Internet notebook about my work: deep listening to facilitate positive change


Sunday 30 December 2007

Intergenerational Partnerships

Intergenerational Partnerships for Sustainable Development offer a model for collaboration, exchange of ideas and experiences, and action between people of all ages. The model focuses on sustainability while bridging differences in values.
Its added value is:
• Enhanced decision-making
• Fill the gap between different generations
• Sustain the values in society and allow flexibility for change
• Achieve intergenerational equity.

Intergenerational partnerships can take the following forms:
• pairs of individuals from different generations in a mentor/mentee relationship
• young people interning in NGOs or with governments
• networks / organizations from different generations co-managing sustainable development and peace building projects
• young people being included within NGO and/or country delegations in global governance processes on sustainability
• supporting young people to engage in pertinent scholarship and providing a platform for disseminating and applying their research
• youth organizations consulting and working in collaboration with elders on projects, programs, etc.

This in a nutshell is the outcome from a workshop during the Tiblisi+30 ICEE in Ahmedabad. The Youth Initiative from Earth Charter is planning to draft a resolution on this issue to be adopted by the IUCN World Conservation Congress in October 2008.

Saturday 29 December 2007

Mobilizing knowledge for sustainable development

Do we have a coherent theory of change? Do we know what the role of knowledge is in a change process? Do we fully understand the concept of knowledge? Do we understand the psychology of language? Do we know how to listen and then to formulate messages? Do we understand the difference between mobilizing knowledge and accumulating knowledge? Do we know the power of changing our own mindset and behavior by practicing and getting more familiar with new ways of doing things differently? These questions were discussed by looking at examples of change during the Tiblisi+30 International Conference on Environmental Education workshop on 'Mobilizing Knowledge for Sustainable Development'.

Massive change in Brazil occurred when it faced an oil crisis a few years ago. Consumption of energy was drastically reduced within the span of one year, through a mass participation programme. TV and advertizements bombarded people with stories and messages all through the day. A range of participatory and networking activities helped generate word of mouth and the knowledge people individually needed to contribute. Changing habits is very difficult, but it can be done if we really want to. When the urgency of change is felt. When the pain of change is less than the pain of not changing. When leaders ‘live the change they want to see in the world’, as Ghandi said. When messages and knowledge deeply ‘resonate’ with the people. When knowledge transcends theory into know-how and action.

Changing behavior on spiritual grounds

Tibetans inside and outside Tibet are changing their habits to use the skins of tiger, leopard and other endangered species in their traditional costumes. They destroy these skins along with ivory ornaments. In a massive response to a call from their worldly and spiritual leader, they pledge never to use endangered species again. Since a few years the Dalai Lama lectures the Tibetan audience during his Buddhist teachings on their attitudes and habits relating to wildlife. He urges Tibetans to remember the countless endangered species that have died for them and to pray that all human beings be guided by the compassion of the Buddha to live in harmony with nature.

The Tibetan conservation NGO Tesi Environmental Awareness Movement (TEAM) collects wild life possessions among Tibetans. These are burned and made into votive tablets. Since today they are stored in a special 14 feet pillar, near the temple of the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, North India. The granite and marble pillar with inscriptions in both Tibetan and English contains within it 1,008 tsa tsa (votive tablets) made of clay mixed with ground parts of donated endangered species products such as skins of tiger, leopard, otter, fox, lynx, and ivory. A similar call to eat less or no meat, has led to big changes in the kitchens of many Tibetan schools and monasteries in India.

Thursday 6 December 2007

Change through action

Often we think facilitated learning leads to change. This is only partly true, according to Oscar Motomura. He was speaking during one of the workshops at the Tiblisi+30 conference. He reminded us of the changes in young kids when they practice martial arts. It affects their attitude and behavior outside the dojo: it makes them look differently at parents and family. It influences their behavior in general: to be more mindful of their actions. I recognize this from my own rigourous practice in music as a kid. Knowledge in ESD - according to Oscar - comprises insights and know how based on action and practice. So in ESD we should not only concentrate on facilitating learning but also on action and practice. This resonated very much with me. Almost as an addition to my thoughts in earlier blog postings, e.g. learning: the missing link and a busines case for meditation.

