The ECA has a long history of work relating to active citizenship.  This can be traced back to the roots of the Association which formed in 1920 as the Educational Settlements Association (ESA) to support the growing number of educational settlements.  The idea that lay at the heart of the first settlement was that "all should share in community action" and it was mandatory for all Association members to have a centre committee with full student and staff participation.  This sense of engagement still remains strong today.  The Association believes that active citizenship is vital to today's society and that learning, which empowers and encourages people to become active in their communities, has positive effects on both the individual and the community.  10 years ago when the Government was introducing the National Curriculum requirement for citizenship, the principal adviser, Bernard Crick, who at the time  was preparing the structures for younger learners, spent two days in an intensive ECA seminar exploring issues of adult citizenship learning .     


Work that the ECA has since carried out around active citizenship and empowerment includes: -


Democracy Matters

Democracy Matters LogoThe ECA is a member of Democracy Matters, an alliance to promote learning for practical politics and an effective voice.  This means learning how to take part in public life at any level, from the very local to global, to bring about social and political change and how to raise issues as well as responding to decision making opportunities.

Current work that the ECA is involved in as part of Democracy Matters include ECA Director, Chris Minter, speaking at the 'Learning for Local Democracy: Why do we need it and how do we do it?' event held on 16th October 2012 at Portcullis House in London.  The ECA used this opportunity to argue that adult learning providers, whether colleges, universities or local authority adult learning services should take a lead on promoting local democracy, pointing out that historically there are strong links between learning and democracy and that adult learning providers had a strong track record on attracting participation from groups that are often not included. 


Parliament Week

Through our active membership of Democracy Matters, the ECA supports Parliament Week.

Parliament Week is an annual, national awareness week, co-ordinated by the House of Commons and the House of Lords. The Week raises awareness and understanding of the UK’s parliamentary democracy, encouraging active participation from people across the country. In 2012 it ran from 19th – 25th November and provided a great opportunity to find out more about your parliamentary democracy and how you can take part in it. For more information about Parliament Week, go to our website at

To support Parliament Week in 2012, the ECA sponsored a local exhibition in the Leicester Peoples Photographic Gallery to run from the 19th – 25th November. This exhibition showcased photographs taken to illustrate the national themes of Parliament Week and featured the work of local Leicestershire photographers. 

In addition, the ECA also organised a special invitation event on Friday 23rd November with invited guests at the Gallery, including local MPs and members of the House of Lords along with representatives of all the private and public sector sponsors of the Gallery, including the Leicester Mercury, John E Wright and Leicester City Council. The trustees are particularly grateful to John E Wright for sponsoring the printing of the invitations and the printing of the images. We also offer our thanks and congratulations to the photographers whose work was displayed. 

Many members of the local business community of Leicestershire, including the Chamber of Commerce, and the Voluntary and Community Sector also attended the event as well as several local councillors. The keynote speakers were Bernard Godding MBE and also Titus Alexander, the national convenor of Democracy Matters.   

The ECA are also grateful for the very positive feedback from local politicians and others who attended the event including:

" Good event at Leicester Photographic Gallery for Parliament Week. Well done"

Cllr Rory Palmer, Deputy City Mayor of Leicester

" Another very successful event by the ECA demonstrating the power of working in partnership to promote and celebrate Parliament"

Paul Olver, NEC Member


Community Sector Coalition

CSC LogoThe ECA is a founder member of the Community Sector Coalition (CSC).  The Coalition acts as an authoritative and independent voice for the community sector.  Its members work together to influence policy that supports an empowered community sector as part of an active civil society.  The Association acts as the 'Education Strand' leader within the Coalition and is helping to drive forward its work at this time of great structural change.


