Last week, Laura, Maria and myself, Irena, from Aalto Design Factory took part in Dare to Learn, a learning Festival organised for the second time in Helsinki, September 18th and 19th. It took place in an old industrial venue called the Cable Factory.

The festival was a combination of workshops, talks, panel discussions and exhibitors at their booths, leaving space for interaction between participants.  The two stages brought both local and international researchers, product managers, start-up founders, professors and politicians to share insights from their own work, and to discuss the current and future trends of education. This year’s themes were Learning for Sustainability, Self-directed Learning, Curriculum 2026: What should we learn next?, Emotions and Learning, and Developmental Organizational Culture.

The festival gathered non-formal education providers, startups and education organisations under one roof to learn from each other and in the best case scenario: collaborate. A quote from the festival’s website communicates how collaboration is part of the festival’s vision:

“We believe solutions for tomorrow’s learning challenges can be solved the best by bridging gaps between different learning professionals.”

At Dare to Learn the vision of collaboration is not just a vision, but the actual spirit of the festival. It was tangible immediately when entering the venue. One could spot many familiar faces, colleagues from the education sector and entrepreneurs, all excitedly mingling with each other.

The workshops were organized by event participants, including governmental organisations, universities and private education providers. The workshops created great opportunities for the participants to explore new topics, new methods and to work on different challenges with people from different disciplines, professions, age groups and cultural backgrounds, without forgetting the new contacts made while working together. Personally, it was really refreshing, motivating and inspiring to sit on the learner’s side of the table for a change. For an educator like me, Dare to Learn gave a really good reminder to also take part as a participant at workshops in addition to only always organizing them. One of the workshops I attended was called “Learning from the future” and organized by the “Future School” and UNESCO Chair in Learning Society and Futures of Education. First, the participants envisioned a preferable future, and then, using a methodology called backcasting, tried to figure out the steps to take in order to achieve the chosen future.

In addition to taking part in workshops and getting to know different ed-tech companies, we had the pleasure to listen to good speeches. Share-Josephine Hjortm, the founder of Canopy Lab, was giving food for thought concerning the future of ed-tech. It has, according to her, grown significantly during the last 3 years. In her work she has noticed that there are many new voices and visions as ed-tech is becoming a billion-dollar business. The questions Share-Josephine encouraged everyone to think about were: what should we learn in 2026 and how?

Our own Maria Clavert also gave a presentation about the Universities of the Future project at the “How our future leaders grow – learning from entrepreneurial leaders” Spark talks. Maria’s talk raised a good amount of interest in our project, encouraging listeners to come have a discussion at the booth Universities of the Future shared with Aalto University.

All in all, participating in Dare to Learn was a success. We, as the participants, got inspired, met new people and got an oversight to what is happening in education globally. As a bonus, many relevant people added their contact information to our database hoping to become involved in Universities of the Future and to receive our outputs.

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