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Letters From ~ 11 

Letter from London

The birth of PASCAL

Chris Shepherd

I have known Chris Duke for over 20 years. We first met in Melbourne even before PASCAL was conceived. I had been one of the public sector sponsors of the OECD series of Learning City and Regions conferences in Europe in the late 1990s and I was asked by CERI at the OECD to visit the Victorian Government in Melbourne in 2001 to advise on the forthcoming OECD conference supported by the RMIT University. My first meeting was with Chris Duke from RMIT. He impressed me with his directness and organisational skills and we quickly found common ground when we discovered that he grew up in Foots Cray in what is now London, only two miles from where I live today.

Needless to say, the conference was a success and at a meeting with Professor Ruth Dunkin VC at RMIT it was clear that there was a wish to continue the promoting of lifelong learning, social capital and community cohesion around the world. To achieve this Ruth Dunkin suggested an observatory to promote best practice and act as a bridge between academics and practitioners. Chris was given the task to start the ball rolling and he suggested we needed a name and that was PASCAL. He then worked on establishing an advisory board made up of a wide range of professionals’ and chaired by Jarl Bengtsson head of CERI. Chris acted as Secretary General, adding new centres around the world and steered the PASCAL program of activity.

The birth of PASCAL with no money, staff or business plan was a challenge and I enjoyed the early days of establishing relationships with public, private and third sector organisations, firstly to engage with the concept of the observatory and then to contribute resources to allow the concept to expand and grow. Chris promoted the work of publishing hot topics, networks across sectors and particularly the PURE project which Chris led and which, in a different form, continues today.

The success of PASCAL today is a testament to the work and leadership of Chris Duke in these early days and I am grateful for the opportunity it has given me to retain this commitment over many years and particularly the friendship that has grown between Chris and me during this time.

I fondly remember sitting in his garden in France enjoying the sun, the sound of water from his watermill and of course the wine and cheese or the tea and cakes in Leamington Spa and the wine tasting in Bruce Wilson’s Garden. I recall breakfasts in Melbourne and even beers in Vancouver and of course coffee in Woolwich Arsenal. I can honestly say that I have few friends with whom I have shared experiences across so many parts of the world. 


Chris Shepherd, Vice Chair PASCAL International Observatory, Senior Research Fellow, University of Glasgow, former City Manager, UK Government adviser, OECD consultant and passionate offshore ocean sailor.

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