The Université de Haute Alsace sent 15 students to study La Ruche

Requests as well as matching resources in terms of cultural activities, parenting, eco-citizenship, solidarity economy, organic food and short distribution circuits are all things that exist in the town of Mamers (a town of 5,000 inhabitants, situated in the Pays de la Loire in France). This café that has the status of an association, led by Amélie Demonchy, Nicole Leguay and their partners in the city, has provided a meeting place since 2009, bringing people together. The Masters degree in Social Solidarity Economy, under the direction of Josiane Stoessel emphasizes the need for inventive, collective ability to cross-pollinate knowledge and understand the complexity of a given space. She asked Martine Theveniaut to organise the meeting. The objective was to gain a deeper understanding of the socio-economic innovation, its components and the logic of its actions as well as its internal and external systems of local relationships.

This was the first time that the European P’acts had implemented the pedagogy of the Learning Journey in the context of a university, and over a 5-day period. The characteristics are based on a strict method of a three-stage process of 1-Illustrate, 2-Discuss and 3-Propose. Those hosting a meeting and their guests both contribute actively, playing clearly defined roles on a mutual path of building shared knowledge.

The meeting took place in January 2013, at a time when the Ruche was starting up an “Incredible Edible” project, following their visit to Todmorden (the town in the UK where the Incredible Edible movement was born). Their motto is “Do not ask what your town can do for you, but what you can do for your town”. The students did some up-front preparation, as well as group-work on site, collecting considerable data. The synthesis of the student delegation, elaborated by step and collectively, hat was presented to the partners available to the available partners; this was later completed by a written report.

Extracts from the evaluation:

La Ruche: The association gained in terms of dynamics and credibility. The members and those involved greatly appreciated the conviviality, seriousness and professionalism. The project promoters found the help invaluable in helping them to get messages across, as well as in terms of theoretical input, and gaining perspective on a medium-term development strategy.

The Université de Haute Alsace and the European P’acts: This approach to learning has proven that it can play a part in academic learning programmes.

The students: “Learning Journeys are relevant, useful and probably have a strong impact”. “Meeting people and diving into the heart of a project, analysing and sharing it is mutually beneficial; I support this pedagogical approach”. “Learning about the eco-system of an association, the challenges it faces in terms of development is very enriching”. “The interviews and intensity of the meeting enabled serious learning to take place”. “There was space for informal dialogue to take place. Trust was built, which in turn meant that people expressed themselves freely in a safe environment (non-judgemental, benevolent and communicative…)”.

Site currently under construction: Martine Theveniaut, coordinator of the European P’acts, sociologist.