Liberating Leadership

Liberating Leadership Toolkit Front CoverThe Community Sector Coalition's leadership programme 'Liberating Leadership' was developed to help recognise and support leadership in groups and collective community activities.  It formed part of the 3 year Leadership and Governance Workstream funded by Capacitybuilders' National Support Services Programme.  'Liberating Leadership' describes the reality of leadership in a small community group and aids 'a process of inspiring, supporting, working with and influencing others in a group, team, organisation or community, based on an agreed set of principles, to achieve common goals and social change.  It has resulted in a training programme for development workers and a toolkit for community groups to help unlock their hidden 'people power' and work more effectively together.  The ECA was a member of the project group that advised the authors on the approaches to the construction of the published Toolkit. 

The original funding for this programme came to an end in March 2011.



Campaigning is OK! they might not like it but it gets things done

Licester Roadshow ParticipantsThe ECA was one of the organisers of the East Midlands 'Make a Difference' Campaign Roadshow which took place in Leicester in Campaigning is OK! front coverDecember 2008.  The event was one of 9 regional events across the country aimed at voluntary support organisations, support provider/umbrella or second tier organisations, front line campaigners and individual campaigners.  The aim of the events was to raise awareness of the benefits of campaigning, promote training and support to make campaigning more effective (capacity building) and develop regional support networks for campaigning.  At the day long event  delegates were offered access to tools and training for advocacy and campaigning, information on materials, resources and funding and an opportunity to make new contacts and network.  Contributors to the event included Patricia Hewitt MP, Titus Alexander of Novas Scarman and a representative from Parliamentary Outreach.

The roadshows resulted in the 'Campaigning is OK! they might not like it but it gets things done' publication, prepared in conjunction with Titus Alexander.  This is a short guide to help community and voluntary organisations develop skills and support for effective campaigning.  It includes chapters on why campaign?, giving people the support they need and training for advocacy.  Please click here to download a PDF of the publication.


Leicester Community Network 

The Association carried out the Leicester Community Network project, funded by the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC), in Leicester from 2008 to 2009.  The project created a framework for exchanging information, views and sharing experiences.  Its aim was to strengthen the relationship between the broad community, equality groups, the media, training and educational organisations in Leicester; Britain's most culturally diverse city.  ECA locality workers made contact with a wide range of groups and organisations and arranged opportunities for them to come together in community venues across the city.  By the end of the project the network consisted of 59 participant organisations with an email exchange group of 63 contacts.  The overall feedback for the project was positive with community representatives valuing opportunities to close the gap between their realities and others perceptions of them within their communities.

"We'd seen this place but we'd never have thought to come inside.  We're glad we did"

P.T. service user at Network for Change


TEACh - Teaching European Active Citizenship

TEACh LogoTEACh participantsThe Association joined partners from across Europe for this Grundtvig funded project.  In 2004-2005 the TEACh partners developed a course for those who teach active citizenship to adults in non-formal education.  The course helps people understand how to relate to community and society, how their belonging gives them both rights and duties and how to take citizenship from a personal to local, national and global levels.  As part of this it addresses competencies and aptitudes such as self-expression, intercultural dialogue, negotiation, belonging, inclusion, attentiveness and sensitivity, openness, externalisation, empowerment, knowledge, values and attitudes and explores their relation to active participation in society and methods for teaching those competencies.  The courses started in 2006 and have been held across Europe.  ECA trustee Judith Robinson has been one of the main TEACh tutors from the second course onwards.

"The course was a brilliant opportunity and I feel privileged to have a place"

Course participant Imants Slisans, Latvia

In 2008 the European Commission selected TEACh from two hundred mobility TEACh particiapantsprojects it has recently funded as 1 of 10 projects which stand out for their quality.  It was featured in the Grundtvig publication 'Mobility Creates Opportunities, European Success Stories'.

"The TEACh project gives Europe a practical and tangible approach to provide training in the difficult but nevertheless extremely important subject of active European citizenship"

'Mobility Creates Opportunities, European Success Stories' 2008


Leadership in the Round

In response to the 2008 'Communities in Control: real people, real power' White Paper focusing on empowerment, the Association organised the 'Leadership in the Round' conference.  The event looked at ways in which third sector and adult learning organisations could integrate citizenship into their work.