I’ve just ran a workshop at Sussex University about ‘overcoming’ our own limitations as change agents. Listening to the participants, there seemed to be two major themes: disbelief about their course providing the knowledge needed to effectively create change, and cynicism about one’s own ability to do anything about it, or in other words, a paralysis in finding their own unique way to contribute to the world.
No surprise, if your sphere of influence is not measuring up to what you know about the world, and if you hold the belief that you have to do something equally as big as the challenges you perceive. It seems that being satisfied with operating within your own sphere of influence in response to much greater spheres of challenges is only possible if you trust that other people will do the same, filling the gap between what you can do and what the world needs. If this mindset was really embodied in people, I recon that young adults would be less cynical and feel less anxiety ~ and hence be more effective as changemakers.
Inspiring adventure stories showing us how a tiny individual can make a huge difference (thinking Frodo) may actually not be that helpful anymore… As an Hopi Elder has said: “The time of the lone wolf is over. Gather yourselves!”
Buddhist scholar and eco-activist Joanna Macy argues that Western culture is going through a Great Turning, from the industrial growth society to a life-sustaining civilisation.
Stories of the Great Turning is a collection of stories of how individuals and groups are contributing to this revolution (edited by Peter Reason & Melanie Newman).
I’m contributing a chapter to this book based on the ‘idea’ that I’ve seen emerge in the people I work with: “I don’t want to be a passenger. I want to author my own life, and co-author the world around me.” Imagine if this idea was allowed to root in the bellies of young people today.
To be published early in 2013
I founded the Catalyst Course in 2009. It has come a long way… Here is the latest film about the course. Enjoy…
“The Bank of Ideas” (an empty UBS office block) is squatted by Occupy London activists and has been transformed into a free community art and learning center. People come & go, and many seem to leave ‘artistic expressions’ that ~ in its diversity ~ highlight what this movement is about and reveal emergent memes of a subculture of people who want real change. The pictures speak for themselves.
“Students behind their desks!” was my spontaneous answers.
I work with a lot of University students who are concerned about the social & environmental issues of our time. I often hear young adults say “I need to learn before I can create change”. Have you often heard the opposite? “I need to create change in order to learn!”
What is “learning by creating change?”
Recently, I experienced a nice example of this in Rotterdam (Holland), playing the OASIS game. The OASIS game is a methodology developed in Brazil. Its purpose is:
“To awaken and cultivate a social and cooperative entrepreneur spirit in the members of the community, to restore and/or strengthen the relations and affective connections and cultivate a sense of opportunity and responsibility to take care of the area and the people who live there.” http://elosbrasil.org/en/metodologias/oasis/
The facilitators of this ‘game’ are the learners. The process of learning is by creating change, by meeting the world as it is, not as one imagines it to be, and then by reflecting on it. In essence this is experiential learning, and a hugely important idea for people wanting to effect positive social change.
And just imagine for a moment… What would be possible if the majority of learner’s energy would be applied in the world, for the world? What would be the effect within learners themselves?