Institute for Ecological Civilization

Core Belief

The present trajectory of life on this planet is unsustainable, and the underlying causes of our environmental crisis are inseparable from our social and economic systems. The massive inequality between the rich and the poor is not separate from our systems of unlimited growth, the depletion of natural resources, the extinction of species, or global warming. Social and environmental movements require an orientation that is neither too narrow and short-term, nor too abstract and long-term to offer concrete guidance. Formulating the requirements for the flourishing of life in all its forms ― an ecological civilization ― will provide the roadmap that leaders need and will ground a hope that stimulates the necessary reforms.

Vision 

EcoCiv works internationally to design and scale solutions toward long-term sustainability, focusing on water, economies, and human communities. We conduct research, convene experts, and facilitate the quest for solutions. We then help implement solutions through engagement at both the local and global levels: multi-sector teams in city or regional “hubs,” combined with online forums for building networks and disseminating solutions. Other activities include consultations, think-tank gatherings, and policy engagement. The goal is to develop collaborations among government, business, and civic leaders and among scholars, activists, and policy makers.

Working at the intersection of theory and practice, we amplify narratives of hope that motivate, guide, and direct.  As humanity works its way from social and environmental threat toward an ecological society, only the transformative vision of a positive new story will suffice.  Where hopelessness arises, we call others to join us in walking toward ecological civilization, one step at a time.

(Taken from: https://ecociv.org/our-mission/)

Kay, David

Initially trained as an economist, I work as a senior outreach faculty member at Cornell University. I am affiliated with the Community and Regional Development Institute in Cornell’s Department of Global Development. I am interested primarily in community decision making and governance; the institutional, policy and personal changes needed for an energy transition in the US; and the responses of individuals and communities to the increasing risks posed by climate change.

Herrmann, Lukas

Lukas investigates the cultivation of generative social fields through long-term whole-school co-creation processes based on a training program in 3 elementary schools with over 1,000 school kids in Berlin, Germany. The training program addresses in particular the schools’ 180 teachers by developing their mindfulness, empathy, and relational competence. Furthermore, Lukas works with Peter Senge and Mette Böll from the center for systems awareness to foster systems change within the education sector in California.

tt30 – The young think tank of the Club of Rome in Germany

Der Think Tank ist ein interdisziplinäres Netzwerk junger Leute um die 30, die sich mit Zukunftsfragen auseinandersetzen. Als unabhängige Gruppe tragen wir zu gesellschaftlichen Debatten bei und formulieren Empfehlungen für eine langfristige Politik. Wir arbeiten, forschen und studieren in allen gesellschaftlichen Bereichen. Mit kritischen Impulsen wollen wir Menschen ansprechen und für eine weltweite und langfristige Perspektive begeistern.

taken from thinktank30.de

Lichtenberg, Jonas

Sociologist
Systemic Counselor
Research Fellow of Institut für Sozialpädagogische Forschung Mainz e.V.

Paulo Freire Zentrum

Das Paulo Freire Zentrum bietet Akteur:innen und Institutionen unterschiedlicher Disziplinen an, ihre Arbeit kritisch zu reflektieren und setzt sich für kritische Entwicklungsforschung ein. In dialogischer Bildungsarbeit werden hier Weltprobleme im Zusammenhang mit lokalen Problemen bearbeitet. Das Zentrum bildet einen Knotenpunkt, in dem an Projekten zu entwicklungspolitischer Bildung, globalem Lernen, Friedenspädagogik etc. gearbeitet wird.
Das Lebensziel des Namensgebers Paulo Freire war der Versuch, die Unterdrückten durch Volksbildung zu befreien, indem er in den 1960er und 1970er Jahren für Solidarität und Gerechtigkeit kämpfte. Seiner Ansicht nach ging die Befreiung der Unterdrückten mit einer Befreiung vom Kapitalismus, welcher auf Egoismus und Gewinn beruht, einher.

 

One Resilient Earth

Humanity is not prepared to live in a climate altered world. And no policy, plan or initiative happening today to reduce or respond to climate change matches the scale of this global existential threat.

For our team, the climate emergency is both the result and the accelerator of a deeper ecological crisis, which stems from a vision of the Earth as resources to tap. We need to transform that vision and all resulting practices now to limit, address and cope with the crisis. We propose to move away from exhausting ourselves, others and nature for some temporary relief or pleasure, and start protecting and regenerating all the ecosystems we host and belong to. Only then can we ensure that humanity cuts down greehouse gas emissions and becomes more resilient to unavoidable climate instability. We do not have much time to limit the damage that is underway. And even if we had more time, the team has not found a more fulfilling nor joyful work than fostering resilience and regeneration.

 

What do we do?

We believe that a change has to happen within individuals’ minds, in how they relate to living beings, time, and space, to foster the transformation needed to respond to the current crisis. We also believe that individuals are resilient, in the sense that they can recover from hurt and limiting beliefs, and have the ability to adjust to change easily. Last, we believe in creativity and daring actions to transform the way humanity thinks and acts, and give rise to regenerative and climate-positive initiatives.

