Research: the real life of Global Education practitioners

by Grace Eshiet

What is it really like to be a global education practitioner? What influences practitioners’ everyday practice? How does this affect how they understand and talk about what they do? How do practitioners relate emotionally to their work?

In our final research report “Reconceptualising global education from the grassroots: the lived experiences of practitioners“, Amy Skinner – DEEEP4 research coordinator and Matt Baillie Smith – Professor of International Development at the Northumbria University, give voice to 16 Global Education practitioners from 15 different countries around the world, providing a fascinating insight into how they view and understand their work.

“That split between personal and professional is a bit of an artificial one for me, really… ” – interview of GE practitioner
“I have to have a kind of well of resilience […] 
otherwise I don’t think you would be involved in it for that long” – interview of GE practitioner
“Since I’ve been in this field, I’ve been more changing my mind regularly than
feeling certain about anything” – interview of GE practitioner
“I’m convinced I’m doing the right thing… Education is the shadow work of social change”– interview of GE practitioner

Whilst the practices of these individuals are critically important to the present and future of Global Education (GE), we know little about what their professional lives are like beyond the sharing of anecdotes and ‘common knowledges’ that circulate through GE networks, conferences and collaborations. For this reason, this research explores what it is like to do global education, how practitioners translate theory into practice in response to the changing world around them, and how this affects their practice.
This research therefore aims to conceptualise and reflect on our understanding of GE in a way that is practice-led and rooted in practitioners’ experiences.

We offer three key arguments:

IT’S A DAILY LIVED EXPERIENCE: We need to pay greater attention to what it means to be a GE practitioner and to the ways GE is embodied in professional lives often defined by various forms of precariousness.

CHANGING TIMES: The professional identity of GE practitioners needs to be understood as increasingly ‘in-between’ and ‘hybrid’. This reflects the mainstreaming and professionalization of GE, its more radical political histories and the new political and educational spaces being opened up by austerity politics, new resistances to neoliberalism and the changing aid and development landscape.

IT’S ABOUT CREATIVITY: GE practices reflect the interweaving of political and theoretically informed positions with the improvisations, resilience and coping strategies of GE practitioners as they negotiate the changing global development landscape and specific GE contexts in which they work.

“It’s an opportunity to not rely on public subsidies and will give us an opportunity to be more radical and more coherent”
“I can see the impact of my job. I can see how people change with my eyes.”
“I’ve realised that I should not try and be everything, my space for activism is as an educator.”

To get more insights and learnings from the interviews, read the entire report here. We truly hope that it can make a valuable contribution bringing practitioner voices to debates and discussions about global education practices and its future directions. Enjoy the reading!