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'The shoes of a laureate are big to fill' - reflections by ESD prize-winner from Botswana

06 December 2019

A new post has just been published on the ESD Prize Blog by the Camphill Community Trust from Botswana, one of the winners of the UNESCO-Japan Prize on Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) in 2019. Richard Blake, Principal, reflects on his and his colleagues' trip to Paris, France to receive the Prize at UNESCO Headquarters in November:

"We leave our village in Botswana, a place of light and heat and red sand. We leave a country waiting for rain. We arrive in Paris. It is cold, wet, grey. On entering the extraordinary UNESCO building during a convened General Conference, we meet hustle, diversity, protocols being observed. How can we connect these two - home and this place? How to explain about where we come from? How to fit in and understand what is happening here? Unlike the other two laureates for the 2019 UNESCO-Japan Prize, one having a city wide, the other a region wide focus, Camphill Community Trust is very local. Camphill uses sustainable education in a setting of social enterprises and perma-culture to support people with special needs and their families to achieve situated, person-centred inclusive and sustainable livelihoods in their local communities. Local work, small, incremental transformations for both people with special learning needs and their communities.

We experience great kindness. The whole Education for Sustainable Development (ESD) team welcomes us and the other 2019 laureates. We are honoured. We are led on a remarkable tour around the grand building - a building both forward-looking but also under restoration, slightly pock-marked by time. And then out into the cold November Japanese Garden, its last autumn leaves falling around us as we walk, - and back inside to warmth, to see the Art - all amazing. Hope, anticipation, anxiety, mingle.

We meet the Prize Jury. We discuss why we won the prize and the implications for our shared future. The conversation steers us towards a fuller realization of our responsibility to be an accessible model that others can visit, experience and find out about - replicate, appropriate ideas and activities for themselves, for their communities. We talk about a need to link up with other organizations across the region, horizontal connections - to learn from each other and further develop such locally situated accessible models - "sustainability commons" - a concept that one of the prize jurors points us towards. Something we have long been working for now has a name.

Having lunch with some of the prize jury members high up on the top floor looking out across the rooftops of Paris through the November mist and rain. The conversation turns to the climate emergency. We hear how cities, regions, one after another, are declaring states of climate emergency - a reality emerges. Looking out through the mist our thoughts turn to a parched dry landscape in southern Africa, waiting for rain.

At the prize giving ceremony in the evening, the Director-General addresses delegates, tired from their day’s deliberations. She tells us all that UNESCO is communicating a clear agenda for implementing Education for Sustainable Development and thereby working towards achieving the SDGs by 2030. In addition, across the globe there are many excellent programmes, organisations and activities on the ground working from the bottom upwards to achieve these goals. A challenge remains though - there is still a lack of effective articulation in the middle spaces that exists between the two.

We meet to wrap up. We hear a presentation about the next phase of the implementation of ESD that have just been agreed by the UNESCO General Conference. A question is raised by a laureate. "How will the challenge of articulation in the middle be addressed?" The crisp answer comes back - "through your leadership". The shoes of a laureate are big to fill.

We bid fond farewells. We travel home. We arrive home. It has rained. Green shoots push up through the red sand..."

Click here to read the full blog