We co-design projects with a variety of partners who are open to experiencing and growing their inner resilience as they engage into the regeneration of communities and/or ecosystems through context-specific initiatives. We mobilize ancient wisdom and modern science, work across disciplines and generations, integrate new technologies when impactful, and value art as a channel for transformation. Our three main areas of work foster inspiration, global connection, and responsible experimentation, through Tero magazine, the Tapestry programme for local communities, and our Resilience Nests.

One Resilient Earth

Humanity is not prepared to live in a climate altered world. And no policy, plan or initiative happening today to reduce or respond to climate change matches the scale of this global existential threat.

For our team, the climate emergency is both the result and the accelerator of a deeper ecological crisis, which stems from a vision of the Earth as resources to tap. We need to transform that vision and all resulting practices now to limit, address and cope with the crisis. We propose to move away from exhausting ourselves, others and nature for some temporary relief or pleasure, and start protecting and regenerating all the ecosystems we host and belong to. Only then can we ensure that humanity cuts down greehouse gas emissions and becomes more resilient to unavoidable climate instability. We do not have much time to limit the damage that is underway. And even if we had more time, the team has not found a more fulfilling nor joyful work than fostering resilience and regeneration.

 

What do we do?

We believe that a change has to happen within individuals’ minds, in how they relate to living beings, time, and space, to foster the transformation needed to respond to the current crisis. We also believe that individuals are resilient, in the sense that they can recover from hurt and limiting beliefs, and have the ability to adjust to change easily. Last, we believe in creativity and daring actions to transform the way humanity thinks and acts, and give rise to regenerative and climate-positive initiatives.

We co-design projects with a variety of partners who are open to experiencing and growing their inner resilience as they engage into the regeneration of communities and/or ecosystems through context-specific initiatives. We mobilize ancient wisdom and modern science, work across disciplines and generations, integrate new technologies when impactful, and value art as a channel for transformation. Our three main areas of work foster inspiration, global connection, and responsible experimentation, through Tero magazine, the Tapestry programme for local communities, and our Resilience Nests.

Beck, Marie-Luise

Marie-Luise Beck

Geschäftsführerin des DKK

Marie-Luise Beck ist seit 2012 Geschäftsführerin des Deutsches Klima-Konsortiums. Projekte wie die Online-Vorlesung zum Klimawandel auf Deutsch und Englisch sowie der K3 Kongress zu Klimakommunikation entstanden unter ihrer Leitung. Zuvor war sie in dem Projekt „Forschungsforum Öffentliche Sicherheit“ an der Freien Universität Berlin verantwortlich für den Dialog zwischen Wissenschaft und Politik. In den Jahren 2000 bis 2009 arbeitete sie als wissenschaftliche Mitarbeiterin und Büroleiterin bei verschiedenen Abgeordneten des Deutschen Bundestages. Dort steuerte sie ab 2007 den Aufbau der Parlamentsinitiative „Zukunftsforum Öffentliche Sicherheit“, dessen Vorstand sie heute angehört. Ihr Studium der Biologie, Germanistik und Erziehungswissenschaften absolvierte sie an der Marburger Philipps-Universität mit dem Abschluss Erstes Staatsexamen.

Voggenreiter, Valerie

Sustainability – Self – Silence
Silence Spaces is a collective of four people, which resulted out of sustainable higher education at the Eberswalde University for sustainable development. During the M.Sc. program we realised, that the inner dimension is under represented when sustainability efforts come into action. Hence, we created a space for the self to empower sustainable behavior in silence and finally helping to transform mindsets and societies. Silence Spaces are physical as well as symbolic spaces. They are free of cyber activities, talking, reading, writing or any kind of input as long as there is not a a conceptualized learning journey taking place. In Silence we learn how to drop into ourselves, observe, reflect, relax – deep learning can take place and this environment can help us to deal more sustainable with ourselves instead of exploiting our own resources. Finally, Silence Spaces want to empower each single individual to invite inner change in order to initiate and shape sustainable outer change – and Silence is the container where this processes can origin from. Silence allows to LISTEN to our inner needs, become more empathic and caring towards oneself as well as the surroundings.

Silence Space

What is sustainability? Often, environmental aspects are in the foreground, while the social dimension is neglected. A transformation towards a more sustainable society, though, needs to consider the social and individual dimension as inner change causes outer change – and vice versa. We see the inner dimension underrepresented in public spheres.
We raise the awareness, that we need more than a technological understanding of sustainability, which cares primarily about the ecological consequences of our actions. We call for a shift in consciousness, too, which influences our thinking and action.
To think critically and acting according to it, is asked from each one of us. We believe that these capacities can be found in Silence. It offers a container for subjective transformation processes – by pausing consciously and taking part at learning journeys on (self)transformation. Deep inner change towards sustainability can’t happen in times of overwhelming stress and acceleration.
Silence Spaces in public places allow a transformation on both levels with the emphasis on internal spaces. The potential to become a part of the solution of grievances lies in every one of us and is able to unfold here. Silence Spaces are physical as well as symbolic spaces. They are free of cyber activities, talking, eating or any kind of input as long as there is not a learning journey taking place. In Silence we can drop into ourselves, observe, relax and reflect. We can gather strength and become observers when we exploit ourselves or witness exploitation of others and the environment. We need an economic and political shift and therefore promote spaces where critical thinking can happen, which is needed to bring along system change. The time for cool headed action is now.

