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Learning cities

January 21, 2010

“It was surprising to learn that there is an international movement to create learning cities,” said Nan Skelton, co-director of the Center for Democracy and Citizenship. “We aren’t in this alone as Americans – we can learn from all of those other cities.”

An after school program that connects to and draws on the talents of neighborhood residents helps make Saint Paul a learning city.

The Center for Democracy and Citizenship and the City of Saint Paul Mayor’s Office are working in partnership with the Saint Paul Public School District, local teachers union, and organizations in the public, private and nonprofit sectors to ensure that young people in Saint Paul, Minn., grow up in a culture of learning that spans the many learning environments that impact their academic achievement, skill development, and personal growth so that they are successful in meeting the demands and expectations of the 21st century.  The City of Saint Paul is one of 10 demonstration cities in the U.S. working toward a vision described by the Mott Foundation as “a new day for learning.”

The international movement Skelton refers to is documented in a book by Normal Longworth titled Learning Cities, Learning Regions, Learning Communities: Lifelong learning and local government.

“A learning city,” writes Longworth, “is one with plans and strategies to encourage personal growth, social cohesion, and sustainable wealth creation through the development of the human potential of all its citizens and working partnerships between all its organizations.”

When cities or regions function as learning organizations, they “encourage active citizenship and volunteering and those schemes to activate goodwill, talent, experience and knowledge in communities,” says Longworth. It’s about improving performance in a range of institutions,  from schools to businesses to local government and neighborhood organizations. The notion of a learning city spreads responsibility for improving performance across organizations rather than placing it with schools alone.

Read more about the Center for Democracy and Citizenship’s involvement in Saint Paul’s Learning in Cities project.

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