Hosting Transformation: Stories from the Edge of Change making

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Hosting Transformation

Stories from the edge of changemaking

by the International Partnership for Transformative Learning

Hosting Transformation stories from the edge of changemaking

Hosting Transformation

international partnership for transformative learning

by the International Partnership for Transformative Learning edited and designed by Betsy McCall and Joos van den Dool foreword by Ervin Laszlo

Hosting Transformation : stories from the edge of changemaking International Partnership for Transformative Learning Edited by Betsy McCall & Joos van den Dool Foreword by Ervin Laszlo ISBN 978-3-00-042450-2 Printed by gugler* Melk/Donau, Austria First print, 2013: 1000 copies Creative Commons licence: You are free to share, to copy, distribute and transmit the work for non-commercial purposes with mention of the source: International Partnership for Transformative Learning. You may not alter, transform, or build upon this work. Comments and notifications of quoting are welcomed via Please note: The printing of this book was made possible by the generosity of the Grundtvig Programme, but this is not an official EU Publication.

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Table of contents

Hosting transformation: an invitation 5 Foreword 6 Academy of Visionautics 8 Invisibilities 10 Releasing brakes with a clear ´yes´ 12 How I became a Visionaut 14 Playful changemaking 16 Art Monastery Project 18 A lake, a desert, a being 20 Puppy love 22 Just begin 25 No way to fail 26 Youth Initiative Program 28 A YIP Story 31 There is a gift in giving 33 Steadfast transformation 34 Let your own light shine 36 Embercombe 38 The origins of Embercombe: an epiphany 40 Walking the wood 43 Atlas unburdened 43 Crossing the threshold of adolescence 44 Running the same risk as 46 Three little questions 48

Knowmads 50 The end is the beginning 52 The importance of playfulness 54 Transformation through frustration and love 56 The beauty of teaching 58 Pioneers of Change 60 Let go, get up, again 62 I am the one I’ve been waiting for 64 A culture going viral 66 Digging deep with a dyad 68 SOL Hungary 70 Global SOL and SOL Hungary 72 The sons who turned into deer 74 Interbeingness 76 External resistance, internal clarity 78 Edventure 80 Edventure principles: stories of our approach 82 The experience of creating Edventure 88 Afterword 90 International Partnership for Transformative Learning... or the chicken and the egg 92

Table of contents


* Put this book on your night table. Many people read regularly before they go to sleep. The average reading time is ten minutes. The average reading speed is around 300 words per minute. This book has chapters of around 2500 words so that you can comfortably read a chapter before bed each night.

Hosting transformation: an invitation “If you want to find yourself go into the world. If you want to find the world go into yourself.” source unknown

A radical shift in the paradigm of education is at hand. A world facing unprecedented socio-economic and environmental challenges requires transformative learning. It needs changemakers to participate in the shaping of this ever-changing world. Individuals and organisations across the world are responding to this call. The International Partnership for Transformative Learning (IPTL) is a network of eight European organisations that are all dedicated to hosting transformation. Brought together through the generosity of the Grundtvig’s Lifelong Learning Programme grant in 2010, the IPTL was formed to join this worldwide movement. The intention of transformative learning is profound change within the individual, their communities and society at large, change that creates new solutions to address the needs and challenges of our time. We see transformative learning as a process. It requires creating space,

both within the individual and in their environment. Rather than indoctrination of current ideologies and knowledge, it is about identifying the core values of each individual and empowering them to act upon these principles.

offer insight into the personal nature of transformation. We wrote about key moments or turning points in the lives of our organisations. We wrote about the experiences our programmes have provided, in order to reveal the way our organisations work and the impact of our efforts. We wrote all this “The intention of transformative to uncover the limitless potential hidden in every word, every step, learning is profound change within every choice. This book, much the individual, their communities and like the programmes we offer, is invitation into an environment society at large.” an for your own transformations to take place. We aim to inspire and There are no instructions for this kind encourage you to host transformation, in of change. There is no manual for yourself and in the world around you. transformation. There are no universal rules or tricks. Rather than creating a We invite you to open this book to handbook detailing our methodologies, any page, and enter into our lives, our we believe the only honest way to challenges, our transformations. You communicate the complexities and will find a world of struggles overcome depth of both hosting and living through courage and by deeply listening transformation is to tell our own stories. to the truths that are calling out from We wrote about our own moments of within each and every one of us. personal transformation in order to