Thinley, Cheten

I have a B.Sc. Forestry degree (2011-2013) from the College of Natural Resources (CNR) where I obtained a Diploma in Forestry (1996-1999) earlier. I also have a Graduate Diploma in Forestry (2003 to 2004) from the Southern Cross University (SCU) Australia .

I carry a huge research experience of more than 15 years and have worked with Forestry Research Center Yusipang. I specialize in Broadleaf Forest Ecology: Sustainable management and forest classification.

Presently, I am actively engaged with the research on the adaptation and mitigation potentials of forests to climate change in western Bhutan. My future interest continues to understand the impacts of climate change on Forest ecosystem and advocate mitigation and prevention of climate catastrophes in the world.

Taken from http://www.uwice.gov.bt/read_fullprofile.php?empid=9908054

Choden, Thinley

 

Thinley Choden is a researcher at Ugyen Wangchuck Institute for Conservation and Environmental Research (UWICER), Bhutan. She has experience in protected area management planning, and in evaluating the effectiveness of protected area governance and management in Bhutan. She has an undergrad degree in Forestry Science from Dr. Balasaheb Sawant Konkan Krishi Vidyapeeth in Maharashtra, India, and a Research Masters with Training in Environmental Management from Murdoch University, Western Australia.

taken from https://www.iass-potsdam.de/de/menschen/thinley-choden

 

Awareness Through the Body: A Way to Enhance Concentration, Relaxation and Self-Knowledge in Children and Adults.

“ATB started in July 1992 in the schools of Auroville as a programme to help children increase their capacity for attention, concentration and  relaxation, and to enhance their ability for self awareness and their sense of responsibility. Nowadays, it is offered to adults as well as to children.

Through a wide variety of exercises and games, ATB offers individuals opportunities to come to know themselves better, to explore the complexity of their being, and find ways to integrate and harmonise this complexity around the inmost centre of their being.”

(source: https://awarenessthroughthebody.wordpress.com/)

Character strengths and virtues: A handbook and classification

“Can we hold hope that positive psychology will be able to help people evolvetoward their highest potential?” The classification described in this bookbegan with this question, posed by Neal Mayerson to Martin Seligman in 1999.The Mayerson Foundation was concerned that inadequate progress was beingmade from well-worn problem-fixing approaches and that an approach basedon recognizing people’s strengths and aspirations might prove more effective.Mayerson turned to Seligman to explore the intersection of the emerging fieldof positive youth development and Seligman’s new push to articulate a newpositive psychology. It soon became clear that two prior questions needed tobe answered: (1) how can one define the concepts of “strength” and “highestpotential” and (2) how can one tell that a positive youth development programhas succeeded in meeting its goals?”

(from the preface of the book)

Auroville Film Festival

“The aim of the Auroville Film Festival is to connect with people and cultures within and beyond Auroville and to further the aspiration of human unity by showcasing films that develop the theme of human unity. We feature films that are created in and around Auroville, as well as international films that explore the theme of human unity.

The Auroville Film Festival wants to turn film-viewing in Auroville, a relatively passive activity, into a creative expression using digital media and, in the process, to foster a deeper understanding and exploration of the aspirations of Auroville. Through the film festival, the community is engaged in an interactive expression through digital films.”

(source: http://filmfestival.auroville.org/about-the-festival/)

Sadhana Forest

“Sadhana Forest started its ecological revival and sustainable living work on December 19th 2003.

The vision of its founders, Yorit and Aviram Rozin, is to transform 70 acres of severely eroded, arid land on the outskirts of Auroville. In a spirit of human unity, their aim is to introduce a growing number of people to sustainable living, food security through ecological transformation, wasteland reclamation, and veganism. Our energy and resources are focused on the creation of a vibrant, indigenous Tropical Dry Evergreen Forest (TDEF).

Sadhana Forest won the third place in the Humanitarian Water and Food Award (WAF) 2010. The ceremony took place in the Marble Hall of the University of Copenhagen, Denmark, on November 25th, 2010. Shri Ashok Kumar Attri the Ambassador of India to Denmark honored Sadhana Forest by attending the ceremony.
This award is an international recognition of the quality of the ecological and humanitarian work done by Sadhana Forest in India and Haiti.”

(source: https://sadhanaforest.org/about-us/)

Films for the Earth

“Films for the Earth: sharing knowledge and raising awareness with the most moving films about sustainability.

Films for the Earth is an educational initiative awarded by the UNESCO which creates settings, in which important films are showed to move gathered people and to develop visions and aims for a more sustainable society. You are on the most comprehensive website about films and sustainability, ecology and environment.

Films for the Earth means: hundreds of volunteers and contributing companies, active members and thousands of fans!

Find film screenings, free environmental movies for passing on, nature movies or watch right now films on the website!

Films for the Earth is an international centre of excellence for environmental documentaries and a network of environmental country sections. We want to reach as many people as possible with selected films, pass on knowledge about sustainability and inspire them to act.  

