It is time for celebration! At the end of the third edition of the Sinergias DE project, eight years since we first dreamed of it, after seven years of implementation and the publication of ten issues of the journal Sinergias – Educational dialogues for social change, we feel that the time has come to mark these moments with a commemorative print edition of the journal, which reflects the path dreamed and travelled so far.
When in January 2012 the Centre for African Studies of the University of Porto and the FGS -Gonçalo da Silveira Foundation thought about the possibility of establishing a close collaboration between a Research Centre and a Non-Governmental Organisation for Development, backdropped by Development Education (Global Citizenship Education or Education for Social Change), we were still far from predicting the role and impact that the present journal would have.
At that time, we were united by the desire to embark on a journey based on shared perspectives:
- A VISION… the relevance of Development Education/Global Citizenship Education/ Education for Social Change in the context of today’s society.
- A NEED… the deepening of scientific research in Development Education (DE) and a greater connection between higher education and civil society.
- A RECOGNITION… the importance of using alternative methodologies for the joint creation of knowledge and for horizontal and collaborative reflection, for the transformation and credibility of actions on the ground.
- A HOPE… opening spaces for the creation of learning relationships and mutual reinforcement of the actions of Civil Society Organizations (CSO) and Higher Education Institutions (HEI).
- A BELIEF… the promotion of the values and relevance of DE as a sign of resistance towards the prevailing landscape of crisis and austerity and the dominant political, economic, and social orientations.
In 2013, after the approval of the project Sinergias DE: Getting to know so as to act better – promoting research on DE practices in Portugal, co-funded by Camões – Institute for Cooperation and Language, I.P., we moved from the time of dreaming and idealising to the time of dreaming and realising.
Fruit of a vision matured throughout its three editions, the Sinergias DE project aims to enhance the connection between research and action in the area of DE in Portugal, creating opportunities and conditions for the connection between researchers and activists in the co-production of knowledge on DE and for the training of actors in this area. Thus, the project seeks to contribute to promoting the quality of intervention in DE – the ultimate goal without which everything would be a theoretical exercise far from reality.
It is in this context that this digital, specialised, and peer-reviewed journal has been developed. Over ten issues, we have been working to make the Sinergias journal an international platform for conceptual, methodological and practical discussion and reflection in the field of Education for Social Change (regardless of its different labels), serving as a vehicle for knowledge production and sharing in this area, both in the national context and in other contexts inside and outside Europe.
Between 2013 and 2016, the first edition of the project took place, during which the first three issues of the journal were published. In these issues, reflection upon concepts and new paths in education for social change was carried out; theoretical perspectives and practices emerging from formal education contexts were presented; and various forms of collaboration between Higher Education and Civil Society were described and discussed, resulting from the partnerships established within the scope of the project itself. In this phase, a gradual proximity between fieldwork and the national and international scientific community was sought, through the broad participation of members from both areas in structuring, writing, editing and disseminating the journal.
Between 2016 and 2018, the second edition of the project took place, during which four issues of the journal were released. In these issues, interrogations and learning achievements from the previous project cycle were shared; the distances, proximities and complementarities between DE and Cooperation for Development were explored; the relationship between Higher Education and the surrounding Community(ies) was discussed, emphasizing the discussion of the third pillar of Higher Education (alongside teaching and research), the so-called “university extension”; and the project’s doors were opened again through a set of learning proposals drafted by the collaborative groups participating in the second edition of Sinergias DE. In this edition, it was visible, among other results, a strengthening of the relationships created between the HEI and the CSO involved in the project around common concerns, such as Collaboration and Knowledge.
The third edition of the project, which now comes to an end, took place between 2018 and 2020. This last edition focused on the creation of a DE Community, which was formed in the previous cycles of the project and aims to be the seed of a further consolidation of the dialogue between research and action in DE in Portugal. During this period, three issues of the journal were published, with contributions by authors linked to the activities of Sinergias DE, reflecting on the knowledge, practice, and learning experiences essential for the exercise of Democracy and Citizenship. Upon reaching the tenth issue of the journal, it was possible to fulfil the desire to strengthen ties with international journals, by editing a collaborative issue with the Revista de Fomento Social, from Spain, in the context of the Bridge 47 project. In addition to the focus on the learning experience itself and on the challenges of collaboration between actors within the scope of the 2030 Agenda, we sought to reflect upon the challenges brought by the pandemic situation we are experiencing.
All the numbers edited under the Sinergias DE project are the result of reflective questioning that invariably gives rise to several critical moments. These moments have the advantage of generating learning opportunities for the project team. Structural themes and issues were debated, leading to some ideas that we feel need to be retained: i) the most significant learning achievement is not always expressed in the final results, but takes place precisely in the dialogue between processes and products; ii) the journal is a mirror of the diversity (of actors, methodologies, formats, beliefs…) that the project embraces and that shape the journal issue after issue; iii) the journal is a space for reflection on alternatives that matter to the fields of DE, Global Citizenship and Social Change and which are crucial at a time when political, economic and social challenges are pressing; iv) one of the journal’s identity traits is standing up for difference in a context of increasing commodification of knowledge subdued to the dominant power forces; and v) in this collaborative process, small threads of what may constitute a larger web of a Community linked to DE and for Social Change were launched.
All of these reasons have propelled us to put together a commemorative print issue of the journal Sinergias – Educational dialogues for social change. With this special issue we wish to celebrate a set of identity traits that help to define both the Journal and the Community that has been built in parallel, which has also contributed to the history of our journal. Thus, we seek to gather texts that capture this identity, guided by education, innovation, diversity, freedom, collaboration and transformation.