Wednesday 5 December 2007

ESD: a new pedagogy

Most definitions of ESD are long, abstract and difficult to remember. "ESD is a new pedagogy". This metaphor came up in one of the exchanges during the Tiblisi+30 conference. ESD is not only about a new content, it is also a new approach to learning. The new pedagogy does not only apply to formal education. It equally applies to learning in an informal or non-formal context. Maybe even more. Educators become facilitators of learning for change or change process managers. The Samvardham approach is a good example of educators becoming change facilitators and managers. It also showcases the shift from supply driven to demand driven education. That in itself generates new contents. We should also apply the new pedagogy in our own learning processes. Now most workshops I attended during the conference were structured according to the 'lecturing' model. Even in many rooms they used classroom seating arrangements. There is definitely a need to work on strengthening the facilitation capacities of educators: one of the spearheads of the new draft IUCN CEC mandate.

Tuesday 4 December 2007

Networking for change

After ten years of civil war with Maoist guerillas, peace has been restored in Nepal. The absolute monarchy has been abolished. Notwithstanding the many political problems that still exist, new opportunities for sustainable development present themselves. 17 members of the IUCN Commission on Education and Communication (CEC) thought this is the time to use the CEC network to contribute to positive change. After the summer they started meeting and formed a planning committee. They identified many challenges: the need to revise the school curricula. The need solve the huge waste, water and energy problems. The need to halt the massive practices of illegal logging and wildlife trading.

Knowing I was attending the Tiblisi+30 Conference, they took the opportunity to invite me. They wanted to brainstorm further, talk about CEC and let me do a public talk (photo above). As they all represent different networks, they now consider to enter into partnership with one of the Nepalese universities, private sector and NGOs to set up a regional Centre of Excellence for Education for Sustainable Development (RCE). The IUCN Country office will help. They also will use the CEC network to try to find a Norwegian partner for a global warming campaign in Nepal. Their idea is to use the networks of community extentionists in gender and health issues. Two charismatic CEC members lead the networking: Arzhu Rana Dewa (on the right of the photo below) and Mangal Man Sakya.

Community based change management

In tribal areas – where life totally depends on natural resources – the Center for Environmental Education (CEE) supports sustainable development by improving the quality of life of communities through initiatives led by ‘community entrepreneurs’. The latter are selected from Rural Higher Education Institutes. They originate from and adopt the tribal areas as their home. They work with village committees to introduce the necessary changes to improve drinking water, livelihoods and primary education. In Gujarat (India) ten community entrepreneurs focus on generating financial and social capital in the thirty villages. They have a direct stake in the joint venture with the communities. Their core business is change management. Change without loosing the existing sustainable values and practices of the villages. Learning takes place at the individual, organizational and social level. The approach is called Samvardhan which stands for ‘nurturing nature and people’. This was a project that really resonated with me when attending the Tiblisi+30 conference.

PR and distribution strategy

Over 600 copies of the CEPA toolkit were distributed through the IUCN Commission on Education and Education (CEC) booth in the exhibition area of the Tiblisi+30 conference. The booth was very strategically situated and from far you could recognize the CEC logo and posters. Every day during lunch and tea breaks – when most participants roam the exhibition - I made sure there were about 50 CDs to take away displayed on the table. A short announcement - hand written on paper - explained about the CEPA toolkit website. It stated that educators from the North easily can download the material from It continued that the CDs were especially made for those participants from countries where it is difficult to access internet and download large files. Another announcement invited visitors to leave their card or write their address on a list when they wanted more information about the toolkit or CEC. Over a hundred visitors left their names and address.

A learning experience in sustainability

The Tiblisi+30 conference on environmental education was not so much a conference in the traditional sense of the word but more a learning experience in sustainability. The campus of the Ahmedabad based Center for Environmental Education (CEE) offered a perfect space to experience sustainability.The plenary hall, lunch court and exhibition area were all in tents in the open air. The spacious gardens took the place of the ‘corridors’ for networking. The variety of trees, flowers and music during the breaks generated an open atmosphere, impossible to compete with by the usual congress center. Lunch and dinner offered an opportunity to taste the varieties of the local vegetarian cuisine.

An art exhibition showed what traditional crafts can contribute to communicate sustainable development. A concert, a dance performance and an evening with traditional Gujarati folk dance communicated peace, equity, ancient values and innovation. The ambiance offered participants an opportunity for deep listening and sharing. Subtle positive energy radiated from the hand movements of the dancers of Mallika Sarabhai's group Darpana. It came right into the hearts of participants. Inspiration to start ‘living the change we want to see in the world’. It all influenced our mental frames to share and learn. This is how an ESD or environmental conference should be organized.