We know the best films about sustainability and how they can be used. We make this expertise available in an advisory capacity but also online, on our most comprehensive film and sustainability directory in the world. In three countries we reach over 100,000 people a year with our international festival, school events and member network. Films for Earth inspires, amazes, creates awareness and moves!”

(source: https://filmsfortheearth.org/en/about-us)

Tomorrow

“WHY THIS FILM ?

TODAY, we sometimes feel powerless in front of the various crises of our times.
TODAY, we know that answers lie in a wide mobilization of the human race. Over the course of a century, our dream of progress commonly called “the American Dream”, fundamentally changed the way we live and continues to inspire many developing countries. We are now aware of the setbacks and limits of such development policies. We urgently need to focus our efforts on changing our dreams before something irreversible happens to our planet.
TODAY, we need a new direction, objective… A new dream! The documentary Tomorrow sets out to showcase alternative and creative ways of viewing agriculture, economics, energy and education. It offers constructive solutions to act on a local level to make a difference on a global level. So far, no other documentary has gone down such an optimistic road…
TOMORROW is not just a film, it is the beginning of a movement seeking to encourage local communities around the world to change the way they live for the sake of our planet.

Start small to grow big, and write a new story for the generations to come.”

(source: https://www.tomorrow-documentary.com/)

InnSaei – the Power of Intuition

“The ancient Icelandic word for intuition is “innsæi,” but in Iceland it has multiple meanings. It can mean “the sea within” which is the borderless nature of our inner world, a constantly moving world of vision, feelings and imagination beyond words. It can mean “to see within” which means to know yourself, and to know yourself well enough to be able to put yourself in other people’s shoes. And it can mean “to see from the inside out” which is to have a strong inner compass to navigate your way in our ever-changing world.

In the inspiring and thought-provoking InnSæi – the Power of Intuition, Hrund Gunnsteinsdottir and Kristín Ólafsdóttir go on a soul-searching, global journey to uncover the art of connecting within in today’s world of distraction, disconnection and stress. They meet with world-renowned scientists like Marti Spiegelman, an expert in neuroscience and indigenous consciousness who believes that we are only using a fraction of our capacity as human beings, with devastating consequences for the planet; artists like Marina Abramovic, the “grandmother of performance art” who teaches that “in order to create something new human beings need to go into the unknown”; and spiritual leaders like the captivating Malidoma Patrice Somé, a West African elder and author who reasons that “intuition binds us together. Without it we lose our sense of purpose and belonging.”  They also meet an extraordinary group of British schoolchildren who are learning how to better cope in today’s world by unlocking the power of nature and mindfulness.

Illustrated with gorgeous animation and stunning imagery, InnSæi is a film like no other, and one that offers radical insights into how we think and sense the world today.”

The Bridge

RESEARCH EXCHANGES IN AUROVILLE

Auroville is the largest and longest-standing intentional community in the world, practically researching into the evolutionary potential of humankind, developing award-winning transformational practices across fields of culture, economics, governance, education, environment, and health, recognized by UNESCO, the Indian Government, and major industries such as Tata. Visiting researchers can bridge this future-facing body of experimentation with developments in their fields worldwide, for the benefit of humanity as a whole.

WHO WE ARE

The Bridge promotes exchange between Auroville and visiting researchers similarly dedicated to the progress of human society.
We curate presentations and forums that facilitate exchange and the intiation of collaborative projects between Aurovilian and visiting experts.

WHO ARE YOU?

Are you an Aurovilian or visiting expert – in any field? We invite you to offer a presentation of your work.
Contact: thebridge@auroville.org.in
Are you an Auroville community member, volunteer, or visitor? You are welcome to attend our public events series!

Wasteless

Waste is a serious and growing global problem. The way we use and discard it is quickly destroying the earth and damaging our health faster than most people realise. Our planet can’t handle it, and neither can we.

Presently, when we think of waste we follow a linear model. A product is created, we purchase it and, when we’ve used it, we throw away whatever’s left. However, this approach generates an amazing amount of ‘unseen’ waste long before consumers touch it. Conservative experts claim that each kilo of garbage we dispose of in our bins produces 40 kilos of waste upstream (extraction, production and distribution).

After waste is generated, it is typically transported from our lives without much thought. For us, it’s ‘out of sight, out of mind’. For our public systems, it’s a nuisance to be dealt with cheaply and quickly. For future generations, it’s one of the biggest mistakes we are making.

We urgently need to raise awareness, change behaviour and inspire an estimated 7 billion+ people to generate less waste.

(Source: wastelessindia.org)

Club of Rome

The Club of Rome is an organisation of individuals who share a common concern for the future of humanity and strive to make a difference. Our members are notable scientists, economists, businessmen and businesswomen, high level civil servants and former heads of state from around the world. Their efforts are supported by the Secretariat in Winterthur, Switzerland, the European Research Centre registered in Constance, Germany and National Associations in more than 30 countries.
The Club of Rome conducts research and hosts debates, conferences, lectures, high-level meetings and events. The Club also publishes a limited number of peer-reviewed “Reports to the Club of Rome”, the most famous of which is “The Limits to Growth“.
The Club of Rome’s mission is to promote understanding of the global challenges facing humanity and to propose solutions through scientific analysis, communication and advocacy. Recognising the interconnectedness of today’s global challenges, our distinct perspective is holistic, systemic and long-term.

