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Last Update: 09-Oct-2005 10:27:02 am


Claiming What Is Ours: An Economics Experience Workbook


Prepared by Wendy Lutterell


Economics Educatiuon Project, Highlander Center







Route 3, Box 370, New Market TN 37820





This workbook is about making changes in our communities and in our lives through community-based economics education. It is about exploring new ways to claim economic knowledge and power through a learning process that confirms individual and community worth. The process presented in this workbook starts with people's own experiences as economic actors. It provides a model for putting women, minorities, the unemployed, in short, the economically disenfranchised back into the process of defining and reshaping our economic futures. The workbook draws its inspiration from the efforts of many Appalachian and Southern communities engaged in community-based economic development. It focuses attention on what we can learn from people's stories of economic adaptation, survival and collective action. This workbook grew out of a three year project undertaken by Highlander Education and Research Center as the Highlander Economics Education Project, or the HEEP Project. Two specific models of education were considered, debated and eventually brought to bear upon the project. The first was a formal, more traditional model creating curriculum for community college courses but challenging much of the analysis coming from business or government circles about economic development. The second model of education was informal, community-based education that was a part of an organization's ongoing activities. The learning materials developed for this approach are adaptive to non-classroom settings for varied lengths of time, such as workshops rather than courses, and able to address various constituents such as community activists, church members, union members or local development board members. While these two educational models were different, they were not seen as mutually exclusive. Both models assumed that learning would be an active, creative process. The workbook attempts to consolidate some of the varied HEEP learning experiences in the hopes that people in other places can benefit from this experiment in community-based economics education. This workbook presents a series of group activities geared towards getting people to explore and analyze their own experiences and create their own learning materials. It is called an Economics-Experience Workbook to emphasize this point. In teaching people how to read and write some educators have labeled their approach" Language-Experience" where instead of textbooks, the transcribed stories and words of learners are used as readings materials and as the basis for writing practice. In the same spirit, this workbook introduces people to a set of processes for using their own family, work and community experiences as the basis for understanding and acting upon the economy. There are four units in this workbook. Unit One invites people to discover and validate their own economic knowledge. Unit II focuses on nourishing this knowledge by developing a community economic profile. Unit Ill explores different community economic analysis strategies. Unit IV deals with participatory planning and action. Each unit includes group activities and suggests certain generic learning and facilitation skills. Also included are photos, songs, oral histories, newspaper articles and organizational proposals for economic change. These materials represent the depth and breadth of community economic development skills and knowledge that are part of people's culture and everyday lives.




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