When we talk about the impact of EU cooperation and what it has meant for adult education, we can talk about policy and programme priorities, the funding, the targets and indicators of success and while these are all important but these aspects don’t reflect the colourful picture which is the reality of EU cooperation and what it has meant for adult education. The real value of European cooperation for people who engage with European programmes and for those of us who work on the programmes – is the building of relationships with colleagues across Europe through creating networks of practice, innovating together around challenges and developing new approaches and the richness that this process of European cooperation brings to our work.
Having the opportunity to engage with our colleagues across Europe around our practice in our field is a luxury, that brings not only personal connections but access to a wider community. There are no national programmes that support the sharing of practice across providers in adult education in Ireland. There is no space to take time to step outside your own organization and work and view it in another context. At a personal and organizational level, EU cooperation allows you to reflect on your work and makes your realize the value of what you are doing. For many, engaging in European projects provides a mirror to their work - so many people have said to me ‘ I did not realize what we were doing was ground breaking, or so ahead of the game, I did not realize that we had something so valuable to share’. One cannot underestimate the impact that has on someone who may never otherwise get to view what they do in that way. Equally the opportunity to see something in action through visiting your partner in Europe gives you the courage to take the jump and try it in your own practice and to provide evidence to colleagues that doing it this way might work.
Those who participate in the programmes talk about it being a great professional boost, an injection of confidence, that it brings you into a creative space, it gives you energy to do more and brings quality to your work. European projects give you the space to innovate, to share, to try and to fail as long as you tried. For me, European cooperation is a living thing, its about people, it is moving, changing, adapting, responding and can be found in a multitude of spaces and media. EPALE provides another space in the EU cooperation arena - by providing another way for to everyone involved in the Adult Education to bring some of this richness to their work and to tap into the Adult Education philosophy and values through this wider Adult Education Community.