On Being

The On Being Project is an independent non-profit public life and media initiative. We pursue deep thinking and social courage, moral imagination and joy, to renew inner life, outer life, and life together.

We make audio, digital, live event and other offerings towards the generative possibilities of a tender, tumultuous global moment. We look behind and beyond the news cycle, attending to the human change that makes social transformation possible across generational time.

On Being has its origins in a public radio show called Speaking of Faith, which was created by Krista Tippett and launched nationally at American Public Media. A journalist and former diplomat who had studied theology, Krista saw a black hole in media where intelligent conversation about religion, meaning, and moral imagination might be.

In 2010, On Being was born. In 2013, Krista and a founding production team of three spun out of APM. In 2017, Krista and a growing team of comrade-leaders opened the new chapter of mission-driven innovation that is The On Being Project. We’re based in a studio/work/public event space on Loring Park in Minneapolis, with community, colleagues, and partners around the world.

On Being with Krista Tippett, now heard on over 400 public radio stations and a successful podcast, is produced by On Being Studios, together with the On Being Blog, initiatives like the Poetry Radio Project and Public Theology Reimagined, and an expanding portfolio of new podcasts including Becoming Wise and This Movie Changed Me.

The Civil Conversations Project (CCP), which began in 2011 and has become a front edge of our evolution, is an emergent approach to conversation and relationship across the differences of our age. It is an offering towards renewing common life through grounding virtues and spiritual technologies like generous listening, adventurous civility, and hospitable questions. Civil Conversations are increasingly happening in live public events on the road while On Being’s Better Conversations Guide is finding its way into far-flung settings.

CCP was also at the heart of the inaugural On Being Gathering at the 1440 Multiversity in California in 2018.

Our newest adventure, the On Being Impact Lab, is the home of our Fellows Program, the future Spiritual Innovation Laboratory, extensions of the Civil Conversations Project into communities, classrooms and neighborhoods — and more to come.

We believe that collaborative discovery will be a key to living into the generative possibilities of this moment — not just in the halls of the academy or scientific laboratories, but in the everyday living laboratories of our communities, our friendships, and our minds.

Harmony with Nature

In 2009, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 22 April as International Mother Earth Day. In so doing, Member States acknowledged that the Earth and its ecosystems are our common home, and expressed their conviction that it is necessary to promote Harmony with Nature in order to achieve a just balance among the economic, social and environmental needs of present and future generations. The same year, the General Assembly adopted its first resolution on Harmony with Nature.

Education is the kindling of a flame: How to reinvent the 21st-century university

“Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel.” This quote from Plutarch is as true today as it was two thousand years ago. Still, the misconception of education as a vessel-filling activity remains. In this column, I outline an idea that could reshape our universities while also prototyping new ways of addressing urgent societal challenges. The kindling of the flame that Plutarch talked about has never been more relevant than now.

Let’s start with 2017

Last week my column focused on 2017:

  • The year 2017 mirrored the epochal year 1917 by putting a new challenge in front of us: the challenge of vertical development.
  • By “vertical development” I mean the capacity to deal with disruptive change, which requires us to let go of the past and to let come the future, to shift our awareness from one state to another. In the language of tech: vertical development is about suspending your habit of installing yet another app and instead upgrading your entire operating system.
  • From that perspective we can interpret the current global surge of terrorism, fundamentalism, xenophobia, Trumpism, and autocracy as expressions of the same underlying phenomenon: the missing capacity as a society to respond to challenges in generative ways, by evolving ourselves “vertically,” by upgrading the way we listen and attend, the way we converse and think, and the way we organize and coordinate in the context of larger systems.

Last week I suggested that such an upgrade of our societal operating system (OS) should include advancing and transforming our economies, our democracies, and our education systems. It is the latter that I focus on in this column: how to how to reinvent our institutions of higher education through their transformation from an ivory-towered into a distributed eco-system for societal renewal.

Vertical Literacy: Addressing the Knowing-Doing Gap

The difficulties we have in meeting today’s global challenges, such as implementing the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) worldwide, are not caused by a knowledge gap. We have all the knowledge we need. The problem is a knowing-doing gap: a disconnect between our collective consciousness and our collective actions. In most societal systems we collectively create results that (almost) nobody wants. Examples: the ecological divide (the self-nature disconnect), the social divide (the self-other disconnect), and the spiritual divide (the self-self disconnect—that is, the disconnect between my current and my emerging future self).

These gaps and divides are amplified by the silo structure of our key institutions and the mindset of the decision makers that operate inside them. To address these issues at their root requires two things: new platforms for cross-sector co-creation and an upgrade in the operating system that people use to collaborate—practices that facilitate a shift from ego-system to eco-system awareness.

Figure 1 maps the landscape of options for such an operating system. In our research we have identified four different operating systems—in other words, four fields of attention that social systems can operate from: habitual, ego-systemic, empathic, eco-systemic.

