Popular education in the ‘Fe y Alegría’ network: reflections and contact with participatory evaluation

Today we would like to share with this community of practice and learning, EvalParticipativa, the experience and perspective of the international organisation Fe y Alegría regarding its connection to participatory evaluation.

The article highlights a recent institutional document produced by this organisation, created by members of the Commission responsible for its collective construction: Beatriz Borjas, Antonio Pérez Esclarín and Vicente Palop. In this post, they first introduce us to aspects of Fe y Alegría’s identity and activity as a context for its main commitment to popular education, a key element and close relative to participatory evaluation as we shared in our post When cousins meet and in the handbook, Sowing and Harvesting.

Fe y Alegría is a Popular Education and Social Development movement that works with deeply impoverished and excluded sectors of society to enhance their personal development and participation in society. This movement began in Venezuela in 1955, founded by José María Vélaz SJ, together with a group of university students and thanks to the generosity of Abraham Reyes and Patricia García, who donated their home for the first school. Today, Fe y Alegría is active in 22 countries in Latin America, Europe, and Africa.

The International Federation of Fe y Alegría has prioritised the following areas of work:

1. New Frontiers: in line with our original charisma, we want to be bold and creative in the way we embark on new social and educational ventures in the most excluded areas. This means adapting to new contexts and cultures in countries and continents where we are not yet present, especially in Africa.

2. Sustainability: we are a movement made up of people committed to the mission of social transformation. We seek to strengthen our organisational and economic sustainability to ensure effective, participatory and transparent management.

3. Public Action: we want to influence public policies, encourage political action in defence of the right to public education, promote communication strategies and spaces, construct new identities, foster cultural changes and create new narratives that contribute to social transformation.

4. Popular Education: we support a pedagogical, ethical, political and epistemological approach that guides all our educational action with intentional personal and social transformation. We develop high-quality social and educational processes with, from and for communities that include diversity and promote citizenship that is committed to justice.

In February 2019, in connection with this last identity trait, the Board of Directors from the International Federation of Fe y Alegría asked the Commission for Reflection on Popular Education to reread, in the light of the current context, Fe y Alegría’s founding principles for the field of Popular Education and generate a reflection process for the various bodies of the Federation within the framework of the implementation of the Plan of Federal Priorities (PPF in Spanish) 2016-2020.

First, the commission spent time exchanging ideas with a group of external experts in order to re-conceptualise what is understood by the term, popular education, in light of new social, political, economic and educational contexts. In this process, the greatest challenge was how to link the rich history of Popular Education in Latin America with the educational reality of Africa, where Fe y Alegría has been active since 2007.

Following on from this work, the findings were presented to Fe y Alegría national directors at a face-to-face meeting in San Salvador in October 2019. Virtual dialogues were held later with managers and national leaders working in the area of Popular Education in Central America, the Southern Cone, the Andean region, Africa and the Spanish Entreculturas team in order to incorporate regional perspectives into the document.

The result of this effort was the publication of the document ‘Popular Education reflection and revision in Fe y Alegría (also available in Portuguese and French). It is currently being shared and promoted and will be discussed by educators from the 22 national Fe y Alegría centres within the framework of the Pre-XLVIII  International Congress of Fe y Alegría that will take place in October 2021.

This document raises similar issues to those discussed within the EvalParticipativa community of practice and learning. The closeness and harmony shared between Popular Education and Participatory Evaluation has already been mentioned on this site (and in the handbook, Sowing and Harvesting). The following topics are covered in the document:

      • The validity of Popular Education today
      • Essential principles of Popular Education
      • Fe y Alegría as a Popular Education Movement
      • Popular Education within the educational approach of Fe y Alegría
      • From the community to the public sphere

We specifically invite the EvalParticipativa community to consult the document and respond to it from a participatory evaluation perspective. We would also like to extend this document’s final invitation to the community as a way of continuing the conversation, always keeping in mind a global perspective as we pursue the end goal of achieving the common good in the local educational settings where we are. We strengthen the option for the vulnerable majority, seeking to improve our ‘earthly city’ without losing sight of the transcendence of our work.


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