European RCE Meeting Highlights Importance of Transformative Education

Report prepared by RCE Basque Country – Navarre, edits by Global RCE Service Centre


  • The European Regional Meeting 2023 was held online from 12-13 September 2023, centred on the theme ‘Transformative Education for Sustainable Regions’. It was hosted by RCE Fryslân and RCE Basque Country – Navarre. 
  • The annual European Internal RCE Assembly Meeting was held on 14 September 2023. 
  • European RCEs delivered ‘Dialogue and co-creation’ sessions on their projects and activities, as well as on challenges and actions. 
  • A proposal for the establishment of a European RCE Secretariat emerged. 
  • Topics for discussion at the 2024 in-person European RCE Meeting will be invited in a follow-up survey.  

The Europe Regional Meeting 2023 was hosted by RCE Fryslân and RCE Basque Country - Navarre, and was held virtually from 12-14 September 2023. Over three days, approximately 60 participants attended the Meeting, held under the theme 'Transformative Education for Sustainable Regions'. This event was followed by the European Internal RCE Assembly Meeting on 14 September 2023.

The Meeting was moderated by Maximilian Eisenbart (Youth Coordinator of RCE Fryslân / SPARK the Movement), Heleentje Swart (Coordinator of RCE Fryslân / SPARK the Movement) and Samuel Fernández Diekert (Chairperson of RCE Basque Country-Navarre).

An opening address was given by Dr Jonghwi Park (Head of Innovation and Education Programme, UNU-IAS), on behalf of the Global RCE Service Centre, before Mr Keisuke Midori (Section Chief, Ministry’s Secretariat, Office of Environmental Education) welcomed participants on behalf of the Ministry of the Environment of Japan. Following this, Mr Samuel Fernández Diekert (Education Programme Specialist at UN Etxea – Basque Country Association for UNESCO, and Chairperson of RCE Basque Country – Navarre) presented the follow-up actions from the Europe Regional Meeting held in 2022.

The topic of the meeting was introduced by means of a power lecture on ‘Transformative Education and International Institutional Frameworks’, by Mrs Cecilia Barbieri (Chief of Section, Global Citizenship and Peace Education, UNESCO). Mrs Barbieri stressed the importance of a transformative education which can transform people, who in turn can transform societies in order to build a better future.  

This lecture was followed by two framework presentations of inspirational initiatives led by the two host RCEs. Mr Mikel Ballesteros (Senior Advisor, Basque Department of Economic Development, Sustainability and Environment) presented the Boost-Model & Training Knowledge Management Centre currently being implemented in the Basque Country, while Mrs Heleentje Swart (RCE Fryslân) delivered a presentation on behalf of Dr Jose Middendorp (NHL Stenden) regarding the theme of ‘Pedagogy of Hope’ and presented the newly established Professorship on Pedagogy for Democratic and Sustainable Societies at NHL Stenden 

In the first ‘Dialogue and Co-creation’ session, participants were presented with three selected challenges and actions from RCE members. Ms Kirsten Leask (RCE Scotland) presented Scotland’s newly revised national Learning for Sustainability (LfS) Action Plan. The audience was asked how to build an inspiring movement for change, and ideas and reflections were collected. Mr Eduardo Ochoa de Aspuru (EGIBIDE Training Centre, RCE Basque Country – Navarre) presented the platform ‘Araban zu Zero’, a Climate Footprint Calculator, which allows calculation of one’s own carbon footprint, with the aim of raising individual awareness of climate change. Mr Joàm Evans (Montescola Foundation, RCE Galicia​) presentedVemo-nos no Monte’ (See you in the Forest), an educational project started in Galicia in 2017 due to regular forest fires, which focuses on education for prevention, control, and eradication of invasive species. 

Ms Aukje Sina Zijlstra (RCE Fryslân) highlighted how Transformative Education can be helpful for future youth, and introduced the RCE Youth Coordinators as a new initiative from the Global RCE Network. Ms Zijlstra also stressed the importance of appointing RCE Youth Coordinators in all the European RCEs, and she encouraged existing youth coordinators to connect with the Europe RCE Youth Coordinator’s team.  