Figure 1: Matrix of Vertical Social Evolution (Source: O. Scharmer, <a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.amazon.com/Essentials
BY KELVY BIRD
Figure 1: Matrix of Vertical Social Evolution (Source: O. Scharmer, The Essentials of Theory U)

Since I have presented the Matrix of Social Evolution in much more detail elsewhere, allow me here to stick to its essence: the matrix shows that we are stuck with our collective knowing-doing gap because we try to solve level 4 problems with an operating system that runs on OS 1.0, 2.0, or OS 3.0. But, as we learned from Einstein, you cannot solve problems at the same level of thinking and consciousness that created them.

The result of that mismatch is on display every single day: more problems lead to more felt pressure and frustrations, which lead to more destruction and “absencing” (to use the language of last week’s column), which in turn lead to more problems, felt pressure, frustrations, and so forth. That in a nutshell is our vertical development challenge: how to move from the vicious cycle of reacting to disruption powered by OS 1.0, 2.0, or 3.0 to a generative response that is powered by 4.0—that is, by a process of co-creating the future.

The lack of vertical literacy is the main problem in our universities and schools today. Talk to experienced CEOs and CPOs (chief people officers) of major companies and ask them what they need. They commonly say: people, teams, and leaders that can make our organization thrive in a world of VUCA (volatility, uncertainty, complexity, ambiguity). By that, I believe they mean people and capacities that can take their organization into the 4.0 world in which they respond to disruption by co-sensing and co-shaping the future. Then go to universities and talk to faculty and deans of management and engineering schools. Many, maybe most, are rather illiterate when it comes to vertical development. They think mostly in terms of horizontal development—for example, about adding another skill here or another app or course there. They do not think in terms of upgrading the entire educational OS—of our students, our learners, and our societal systems.

But if you think about it, if we follow Plutarch, I believe that the only reason universities exist in the first place is to provide vertical developmental literacy. Especially now. If you want the app, you just go to an online learning store like edx.org and get your free knowledge download. Done! You don’t need a physical university for that. The primary reason we have universities and other institutions of higher education today is to support the development of vertical literacy. That means creating a learning environment in which the learner can step into his or her highest future potential in the context of hands-on societal challenges. In our experience, this requires us, as learners, to upgrade the way we pay attention and listen, to upgrade the way we converse, dialogue, and think, to upgrade the way we organize and coordinate in the context of VUCA shaped environments. Everything else is secondary. Vertical literacy gives us the vocabulary and capacities to:

  • become a blackbelt in listening with our minds and hearts wide open
  • turn a conversation from debate to generative dialogue
  • shift organizational fields from competing silos to generative eco-systems
  • invent new coordination mechanisms that operate from shared awareness.

Ten Principles of the New University

How do we build vertical literacy at scale? Well, not by placing learners inside lecture halls. And also not by separating out humanities, social sciences, and STEM into separate universes. That much we know. What it will take is nothing less than a complete reinvention of schooling and higher ed based on a new set of principles. Here is a first cut at a list of core ideas:

(1) Co-initiate: Put the learner into the driver’s seat of profound societal change. The learner is not a consumer. She or he is a partner in making the world a better place.

(2) Co-sense: Move the outer place of learning from the lecture hall to the real world. This isn’t just about action learning but also includes immersion journeys to the global hotspots of societal renewal across cultures.

(3) Embodiment: Move the inner place of learning from the head to the heart, and from the heart to the hand. The essence of learning in this century revolves around activating the intelligence of the heart and then putting it to use in serving the needs of others and the whole.

(4) Science 2.0: Bend the beam of scientific observation back onto the observing self. At the intersection between the old, dying civilization and the one that is being born is the transformation of science. Science 2.0 must integrate first-, second-, and third-person data by bending the beam of observation back onto the observing self.

(5) Systems Thinking: Make the system see itself. Systems thinking is a core capacity of vertical literacy. Students must learn methods to make the system see itself.

(6) Systems Sensing: Make the system sense itself. This is the core capacity to unlock collective creativity. Learners must become literate in “aesthetics” in its original meaning (aistesis means to sense): the cultivation of all our senses.

(7) Systems Inversion: Transform the system through eco-system activation. All societal sectors go through similar institutional changes: from perpetuating systemic silos to cultivating generative social field in the context of their eco-systems. Learners need to be literate in facilitating this shift.

(8) Know Thyself: To create vertical developmental literacy, we need to integrate science, social change, and self. Deepening our self knowledge requires us to access not only the intelligence of the open mind (curiosity), but also the intelligences of the open heart (compassion), and open will (courage).

(9) Tend the Fire: To patiently elicit and draw out the unique qualities and expression of each person with perseverance and in support of his or her highest possible future.

(10) The Fourth Teacher: Use nature and social fields as gateways. The Reggio Emilia approach is known for seeing the environment as the third teacher. Building on that we see the cultivation of profound learning relationships to nature and to social fields as gateways to the deeper sources of knowing (”the fourth teacher”).

Five Building Blocks

How can we build a 21st-century university that embodies these principles of vertical literacy, i.e., of awareness-based systems change? The answer will vary across contexts, cultures, and geographies. But in our experiments we have found the following five building blocks to be critical (Figure 2).

