Time for transitions
The days around Christmas and New Year always invite to take a moment to reflect; to look back in order to appreciate and understand where we are right now, and to accept that no ‘would haves’ and ‘could haves’ will change the past; then look forward in order to envisage and start shaping our future - which lays in our hands.
Both BREXIT and America’s choice of its 45th president have made one thing clear to me: despite the gazillions of webpages and all the information on just about everything, fear and ignorance reign. (What I am struggling with most is the underlying message both these results convey: a permission not to think and reflect but let aggression and prejudice run unfettered.)
We live in a world where newspapers share opinions rather than facts; where pupils memorise in order to pass exams so teachers and schools look good, rather than learn in order to understand, a world where we get 5.41 million hits in 0.49 second searching for ‘Pythagoras’. Interesting to observe that one of 10 key predictions UK-based NESTA makes for 2017 is that “2017 will see a future-focused rethink of mainstream education” (Read further on their website) I really hope so ! . Also interesting in this context is a book by Peter Gray, “Free to Learn: Why Unleashing the Instinct to Play Will Make Our Children Happier, More Self-Reliant, and Better Students for Life”. You can read the thinking behind his book in this interview by Alyssa Figueroa. Perhaps not surprising that I found this article on Alternet, a news source that states on its website that “AlterNet is an award-winning news magazine and online community that creates original journalism and amplifies the best of hundreds of other independent media sources.”
Educating for the realities of the 21st century is more important than ever before. We need education that helps us understand social media and the internet; that helps us to discern which information sources are valid and what kind of sources can be trusted. We need to be aware of who has access to our data, and what happens with it. We need to learn to ask the right questions - the answers can then be googled. Increasing evidence that a clever combination of psychology and big data (using information from facebook and other social media) have been used to influence both the BREXIT and US election results leaves me with a deep unsettling feeling of dread. You may want to read the translation of an article, originally published in German, that provides the backdrop to the manipulation I am referring to. You may also want to read about the person whose work and research made this possible: Dr Michael Kosinski. The dark side of innovation is raising its head again: we invent things with the best of intentions, yet in the wrong hands they can do more damage than good. In this instance, manipulate entire nations towards a particular election outcome.
Enough of the moaning and groaning! Let me also share a few initiatives relevant to education that truly inspire me:
Finding ways to get children in rural India - girls in particular - to go to school is the purpose of Janwaar Castle Skate Park, an initiative set up by Friend of the ILF Ulrike Reinhard. Read an interview with her about the project and how it motivates children to go to school! To quote from the interview: “The first rule is—no school, no skateboarding. The schools have seen a marked improvement in enrolment and attendance ever since we started the Skate Park here. The second rule is—girls first! Every time a boy sees a girl waiting for her turn, he has to hand over his skateboard to her.”
Increasing awareness for the importance of creating deep respect for, and work towards living with our planet, Economics for the Anthropocene (E4A) is a graduate training and research partnership designed to improve how the social sciences and humanities connect to ecological and economic realities and challenges of the Anthropocene. Overarching goals are to articulate, teach and apply a new understanding of Human-Earth relationships grounded in and informed by the insights of contemporary science. If you wonder what ‘Anthropocene’ means (like I did), according to Wikipedia it is a proposed epoch dating from when human activities started to have a significant global impact on Earth’s geology and ecosystems.” Read an interview with Prof Peter Brown of Canada’s McGill University who is a driving force behind ‘Economics for the Anthropocene’ (E4A).
Also focusing on economics is a program run by the UK-based Schumacher College: Economics for Transition. Here what it says on their website: “Are you ready for economic change? Help create a system fit for the challenges of the 21st Century and become a leader in our new low-carbon, resilient and equitable economy. Learn from the cutting-edge thinkers, practitioners and activists who are making economic change a global reality.” Click here to find out more.
Integrating 3BL thinking into MBAs. Developed by Exeter University Business School in collaboration with the WWF, the One Planet MBA “… equips you to harness innovative business thinking and new business models that can deliver organisational growth whilst addressing global economic, social, environmental and technological challenges.” Here too a link to their website.
Of course I also love DEUSTO’s MBI, Master of Business Innovation; indeed, we have administered things long enough, it is time to switch to innovating! Find out more about this 12 months programme that invites you to Bilbao, San Sebastian, Madrid, Cambridge (UK) and Florence here.
LAICS, Leadership and Innovation in Complex Systems, is another amazing master programme that sets out to prepare for the 21st century. Here what it says on the website: “The LAICS programme focuses on how to create and lead innovation in complex systems, and centres on innovation and leadership from a 'real-world', practice-based and social skills perspective.” The programme was significantly influenced by the thinking of someone whom I deeply admire, Margaret Wheatley, building on her book “Leadership and the new science”. Amazingly, just lats night an email from Margaret popped into my inbox, announcing a 5-day seminar on her latest book, "Who do we choose to be? Facing Reality | Claiming Leadership | Restoring Sanity" (June 2017, Berrett-Koehler); It will take place at the Schumacher College (UK) 22nd to 26th May 2017. I can recommend it to anyone concerned about the state of our planet, and how to engage with it. And did I mention I am part of Margaret’s latest programme, Warriors for the Human Spirit?
The time for transition has started. This can fill you with either excitement, or dread. Need I say I propose the former? Something that captures how I feel right now is a short story by Franz Kafka, which I also read at the Wake for Innovators Anonymous, the networking group I set up and ran for 13 years and closed 1st December last year (you can find some reflections on the wake here):
I ordered my horse to be brought from the stables. The servant did not understand me. I went to the stables myself, saddled my horse, and mounted. In the distance I heard the sound of a trumpet; I asked him what it meant. He knew nothing and had heard nothing. At the gate he stopped me and asked: "Where is the master going?" "I do not know," I said, "only away from here, only away from here of here. Always away from here, this is the only way I can reach my goal." "So you know your goal?" he asked. "Yes," I replied, "I've just said. Away from of here—that is my goal.” “ You have no food”, he said. “I don’t need any, said I, the journey is so long that I will die of starvation should I not get any on my way. No food supply can save me. It is really fortunate that this is a truly incredible journey.“
I know it is time (and not only for me). We might not be able to see where to go yet. We might not have the provisions for the journey. Yet leaving things how they are is not an option, a departure is necessary, and imminent. We have to leave what we know, and what is comfortable, behind.