How #JoyFE has been a source of connection for many

The founders of #JoyFE share how this way for FE to connect came about – and how it is making an meaningful and positive impact on the sector
13th May 2020, 2:27pm
Lou Mycroft and Stefanie Wilkinson

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How #JoyFE has been a source of connection for many

https://www.tes.com/magazine/archive/how-joyfe-has-been-source-connection-many
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There is something beautiful about having a sense of purpose that guides you to send positive messages out into the world. Sometimes, you meet people who share the same intentions. The colliding of energies when you encounter one another in time-limited constellations means that ideas are very quickly born.

Through some very brief conversations at the start of isolation, the two of us shared a vision of how we could use this time. Our intention was to put positive messages out into the FE world while keeping it real. We wanted to discuss the things we were experiencing in the hope that others would recognise themselves and be able normalise worries and fears. We wanted to bring hope and joy to others, to experience connection ourselves and to capture the moment, documenting our experiences during this extraordinary time.

#JoyFE started with a 7am weekday broadcast on Twitter Live. We wanted to create a positive space to start the day and also to lay down a marker that might help everyone - including us - establish a new routine at home. We discussed our experiences as the move to remote learning took place. People joined us from across the expansive breadth of FE.


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The #JoyFE broadcast has seen us discuss the importance of listening, the rollercoaster of emotion we and others have experienced in isolation, as well as hope, expectations, language and trust.

At weekends, we realised it might just be nice to feel connected, so that first isolation weekend saw the creation of the 8am coffee Zoom, where we invited anyone to come and just be in the space. This became a place to check in with each other, see how we were, be heard and be ourselves in a time of change.

Feedback has been really positive and seeing the contributions of those who had been listening at 7am, we came up with the 8am #IdeasRoom concept, where anyone could come and explore their thinking. We didn't have any expectations of what this might be, we just knew we wanted a space of connection and trusted that whoever joined us were the right people.

'A strong sense of common purpose'

The magic that has grown in that space has been phenomenal. The energy is palpable, the positivity relentless and the sense of collaboration, belonging and purpose is something we have never before experienced as a collective. This feels different, it feels meaningful, it feels sustainable and there is a momentum for change which almost cannot be put into words. This is pure potentia, the very best kind of think tank. There is a strong sense of common purpose.

It is magical to work with similar values and motivators, and momentum has built with incredible speed. It is truly fascinating to evaluate the reasons for this, but there is huge credit to be given to the Thinking Environment which created a platform for all voices to be equal.

Everyone feels accepted, their opinion is valid and there is a real sense of looking out for each other as humans in this challenging time. Trust has grown quickly. Expressing our real selves requires vulnerability and we have embraced this; relationships feel truly collaborative and altruistic. And the efficiency is mind-blowing. We are now exploring how to enact all the ideas we have generated.

The impact in FE

How could this type of approach have impact in FE? We are always looking for ways to improve teacher retention and student achievement, raise morale and create a sense of satisfaction. The #IdeasRoom could be applied to leadership and pedagogy across FE, and we are testing this in various ways. Safe spaces to build meaningful collaborative approaches have the potential to achieve more with the precious limited time we have.

Why would we not want staff and students to feel truly valued, to enable them, in the words of Nesta UK's 2018 definition of good help, "...to feel hopeful, identify their own purpose and confidently take action"?

All our ideas contribute to the bigger picture of how we run classrooms, institutions and industries in post-pandemic times. Traditional 'teams' lack the energy and agility of opt-in constellations like the #IdeasRoom. It may take a little more time to establish this type of momentum but benefits far outweigh the investment in terms of relationships built. There is growing evidence that suggests connection is key to wellbeing, as well as to outstanding performance. Whatever new normal we go back to, it is essential that we take forward what we are learning about creating strong connections and collective momentum, which could have a high payoff in education and in the world as a whole.

Join the IdeasRoom via the #JoyFE hashtag on Twitter, Wednesdays 8pm and Sundays 9am.

Lou Mycroft is a facilitator, writer and public speaker and Stefanie Wilkinson is the director of Teaching and Learning at Barnsley College.

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