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What If we created our own celebration days?

By François Taddei, co-founder of the Learning Planet Institute

François Taddei, from his upcoming book Game-Changing: Together Solving the Problems of the 21st Century, writes about the importance of celebration to foster collaboration and co-creation among engaged actors, including the business community, to transform education for the future of the planet.

Francçois Taddei, co-founder of the Learning Planet Institute, writes about the importance of celebration to foster collaboration and co-creation among engaged actors, including the business community, to transform education for the future of the planet, and extends an invitation to join us at the #LearningPlanet Festival from the 22nd to the 29th of January 2022.

Celebrating heroes is common to all cultures throughout history for the very reasons that the Paris Panthéon still exists today. It offers a sense of community identity and gives us a shared history told through the lives and works of these people. 

Holidays and celebration days are basically an abstract version of a country’s pantheon, and the accompanying customs can be positive and tee up group cohesiveness through a sense of shared identity. Think of local customs like parades celebrating local values or family customs that serve to recall to everyone what it means to be a part of that family. Unless I’m mistaken, there aren’t yet any global customs that bring us together to honour our common humanity and take stock of just how rich this big human family is. 

The closest we come to it are the Olympic and Paralympic Games. Perhaps the most poignant aspect of that particular global custom is the ritual of the Olympic Truce, which dates back all the way to the 8th century BCE. Back then, the city hosting the games that couldn’t get attacked, along with anyone visiting the city for the event, the athletes first and foremost. As of 1993 the Olympic Truce has become law, with the UN passing a resolution for all member states to honour it for the duration of the games. 

Those who don’t care for sports can at least be thankful we have the games as a global custom with a history of peacekeeping. It only goes to show we should have more global customs just like it. Social media gives us the power to create new global customs to be celebrated everywhere at once, such Fridays for Future or the custom of applauding hospital workers during lockdown, and international action honouring the value of gratitude. 

If there can be sports and maths olympics, certainly there could be a sustainability or activist olympics. I imagine young people forming teams in their communities focused on tackling a local issue pertaining to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. In the same way communities provide kids with opportunities to join sports teams and practice with a coach, so they could do with environmental and political engagement, working with experts who can guide them they look for answers to thorny local issues. 

Creating a brand-new youth-development initiative takes time. In the short term, let’s look at the UN’s designated holidays, over 200 different days in the calendar celebrating various social values. The problem is there are no ways to celebrate these days with a group or a community because no parties get organized around them, even though they’re perfect opportunities to reflect on the issue the day honours and surveil the landscape of projects in the works and actors moving heaven and earth to address the issue at hand. 

UNESCO is working with Learning Planet Institute on the #LearningPlanet Festival on January 24th, the UN’s International Day of Education to create a global celebration around a UN-designated holiday, encouraging people to learn to take care of themselves, others, and the planet. We’re taking a special approach, working to fuse what are called “upperground” organizations, or major institutional players, with “on the ground” actors who are already involved in existing local initiatives. Because we are the go-between for these two, we are defined as the “middleground”, an essential cog in the motor of institutional creativity, a place whose freeform structure allows for creativity from any of the agile communities that are part of it, allowing creative and ambitious minds to use the space to do things they wouldn’t be able to do on their own. 

Ours is the perfect middleground for fostering initiatives to be scaled up to the global level and vice versa: it’s a place where fractal can go viral and where ideas get transformed into projects where real boots on the ground head out into the community. We launched the Learning Planet initiative with UNESCO in 2020. At its inception, we envisioned a long-term initiative that would bring engaged and driven people and organisations from all around the world into a global community with one another. From there, the possibilities are endless. The first order of business is celebration: of education, educational experiences, and to continued learning. But we certainly hope it doesn’t end there. 

We have a lot of hope for the initiative: we’ve already encountered so much enthusiasm, exchange and celebration between partners and members. Our major focus is making sure the voice of the youth is heard loud and clear, so we’ll be organizing group reflections and committees using “what if” questions to add fresh and crucial ideas to the mix. 

To get to where we want to go, we need to be able to dream big together, which we can only do if we have a way of sharing with one another. Collaborate and celebrate with us at the #LearningPlanet Festival from the 22nd to the 29th of January 2022 and see how you can contribute to shaping education for the future of our planet.

Read more on Education here.

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