Learning As We Go: Rethinking Education (June 2011)

In Berkana’s work to support healthy, resilient communities, one of the things we pay attention to is the way that learning happens. In recent years we’ve seen people and communities radically rethink the concept of learning. A growing movement is questioning the dominant, Western educational system. In the United States, some young people are seriously questioning the value of college by either dropping out or foregoing graduate school to start social enterprises or create their own learning communities. In India, there are many diverse efforts to name and create powerful alternatives to Western models of education. People are inquiring about the kinds of limiting beliefs they need to walk out of in order to create meaningful change within public education and other institutions. A movement toward self-directed learning–one in which people work with what they have, where they are, in order to address problems facing their own communities–is emerging. These are some of their stories.

Walk Out Walk On: Learning From the Field

As the Walk Out Walk On movement builds through book events, deep dive workshops and dialogues we are seeing some fascinating themes and patterns arising. For the next few months Berkana will feature reflections from Deborah Frieze about what she’s noticing and learning in the field of Walk Out Walk On. In her latest blog, Deborah reflects on public education in the United States and explores what it means to walk out of limiting beliefs within institutions. Read “Walking Out isn’t about abandoning institutions. It’s about abandoning beliefs.”

Learning Experiments in the Berkana Web and Beyond

The 2010 Berkana Annual Report

We are delighted to share our 2010 Annual Report with you. Last year offered great opportunities for those of us at The Berkana Institute to walk our talk about resilient, self-organizing systems. Since making the declaration to “walk out” of the conventional nonprofit model, Berkana has been practicing a unique form of self-organizing that we believe best harnesses our collective creativity and commitment. Download the report to learn more about the weaving of our self-organizing web and hear more about the ways communities are learning together.

Reflections from Swaraj University’s First Year

Swaraj University is a two-year program in Udaipur, Rajasthan, India, that creates opportunities for youth to develop the knowledge and skills they need to create viable green-collar enterprises. Swaraj honors the principles of ecological sustainability, cultural diversity, social justice and localization. Learners, or khojis, design their own personalized learning plans, and at the heart of the program are one-on-one relationships between khojis and ustaads–cutting edge leaders in their fields who engage in a true spirit of co-learning and friendship. April 2010 marked the end of the first year of Swaraj, and in July 2011, Swaraj will welcome its second batch of khojis. Read a summary of Swaraj’s first year, including program highlights and learner profiles. Learn more at swarajuniversity.org.

UnCollege: Replacing College with Self-Directed Learning

Just a few years ago unschooling was not a very common term, particularly in the U.S. But today more and more students and parents are beginning to ask the question: “Is college a waste of time?” Dale J. Stephens, the 19-year old entrepreneur behind UnCollege is convinced that self-directed learning is a viable alternative to classical education. UnCollege is a social movement claiming that school actually stifles the creativity, curiosity and ingenuity of students.  The founders of UnCollege encourage young people to consider paths outside college and offer ideas about how to do so. Dale just received the $100,000 Thiel Fellowship to continue building the movement and launching RadMatter, a platform to demonstrate talent. Download the UnCollege Manifesto or visit uncollege.org.

Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden

“One of the great tragedies of schooling is how it has ripped people out from nature and locked them up in rooms for eight hours a day. I think the profound kind of damage that it’s doing to us, we’ll recognize generations from now, and then we’ll look back and say, ‘How could we have done this kind of thing to people?'” —Manish Jain

Last year lost people films released the groundbreaking film, Schooling the World: The White Man’s Last Burden. The documentary focuses on “the role played by modern education in the destruction of the world’s last sustainable indigenous cultures and examines the hidden assumption of cultural superiority behind education aid projects.” Swaraj University co-founder and Berkana board member, Manish Jain, is one of four key voices in this film. The film calls for a deeper dialogue between cultures, suggesting that we have at least as much to learn as we have to teach, and that these ancient sustainable societies may harbor knowledge which is vital for our own survival in the coming millennia. View the film trailer. Purchase the DVD or schedule a screening. Read the Schooling the World blog.

Engaging Community: A Toolkit for Building Healthy and Resilient Communities

At Berkana, we believe that community is the best resource to get through difficult times. We support the rediscovery of community. This is why we have joined with Neighborhood Centers Inc. of Houston to create this rich and multi-faceted toolkit. It contains a variety of approaches for engaging community: information and processes in a variety of media, in both English and Spanish. We want to make it possible for every community–large or small, defined by geography, ethnicity, beliefs, income level, shared pain or shared opportunity–to know how to engage their members to resolve their current challenges and create the futures they desire.

Order the kit to begin using it in your own community now. Learn more.

Whatever the problem, community is the answer.