October 27, 2010 § Leave a comment
Last week I met with Sam Menefee-Libey from Campus Progress, which is part of the center-left think tank Center of American Progress. It’s a relatively new national advocacy organisation, working with young people on progressive issues from LGBTQ and immigration rights, to climate and environmental justice. They do the usual training and fellowship work – but also focus on journalism, organising an annual conference on progressive media. They give micro-grants to campus publications, train the student editorial team, and give a platform to aspiring progressive journalists – again, building that infrastructure…
Sam described his biggest challenge as moving students from a consumer frame (of news, of politics, of their own daily experience), which is passive, and powerless – to seeing themselves as citizens within a structure that they can influence. This relates to the ‘analysis paralysis’ he encounters in academic centers where there’s plenty of mouthing-off about the portrayal of women in the media, but not enough people volunteering at the women’s refuge or organising on the ground.
Students and the wider world
We talked about how best to bring students from campus universities into working with local communities, as their visibility in the media/popular imagination is high – yet their political power low. Perhaps that’s not altogether an unfair reflection on our student organising through the NUS either.
He shared some examples of where this crossing-communities had worked well (see Witness For Peace), and explained that one of the central roles he plays is to connect student activity with the larger movements.
Suggested reading (warning: academic content ahead!)
- Empire by Michael Hardt and Antonio Negri
- A piece on Neoliberalism Wendy Brown (attached)
- The Midwest Academy ‘Organizing For Change‘ manual
smenefeelibey [at] gmail [dot] com
October 26, 2010 § Leave a comment
I’m coming to the end of my time in NYC, and one of the highlights has been meeting Jaimie Cloud, the founder of the Cloud Institute.
Education for Sustainability
The Cloud Institute is designing and implementing education for sustainability – essentially teaching a new way to understand our place in the world. They describe it as, ‘inspiring young people to think about the world, their relationships to it, and their ability to influence it in an entirely new way.’ Jaimie likened it to Copernicus’ discovery that the earth revolves around the sun, and not the other way round. In the same way, we have to adapt to the knowledge that;
- healthy systems that have limits
- our diversity makes life possible
- we are all in this together (interdependence)
To have a good sense of what her work is about, watch her TEDx talk, and have a go at the fish game. The game is an example of some of the fun and practical tools they have developed, and that schools are now actually teaching in schools across New Jersey, Washington and Vermont.
Much of the work we’ll need to do is to re-teach our brains to see the world through a different frame/mental map. I’ve foolishly never really considered education as a big change-making opportunity, but Jaimie made the point that as children, we not only handle new ides better, but we’re also in a structured learning environment for 13 years – we’d be crazy not to make use of this time!
Coincidentally, one of my principle reasons to visit the US this month has been to look at graduate public policy programs. Speaking with Jaimie made me realise to what an extent our academic system constantly teaches us that the world is a zero-sum game, that to succeed in life means controlling as many scarce resources as possible. It was so refreshing, and sometimes really difficult, to see the world through the lense of abundance, and to find mutually beneficial relationships – for myself, for our wider community, and for the natural systems of the planet.
Imagine if we built that into policy decision-making processes…
jaimie [at] cloudinstitute [dot] org
October 26, 2010 § Leave a comment
This is how you talk about difference and diversity. Absolutely fantastic.
October 24, 2010 § Leave a comment
I hadn’t belly-laughed in a while. Until I read The God of Cake.
October 18, 2010 § Leave a comment
‘The room is adrift in flip-chart paper – clouds of lists, issues, schedules, plans, accountabilities crudely taped to the wall. They crack and rustle, fall loose, and, finally, are pulled off the walls, tightly rolled, and transported to some innocent secretary, who will litter the floor around her desk and peering down from her keyboard, will transcribe them and email them to us. They will appear on our desktops hours or days later, faint specters of commitments and plans, devoid of even the little energy and clarity that sent the original clouds – poof! – up onto the wall. They will drift onto our day planners, and onto individual to-do lists, lists already fogged with confusion and inertia. Whether they get done or not, they will not solve the problem.’ Margaret Wheatley.