So much of this latest learning journey is brand new to me, it’s complex and a steep learning curve. If you have the interest, time and stamina please help me crawl up this incline. There are a lot of links to major resources below, hence the “stamina” thing. To fully grasp all of this will take a good deal of time and deep thought, but I hope you’ll join in the fun. Could be a wild ride once we get to the top and take off, although this is probably more like a never-ending adventure than a destination.
Adam Blakester of Starfish Initiatives notes that there are many more commentators offering opinions than activists willing to commit to a course of action. From Adam: “…we need more people to take on active roles/work in leading and/or supporting the great transition. Such roles are far more involved than recycling and going solar, as important as they are. Such roles are about influencing greater changes, creating solutions, new systems and knowledge, building capacity and a zillion more things.
In other words, more hands to the tiller and less arm-chair commentators and experts…being a good or better consumer is nowhere near enough.
Personal testimony–it’s far too easy to fall short of what’s needed: deeply committed hands-on activism. We’re collectively more aware, more concerned. But it’s far too common and more comfortable to stay at that first level—awareness, concern and some degree of doing stuff. For most, self included, it’s a matter of perceived constraints. How much can the average person do?
”I’d love to change the world, but I don’t know what to do. So I’ll leave it up to you”. (1971-Ten Years After)
Epiphany! That attitude is old-world and must go.
Changing the things we do is critical-we’re at a worldwide environmental tipping point. But “thing changes” are superficial and unsustainable if the underlying attitudes, belief systems, habits and support systems, policies, practices do not change. And not just among a group of wild-eyed, bushy-haired “activists” but among the general population. A tall order that needs a deeply committed activist or two.
I am passionate about making an impact and I want to commit to action. It so happens that my passion has always been social change so I guess I’m an anomaly. Specifically, I’m envisioning a sustainable social –emotional infrastructure that will give humanity a fighting chance to survive and maybe thrive. While my initial emphasis is young people, kids are not born intolerant or bigoted. Those are acquired values, so there must also be a concerted effort to impact adult biases—the effort must be systemic, must reach all ages in all sectors–education, home, workplace, communities, society, government. Whew….another fine mess.
Exploring Mr. Blakester’s Starfish organization led me to the Great Transition Initiative. and prompted me to write a GTI summary post –I won’t go into detail about GTI any further here beyond this purpose statement:
The Great Transition Initiative is an online forum of ideas and an international network for the critical exploration of concepts, strategies, and visions for a transition to a future of enriched lives, human solidarity, and a resilient biosphere. By enhancing scholarly discourse and public awareness of possibilities arising from converging social, economic, and environmental crises, and by fostering a broad network of thinkers and doers, it aims to contribute to a new praxis for global transformation.
I fully buy into GTI’s current global state assessment and its vision of a feasible preferred future, mostly because that future is the only one that gives us a chance. In GTI’s constellation of values, my passion is human solidarity. My lifetime vision: a catalyst role in a broad greater good movement (Adam’s term for this is “care for the commons”) to rediscover our humanity, which to me is a social survival and planetary sustainability issue of the highest importance. We can partially repair our torn social fabric with common threads of purpose, shared values, social norms…in other words by collectively re-connecting with our humanity. Vehicle of choice: social-emotional learning (SEL).
That big hairy vision is not as far-fetched or out of reach as it may sound.
Build a Fourth Sector social structure with systemic emphasis on the attributes known to promote higher levels of engagement therefore greater social and emotional well-being and performance excellence. (RE Fourth Sector–see diagram 2 from the Fourth Sector organization )
I’ve taught social-emotional learning in grades 4-6. Too academic, too teachy, too canned to grab kids by their emotions, to hit their hearts and get in their heads. Needed: self-discovery and reflection / experiential learning (learn from unlearning…a whole ‘nother ballgame but related).
Education is inundated with demands—STEM, common core, standard test performance. It’s not lack of interest as much as it is lack of bandwidth to be serious about SEL. Conclusion: a purely academic SEL pathway is not feasible. Rather, a partner resource for the education establishment could provides much-needed adjunct services and support. The resource would also build general awareness and be catalyst for a systemic all-stakeholder community environment that supports social-emotional development. Enter the Caring Communities Collaborative (model-diagram 1), a conceptual framework that’s been evolving over the last several years.
A recurring parallel theme kept jumping out in my new learning journey—meaningful work:
Our mad rush to accumulate wealth and a standard of living through material things and conspicuous consumption has degraded quality of life and endangered the sustainability of humanity. The way out: “create an environmentally and socially sustainable future that provides decent, meaningful work for all.”
(The Struggle for Meaningful Work —Kent Klitgaard February 2017)
Blakester responded to Klitgaard’s article, be sure to read his thoughts if you (WHEN you!) read The Struggle. In my opinion, priority focus is not on “work” but “meaningful”. How do people find their purpose, their calling, their One Thing? Once people understand what is truly important to them, they will be thirsty and will demand that thirst is quenched. Services, structures, systems will emerge much more readily out of necessity, driven by demand.
WHY SEL First?
Social-emotional learning is a vastly powerful and necessary force; it is the enabler of skills development and high achievement. “Really?” This is all backed up by a huge body of research….
The higher the S-E level, the more physical health and emotional well-being increases. Hard costs incurred from the broad spectrum of physical and mental health problems drop, as do related but harder-to-measure social costs. The quality of the workforce talent pool increases and the private sector’s bottom line improves in key measures like productivity, turnover, absenteeism, attrition.
Community prosperity follows private sector prosperity.
In education, higher levels of attainment and achievement are realized by more highly engaged learners. Costs associated with “problem students”—absenteeism and disciplinary issues drop.
Education, workplace and community excellence are directly impacted by mean, uncaring people, conflict and stress. And one effect of rude, intolerant people is bullying in school and the workplace. The ultimate effect…violent acts against others and self-inflicted harm, up to suicide.
Economic growth requires increased productivity, which in turn requires a better educated, more highly trained and skilled population. The kicker: for people to fully develop their skills and embrace training, it must be meaningful and relevant to them…they must be fully engaged. The enabler: a community of lifelong learners with a high level of social-emotional well-being.
The Caring Communities Collaborative Model (diagram 1)
Diagram 2: from the Fourth Sector organization
Convergence toward a fourth sector, of the best from private, public, non-profit sectors
We can and must get back in touch with what makes us human beings We can and must re-connect with our natural Selves. We can and must re-connect with others and with the world around us. It’s not just our happiness, it’s our survival that’s at stake.
We are stardust, we are golden. We are billions-year-old carbon. And we’ve got to find our way back to the garden.