The LSEN - Learning Skills Employment Network - is a network of organisations and individuals interested in learning and employment issues in Manchester (and beyond). In this post, we'd like to give an overview of who we are and what we do.
LSEN provides a single point of contact for all Third Sector learning, skills and employment training providers across Manchester. We focus on building capacity and promoting partnership work with our three key objectives being:
- Connecting Third Sector learning providers with each other and with public and private sector providers
- Providing a voice for Third Sector learning providers locally, regionally and nationally
- Improving performance and building capacity of Third Sector learning providers.
We are supported locally in this work by Macc, regionally by the WEA (Workers' Educational Association), and nationally by the ECA (Educational Centres Association).
We in the LSEN are interested in working with a wide range of individuals and groups. We passionately believe that Manchester needs to keep a focus on diverse learning opportunities - and that these opportunities need not be confined to accredited learning or employment-linked outcomes. Some of the most valuable learning happens as a result of following personal interests, and engaging with people of similar interests or with similar concerns (such as happens in communities all the time). With this in mind, we are currently particularly interested in community learning, and developing a Community Learning Strategy for Manchester - see more on our website, including details and outcomes of a session about community learning held in July 2012.
Over the last few years, LSEN has been active in promoting and facilitating Adult Learners' Week - a week of informal learning events around the country. This year, having previously coordinated activity in Manchester, LSEN will be jointly coordinating activity across the North West region. LSEN set up the Learning in Manchester website to coordinate ALW2012 activity across Manchester - and we want to keep the website running to signpost learning opportunities in Manchester year-round. If you have events to add to the website, or ideas for how to make the website better, please get in touch - see contact details below.
As you may know, LSEN has moved offices over the summer and is now based in the offices of Macc. Along with several other voluntary sector organisations in Manchester (including Voluntary Youth Manchester, BME network, and others), LSEN been working under the umbrella of Manchester Community Central and the Transforming Local Infrastructure project to share best practices amongst these organisations, and streamline services, activity and communications where appropriate.
Linked to the above work is another initiative we are currently involved in, which is setting up an assembly, or forum, for the voluntary sector in Manchester. This is intended to provide a space for sharing experiences, ideas and concerns amongst voluntary sector groups - as well as a communicative conduit between the voluntary sector and other organisations and agencies, such as Manchester City Council and other commissioning bodies. We have started this discussion (at the launch of Macc in September 2012), having conversations with small and large voluntary sector organisations as well as with public and private and sector organisations. We intend for the Voluntary Sector Assembly (if that is to be its name) to be at least initially set up by the end of 2012, with a view to defining its work and processes over the coming year. Watch this space!
And finally, who is LSEN?
LSEN is currently just two people - Walt Crowson and Cormac Lawler. Walt set up LSEN from strands of activity under the banner of CN4M, and has been working in the field of learning in Manchester for over 25 years. He came to the city from a Community College in Leicestershire in 1984 to join the North Area of Community Education, as it was called then, based in Blackey, North Manchester. Through various reorganisations he worked for North Manchester Community College and Manchester Adult Education Service before moving to MANCAT (now part of the Manchester College) in 1985 as the Head of Community Education. He left the College in 2005 and has spent the last 7 years building up and developing the LSEN.
Cormac has been studying and teaching at the University of Manchester over the past 8 years - completing his PhD in 2011 (on open collaborative learning environments, specifically Wikiversity) - and has also been involved in various initiatives in Manchester (e.g. co-organising CityCamp Manchester). Cormac joined LSEN informally during Adult Learners' Week 2012, having already done some work on the MOSI-ALONG project, a collaboration between LSEN, Museum of Science and Industry (MOSI) and the University of Manchester. Cormac is working part-time with LSEN, updating its websites, communicating through social media channels, and exploring networking and other opportunities.
We, Walt and Cormac, are both keen to strengthen and deepen our network, and we invite anyone - you - to get in touch with us to discuss any activity or ideas related to our work. If you already receive Walt's emails, you'll know how wide-ranging this work is - and if you don't receive them, please get in touch and we'll add you to the list! We are also keen to invite people to get involved with steering LSEN's work and helping make LSEN more sustainable as an organisation - if you have time, energy, and/or ideas, please don't hesitate to get in touch!