What does value mean to you? Have you ever helped a friend or colleague learn a new skill and experienced that learning by doing thing as someone did the same for you? Have you ever had an idea for a product, experience or service that you think would make a positive difference to others?
The Learnlife Marketplace explores all of these things and more. It is not a bake sale in a village hall, but rather a true expression of everything we are trying to achieve in supporting learners to become the best possible versions of themselves.
In a project that was co-created with learners (in fact, they ran it and took it far beyond what we could have imagined!), the Marketplace is an event where learners exemplify learning by doing, as they design, iterate, produce, and persuade others to buy their product or experience. So far, this sounds fairly linear, but there are some important twists.
Learning by doing within a community of individuals
Firstly, learners do not arrive at their finished product in privacy and secrecy, but actually help each other do so openly. This means swapping skills and insight, knowledge and ideas, reflection and suggestion, so that the finished product is already tested.
The skill swap aspect builds on something you might have heard of before: a time bank, where members of a community swap learning or a service for the same from someone else. All time is weighed equally, and the idea of value comes from contribution and sharing to strengthen a community which only succeeds when all succeed.
This aspect of learning by doing takes the more organic process of peer learning and highlights the exchange mechanism of the value of time and sharing. Learners traverse studios to try out their ideas in carpentry, cookery, coding and any number of others, supported of course by peers more practiced in that area. Some find new passions and interests, and others affirm the things that do not spark their interest. All of this is valid and important.
We have written before about Ikigai, and how the original Japanese concept of following your passion was somewhat co-opted by the neoliberal values of the Global North, so that your passion was only “valid” if someone was willing to pay you money for it. But “value” has a broader sense, and it is not simply about the dollar bill.
So how to build that sense of value into the marketplace? Learners create an internal currency! The L-coin, much like the Brixton Pound, is an internal currency only. Learners all begin the event with an equal amount, and though they should of course spend the L-coins on products and experiences which appeal to them, they also aim to replenish their stock of L-coins by the things they themselves produce for the community. Who says that young teenagers can’t yet grasp the values of the circular economy?
Learning by doing brings rich, deep results
And the result? At our last Marketplace, the learner who sold out her incredibly ornate cakes in 10 minutes, and the learner who innovated on the design of equipment for a popular ball game, had everyone clamouring for the product. From the learner who volunteered to digitise the L-coin and create an app for its use, to the learners who readily attended the workshop on using the app and helped improve it with feedback, there are so many wow moments of learners internalising what they can do as individuals within a community and for the good of a community.
There will be changes to the next Marketplace, such as a sugar tax on overly sweet pastries, and an improved version of the L-coin, but that is what life is like. Learning is continuous, challenging, fun, collaborative, purposeful and inspiring. Or at least, it can be, if the learners themselves are consulted and empowered.
The marketplace event itself is just one of many outcomes, and it is a celebration of learning by doing and the new learning paradigm.
Would you like to learn about our Marketplace in more detail? It really is a window into how our learning community works, and we invite you to watch this inspiring interview with Lars Taylor, Learning Guide and Studio Lead, about the whole experience.