Figure 2: The 21st-Century University: Five Building Blocks
BY KELVY BIRD
Figure 2: The 21st-Century University: Five Building Blocks

(1) Cross-Sector Innovation Labs

Create cross-sector Innovation Labs that bring together key stakeholders and innovators who need each other in order to evolve the system they operate within. With our colleagues and partners, we have refined a lab process that generates remarkable results.

(2) Cross-Intelligence Capacity Building

Create massive online-to-offline mechanisms for complementing the labs and building the deeper capacities at scale (that means at marginal costs close to zero). With the u.lab MOOC we have prototyped a mechanism that combines the democratization of access to knowledge with the activation of the deep learning cycle. Some of the early key learnings from u.lab, which has attracted more than 100,000 registered participants from 185 countries since its launch in 2015, can be found here.

(3) Awareness-Based Action Research: Deep Data Imaging

Although “big data” has been useful in many parts of our daily lives, the algorithms that increasingly shape our reality have also became a liability that undermines some of society’s foundations (as discussed in last week’s column). We need to progress from big data to deep data. By deep data I mean data that advance vertical literacy by making us look at ourselves in a mirror, individually and collectively, by making us aware of our own patterns and blind spots, by making us see ourselves through the eyes of another or of the whole. An example of big data is your Facebook feed: Facebook filters out all news that it thinks does not match your world view (i.e., it keeps us stuck in our own echo chambers). Examples of deep data mirroring are the case clinics and global mindfulness practices described in the u.lab link above.

This New World
The current capitalist system is broken. Get updates on our progress toward building a fairer world.

Another mechanism for generating deep data (i.e., data that help us to see ourselves and to deepen our awareness) that we have developed over the past decade is Social Presencing Theater (SPT). SPT practices help complex stakeholder groups to see themselves and their evolutionary patterns through the mirror of the whole, thereby shifting their individual consciousness from ego-system to eco-system awareness. We are now working to develop SPT as a research methodology that allows people to visualize and understand the deep (and mostly invisible) structures of social change. We see the potential for SPT “scans” to do for social field research over the next decade what MRI scans did for mindfulness and neuroscience over the past decade.

(4) A Community of Eco-System Catalysts

The fourth building block deals with people. The best concept is worth nothing if the faculty do not embody these new forms and the principles of student-centered learning. The requirements of today’s tenure-track system put faculty on pathways that keep them far from the experiences that are most relevant to reinventing the type of education described here. We need a new faculty track for reflective practitioners who are more deeply involved in major projects of societal transformation and who can share their knowledge-in-action with students while also helping learners deepen their own capacities for embodied knowing.

(5) Places, Platforms, and Practices for Making the System Sense Itself

The fifth building block concerns places, platforms, and core practices. The piece most needed here is places: high-quality spaces that are designed and structured to build vertical literacy.

Figure 2 summarizes these five building blocks that, if put into place, could prototype and accelerate the journey of higher ed institutions toward 4.0 worldwide—a journey that in many microcosms of higher ed has already begun to take shape.

Five Bold Initiatives to Actualize the New University

While I have been holding the vision of such a new university for some years, it is only now that I feel it is completely doable. To advance the journey toward realizing it, we—the core team of the u.lab and Presencing Institute community—will launch five major initiatives throughout 2018.

(1) 4.0 Labs: Co-shaping the Future by Activating Generative Fields

We will convene 4.0 Labs at both the country and the regional level. We are currently working with the government of the Netherlands and Scotland on prototyping a country-level lab. We intend to launch the European 4.0 Lab in June 2018. Each of these 4.0 Labs will co-define its own focus at the outset. With the United Nations Development Group (UNDG) we are discussing how to use 4.0 Labs to accelerate the implementation of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) on a country level.

The key idea of all these labs is very simple: the next wave of innovation in food, farming, finance, health, learning, and leadership will be highly interrelated and sourced from a shared co-creative 4.0 territory (see Figure 3 below). Since no one can do this alone, we need to create cross-sectional infrastructures that support these initiatives on that journey.

Figure 3: Four Evolutionary Stages: From 1.0 to 4.0 (Source: O. Scharmer, <a rel="nofollow" href="https://www.amazon.com/Esse
BY KELVY BIRD
Figure 3: Four Evolutionary Stages: From 1.0 to 4.0 (Source: O. Scharmer, The Essentials of Theory U)

(2) u.lab 2x: Transforming Our Economy

Our second initiative will be launched in March 2018. A joint eco-system of sites and platforms among HuffPost and PI will capture and share the new economic narrative that is shifting the economy from ego to eco. Starting in April, each month our online platform will present inspiring, interactive, 60-minute live-broadcasts. Between the monthly live sessions we will hold global community cafés where change makers from across sectors, systems, and cultures can join the conversation. These will incorporate video-based discussions in small breakout groups and help us to move from traditional media and social media to more interactive and engaging forms of conversation, and from there to globally distributed ways of co-generating future media that change the world for the better.

