. We have to make it exciting times for early years. June

    • June O’Sullivan

      Thank you Wendy, we are delighted that you would like to support us. We need to make early years exciting times.

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