In the second ‘Dialogue and Co-creation’ session Mrs Kate Sposob (PhD Student at University of Vechta, RCE Belarus) open-heartedly shared with the audience the struggles of RCE Belarus, and the issues that come with having an educational community in exile without institutional support since 2020. Mrs Leire Iriarte (PhD in Science and Coordinators of the Northern Hub of the Inner Development Goals in Spain, RCE Basque Country – Navarre) stressed the importance of the ‘Inner Development Goals’ (IDGs), and challenged the audience to reflect on how personal development can support sustainable development. In the last interactive session, Mrs Françoise Laveuve (Founder and Director of RCE Brittany), presented some uncertainties regarding the future of schools education in EU countries and challenged participants with some factors of change regarding such uncertainties.  

The second day of the Meeting aimed to promote deeper discussion in small group break-out sessions. Mr Menno Wierdsma (practor Sustainable Thinking and Acting at Firda) provided an inspiring presentation on regional learning and how we can motivate and support teachers in developing Education for Sustainable, Regional Development. Mr Samuel Fernández Diekert pursued the conversation with the introduction of the Knowledge Management Platform Factoria 4.7. The platform has the aim of promoting the perspective of Sustainable Development as the central engine of the Ibero-American educational agenda from a multistakeholder approach. 

A third ‘Dialogue and Co-creation’ session began with Dr Eirini Gallou (University of Strathclyde, RCE Scotland), posing the question How do the different levels of teaching practitioners share knowledge with each other? & What can RCEs collaboratively do in facilitating this?​”. This was followed by the intervention of Dr Rehema White (University of St. Andrews, RCE Scotland)​, with the question “How do we know that what we are doing is working and that our attempts on ESD are going beyond just providing information?. The last prompts for discussion were offered by Mr Saul Hoffmann (Albaola Boatbuilding School, RCE Basque Country – Navarre​), on their new learning method Aprendiztegi, and by Dr Jana Dlouha (Coordinator, RCE Czechia) on the role of the human dimension in promoting education for sustainable development at the regional level. 

In small groups, participants discussed one or both of the two following topics: How can we know we are making progress on SDG Target 4.7? and ”How do we move towards a competency framework for transformative global citizenship education for sustainable development​?”, before presenting their ideas, which will be discussed further in detail in subsequent gatherings of the European RCE community.  

In the final ‘Dialogue and Co-creation’ session, Dr Salim Lardjane, (Université Bretagne Sud, RCE Brittany) posed the challenging questions “What is the best status for an RCE given its environment (unofficial, association, foundation)​, and “How does the status of an RCE relate to the challenges it has to face?”. On this topic, the need for a European Secretariat emerged, which could provide a coordination and connection role on a daily basis and facilitate the set-up process of networks. Françoise Laveuve (RCE Brittany​) presented a case study on ​Transformative Education in Sustainable South Brittany (from ESD to SDGs), before Dr Marek Frankowicz (RCE South Poland) ​presented the vision of their RCE and the interconnection of education and eco-innovation.  Closing remarks for both days were given by Mrs Betsy King (RCE Scotland and European RCE Advisor).

On the final day, the annual Internal Assembly Meeting was held, with 32 registrants for this Meeting. An update from the Global RCE Service Centre by Dr Shengru Li was provided, before Mr Maximilian Eisenbart provided a follow-up on the progress of joint projects developed in the previous Regional Meeting in 2022. 

Participants identified current opportunities and challenges for their RCEs and discussed strengthening ongoing communication and collaboration between European RCEs. Local opportunities that could be shared more widely, and challenges RCEs face were also shared.  

For more information on the event, and to view presentations from the Meeting, visit the Europe Regional Meeting 2023 event page here.

The Global RCE Service Centre would like to thank the teams at RCE Fryslân and RCE Basque Country - Navarre for their wonderful contributions and efforts organising a successful Europe Regional Meeting 2023, and to all participants for their active participation and contributions.

(Photo credits: RCE Basque Country - Navarre)