(3) Social Field Research Summer School

The third initiative focuses on launching a research project that blends SPT practices, , and data-driven third-person research to investigate the deep structures of social fields. The focus in 2018 will be on establishing the research group and integrating these methodologies. Starting in 2019 an annual Berlin Summer School for Social Field Research will invite 50 leading awareness-based action researchers from around the world to work with each other and with senior thought leaders and investigators in their fields. The intention is to run the Berlin Summer School for 10 years in order to do for awareness-based field research what the Mind and Life Institute did for mindfulness and neuroscience: establish a new domain of research and replicate it worldwide.

(4) Eco-system Catalyst Masterclass

The fourth initiative, the masterclass for eco-system catalysts, will target the most advanced practitioners and activators of social eco-systems of innovation in order to help them advance their skills, mirror and support each other on their journey of Self, and interweave their respective innovation ecologies across regions, sectors, and cultures. This masterclass will be a year-long journey limited to 50 participants. The first cohort will start its journey in Boston in October 2018. As a group they will activate and cultivate a globally distributed innovation ecology. From that group we expect a new breed of young faculty to emerge who are literate across all of the intelligences discussed above.

(5) u.school

The fifth initiative focuses on upgrading our place- and web-based infrastructures to better serve the evolving needs of our rapidly growing global community. One key focus is on finding physical campus areas for all of the above (which together will constitute the “u.school”). The first conversations for such a campus are happening in Berlin. The longer term intention is to establish campus areas in all major cultures and geographies. These u.school campuses will partner with multiple universities to co-deliver a curriculum in vertical societal literacy across all system levels (Figure 1 matrix) and then create open source resources that allow for the replication of this curriculum in universities worldwide.

Figure 4: Actualizing the New University: Five Initiatives
BY KELVY BIRD
Figure 4: Actualizing the New University: Five Initiatives

Reinventing the Idea of the University

The classical university was based on the unity of research and teaching. The modern university has been based on the unity of research, teaching, and application. The emerging 21st-century university, I believe, will be based on the unity of research, teaching, and civilizational renewal. To transform higher education into its most advanced evolutionary state requires nothing less than a full inversion of its traditional discipline structure toward 4.0 ways of innovating and learning.

The purpose of education is not to fill vessels. It’s also not to spurn people who diligently rearrange the deck chairs on the Titanic. The purpose of the 21st-century education and university is to help us develop what matters most: vertical literacy—the capacity to sense and actualize our highest future possibility in the face of disruption.

All the elements for making this happen at scale already exist. By connecting them we can activate a vibrant global eco-system of 4.0 Labs, place-based hubs, change maker communities, research initiatives, distributed media producers, and eco-system catalysts—in short, a living ecology that can protect the flame that Plutarch was talking about and that we need to pass on from one generation to the next. For it is this flame—the flame of the creative human spirit—that at no point in the history of our planet has been so at risk, so attainable, and so necessary for addressing our ecological, social, and spiritual divides. We need intentional places to kindle, cultivate and evolve that flame.

At the entrance to the Academy of Athens there was an inscription that said: Let no one enter here who does not know math and geometry. What should the inscription be at the entrance to the new university that we aspire to create today, 2,400 years later? Maybe it could read: Let no one enter here who does not know that the issues outside are a mirror of the issues inside; i.e., let no one enter here who is vertically illiterate. The new university comes into being—the flame is kindling—wherever and whenever we bend the beam of collective attention back onto ourselves, whenever we shift our awareness from ego to eco in order to regenerate our economic, democratic, and educational systems from that awareness and source.

Gross National Happiness Center

To create a unique place of reflection, learning and action where nature, culture and spirituality blend in a harmonious way towards happiness and compassion for the world.

Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP)

Mindfulness in Schools Project (MiSP) is a charity whose aim is to inform, create, train and support the teaching
of secular mindfulness to young people and those who care for them.

AISCHU – Achtsamkeit im pädagogischen Kontext

AISCHU ist ein erfahrungsorientiertes, wissenschaftlich fundiertes Rahmencurriculum für die Implementierung der Haltung der Achtsamkeit in den schulischen Unterricht (von der 5. Klasse bis zum Abitur)

The Mindfulness Initiative

WEBSITE: The Mindfulness Initiative is a policy institute that grew out of a programme of mindfulness teaching in the UK Parliament. We now work with politicians around the world who practice mindfulness and help them to make capacities of heart and mind serious considerations of public policy.

The Mindfulness Initiative helped the Mindfulness All Party Parliamentary Group (MAAPG) carry out an inquiry into how mindfulness could be incorporated into UK services and institutions.

Bringing scientists, practitioners, commissioners of services and policymakers together in a series of Parliamentary events, the Mindful Nation inquiry held eight hearings on topics including the workplace, mental health, education, criminal justice and pain management. Working papers from these discussions served as the foundation for the Mindful Nation UK report, which summarises evidence-based recommendations.

James Gustave Speth

“I used to think that top environmental problems were biodiversity loss,
ecosystem collapse and climate change. I thought that thirty years of
good science could address these problems. I was wrong. The top
environmental problems are selfishness, greed and apathy, and to deal
with these we need a cultural and spiritual transformation. And we
scientists don’t know how to do that.”

–James Gustave Speth, scientist and environmental activist, Chairman of
the Council on Environmental Quality, Administrator of the United
Nations Development Programme