Connected learning spaces

The ‘Connected Learning Spaces’ project focuses on food sustainability initiatives in the city of Cardiff, Wales, and the potential for experiential learning within these. Food is central to current debates on sustainability and intersects with sustainability issues in economics, ecology, politics and culture. Sustainable urban food initiatives such as urban farms, community gardens, community kitchens and food cooperatives have now become widespread. They are often rooted in, and help to develop, a broad range of knowledge in food sustainability within the community. However, such projects which are often unfunded and based on the work of volunteers tend to struggle with access to resources and promoting wider participation. There is an opportunity to build stronger connections between institutions of higher education and local food sustainability initiatives, not just through research but through active participation and collaboration between both students and academics and those involved in the community.

The central aim of the ‘Connected Learning Spaces’ project is to bring together community members involved in local food sustainability (particularly community gardens), students, and university staff members in the process of co-producing a programme of experiential learning around sustainable food and agriculture. The output of the project, therefore, is an educational programme design for university students which draws upon the knowledge of local ‘everyday experts’ in food sustainability and at the same time works to benefit and support community garden projects. This process will be carried out as participatory action research with a series of workshops leading to the final output. Throughout this project, the key focus of the empirical research will be to study the processes of co-production and collaboration as well as the learning that occurs as part of these processes. This involves implementing various participatory methods in workshops and reflecting on the benefits and challenges of using them in these contexts.

In this sense the research has two sets of aims: on the one hand, to co-produce an educational programme around food sustainability; and on the other hand, to study empirically the processes of this collaborative design through successive action research cycles.

Key words: Co-production, everyday experts, food sustainability, community gardens, participatory methodologies, experiential learning


Researcher: Alice Taherzadeh

Host: Sustainable Places Research Institute CU
Supervisors: Prof. Terry Marsden & Dr. Abid Mehmood

Co-supervisor: Prof. Erik Mathijs
erik mathijs
1st secondment: Wageningen University
2nd secondment: University of Leuven