In a process that is coherent with the project itself, the selection of the texts presented below was achieved, firstly, by listening to the Sinergias Community and, secondly, through discussion moments between a group of members that volunteered to take part in the Editorial Board. In this issue we sought to draw “the portrait” of what has been the Sinergias journal – a publication with a diversity of languages, themes and text types, which values the collaborative, transforming (and even provocative) nature of contributions.
This special issue of the Sinergias journal opens up with a reflection on the project itself in the article Sinergias ED – Uma experiência-piloto de construção colaborativa de conhecimento [Sinergias DE – A pilot experience of collaborative knowledge construction] (No. 7, July 2018), by La Salete Coelho, which presents part of the originality of the Sinergias DE project that emerged from a co-construction process. This article is followed by a conceptual and historical perspective of DE, its challenges and possibilities, in the diálogo com Liam Wegimont [dialogue with Liam Wegimont] (No. 3, February 2016), led by Tânia Neves and Sara Peres Dias.
Moving on to the presentation of new worlds and possible systems, two in-depth articles ensue: the article Sinalizando rumo a futuros decoloniais: Observações pedagógicas e de pesquisa de campo [Signaling towards decolonised futures: Pedagogical observations and field research] (No. 9, October 2019), written by Vanessa Andreotti, Sharon Stein, Dino Siwek, Camilla Cardoso, Tereza Caikova, Ubiracy Pataxó, Benicio Pitaguary, Rosa Pitaguary, Ninawa Huni Kui and Elwood Jimmy, which shares the learning achievements of collaboration for decolonisation and the construction of other “possible worlds”; and the article Dilemas y desafíos de una educación para la transformación – Algunas aproximaciones Freirianas [Dilemmas and challenges of an education for social change – Some Freirian approximations] (No. 4, October 2016), by Oscar Jara H., which emphasises the idea that Education for Social Change is based on the metamorphosis of the change agent itself during this process. The following text, The Sustainable Development Goals are toothless in the face of neoliberalism: We need to pursue a new path to equality (No. 4, October 2016), is part of a debate on the 2030 Agenda with Stephen McCloskey, throwing a critical look at the Sustainable Development Goals.
We then move the critical eye of DE to the area of Cooperation for Development. In the article (Re)politizando la solidaridad internacional: Pensando la cooperación como educación para una ciudadanía global radical [(Re)politicizing international solidarity: Thinking of cooperation as education for a radical global citizenship] (No. 5, June 2017), Sergio Belda-Miquel and Alejandra Boni Aristizábal think of International Cooperation as fertile ground for the development of Education for Radical Global Citizenship. In the diálogo com Augusta Henriques [dialogue with Augusta Henriques], promoted by Stéphane Laurent (No. 5, June 2017), we learned about the path taken by the Bissau-Guinean Non-Governmental Organization Tiniguena, which sought to combine aspects of DE and citizenship in its intervention, an experience marked by critical thinking and intense debate about new colonialisms. In his text A scholar-activist’s heretic attempts to “eradicate poverty” from a southern perspective, through disruptive Global Youth Work (No. 10, July 2020), Momodou Sallah urges us to face the dark side of International Youth Volunteering as a starting point to discern and build bridges between academia and activism.
Reflecting upon the role of Higher Education, we visit the article El rol de la universidad en el proceso de Educación para el Desarrollo: Un análisis comparado de sus documentos estratégicos [The role of university in Development Education: A comparative analysis of its strategic documents] (No. 2, September 2015), by Maria Luz Ortega Carpio, Antonio Sianes and Maria Rosa Cordón Pedregosa. This article examines the space that DE finds in Higher Education and the extent to which it opens up to the Community to solve social challenges that concern us all. This theme is also reflected in the diálogo entre Albertina Raposo, Filipe Martins, Teresa Gonçalves e Teresa Martins [dialogue between Albertina Raposo, Filipe Martins, Teresa Gonçalves and Teresa Martins] (No. 6, January 2018), members of the Sinergias Community.
We close this commemorative issue by returning to the departure point, with a diálogo com Luísa Teotónio Pereira [dialogue with Luísa Teotónio Pereira], led by Júlio Santos (No. 1, December 2014), where the concept, history and practice of DE is revisited, this time within a Portuguese framework, and with the The Role of Development Education – Position Paper from the Centre for African studies of the University of Porto (CEAUP)developed within the scope of the project, which depicts the stance of the research group in Education, Development and Global Citizenship of this centre towards the role of Development Education in today’s world and in Higher Education.
This being a commemorative issue, it is also an acknowledgment issue. Firstly, to the readers (the meaning and feeling of the journal) and to the authors who published their work in Sinergias. We would also like to express our gratitude to so many other people who have contributed to making the journal possible and what it is: the members of the Sinergias DE project team, the guest members of the Scientific Council, the invited and volunteer members of several Editorial Boards, reviewers, interviewers and interviewees, transcribers, translators, page planners, designers, among others. Fortunately, they are too many for us to name individually, however, we pay them due tribute and thank them for contributing to the journal with their cognitive and affective energy, in yet another expression of the synergy that moves us all.
Finally, a word to the entities that sponsored the several issues of this journal, in particular Camões – Institute for Cooperation and Language, I.P., for the confidence placed in the potential of the Sinergiasjournal and for the decision to contribute with the necessary means to bring this idea to practice.
We hope that this commemorative issue will become an open window to the (re)discovery of the Sinergias journal, encouraging reflection, discussion and transformation.