In all five partner institutions, the 1st learning circles have taken place the past month. Almost 50 participants in Brussels, Belfast, Budapest, Barcelona and Dublin took part online or face-to-face, got to know their institutional colleagues and discussed their CERL approach and ambitions. In most sessions, local CSOs were involved actively as well. In Brussels for example, they met at the site and with the people from Art Basics for Children, a laboratory for aesthetic experiences, creative development and artistic awareness and Brussel Behoort Ons Toe – Bruxelles Nous Appartient, a CSO that records, archives and distributes voices, stories and sounds from the city.

In Belfast Jim Bradley joined the learning circle, he is Partnership Manager at Belfast Hills Partnership. Belfast is surrounded by hills and Belfast Hills Partnership is an independent charity which seeks to improve how the hills are managed. The Belfast Science Shop has worked with them on a wide range of projects, from looking at solitary bees to littering to how to improve the visitor experience.

In Dublin Deborah Costello, Fundraising & Communications Manager for Friends of the Elderly, presented this volunteer-based charity, set up to bring friendship and companionship to older people who feel lonely. She shared some projects the charity need help with, such as a social media campaign for their charity shop and an age-friendly stage for their weekly afternoon tea dance for a band to perform on. Furthermore, Kaethe Burt O’Dea of Lifeline presented on her ‘Nature RX’ Programme, an initiative to use artistic processes to empower citizen science. Some of the challenges faced in previous and future projects she mentioned were whether student motivation would be as high during the pandemic if they are working offline and off-site, how to encourage shy/nervous students to make contact with their community partner during a project.