Ervin Laszlo

I welcome this book with all my heart. It could be, and I believe it will be, of great significance. We are close to a tipping point - a bifurcation point in the way we manage this world and ourselves in the world. The way we have been managing ourselves and the world cannot be sustained any longer. We need to transform - ourselves, first of all - if we truly want to transform the world. Change begins at home, with each of us. And it continues with the small groups of friends and like-minded people who get together to align their thinking, their feeling, and their vision. Then, as Margaret Mead said, that small group of people can change the world. Indeed nothing else ever has.

“ We need to transform - ourselves, first of all, if we truly want to transform the world.”

We need to find a way for people who change themselves to get together to change each other and their world. We need to find ways of ´hosting transformation´ as this International Partnership for Transformative Learning wisely proclaims, to find ways of hosting change locally, and nurturing the change that results as it grows ´glocally.´ Europe, including central Europe where I am proud to have been born, has hosted many transformations, in art, in science and in politics. Some were triggers 6

that convulsed the world, and some were groundswells that took decades if not centuries to mature and emerge. Today we can neither err in the kind of transformation we host nor delay in producing it. The bad news is that there is no time to prevaricate and waste: it’s now or never. The good news is that the world - the great supra-individual mind and transpersonal consciousness of humanity - is ready for change. The deepest instincts of collective survival are now activated. We have become an endangered species - a selfendangered species - and we must now become a self-evolving species. We can be that, because we have the vision, the motivation, and the will. There are young people who wake up to this unprecedented challenge to our species and the world over. They need to be encouraged to put their vision, their motivation, and their will to the task. They need to be hosted, in a modest and non-presumptuous, but effective and practical way; the way in which this partnership and this book invite us. The Old Continent, with a heartland in central Europe, could become the womb of a new world. It could manifest the pioneering spirit we all need to live up to this historical challenge. Coming up with

this spirit and acting on it is the task the projects within the partnership embrace. We all must sow the seeds of a culture that could transform the world. This must be achieved; there is no other way. There are no longer workable alternatives to a thorough and fundamental transformation, locally and globally. We feel that the time has come to transform ourselves so as to transform the world. We want to act together, with

presents to participants young and old, show us the way. The transformation has started. Let us host it, incubate it, here and now, you and I, in harmony and with love - for each other, for our species, and for the planet that hosts our species, and all the species that make up the web of life in this small but remarkable corner of the universe.

“The good news is that the world is ready for change.” a vision that manifests the diversity this continent has always had. Now we must also manifest the unity that can make our diversity into a vector, a small but potent ´fluctuation´ that can also nucleate and catalyze transformation the world over. This time we ignite a r-evolution that does not destroy, one that is not against anything. It is a revolution that joins, that empowers, that takes us beyond where we are to where we need to be. If we are to survive on this planet, and more than that, if we want to to thrive, we must learn to live with each other, to collaborate in a shared cause. We have the skills, the knowledge, the resources. We must have the determination to use them. Then we will succeed. This book, the partnership and the projects it

Ervin Laszlo was born in Budapest in 1932. He was a celebrated child prodigy, with public appearances from the age of nine. Receiving a Grand Prize at the international music competition in Geneva, he was allowed to cross the Iron Curtain and begin an international concert career, first in Europe and then in America. Laszlo received the Sorbonne’s highest degree, the Doctorat ès Lettres et Sciences Humaines in 1970. Shifting to the life of a scientist and humanist, he lectured at various U.S. Universities including Yale, Princeton, Northwestern, the University of Houston and the State University of New York. Following his work on modeling the future evolution of world order at Princeton, he was asked to produce a report for the Club of Rome, of which he was a member. In the late 70s and early 80s, Laszlo ran global projects at the United Nations Institute for Training and Research at the request of the Secretary-General. In the 1990s his research led him to the discovery of the Akashic Field, which he has continued to study and expound ever since. Laszlo received the Goi Award, the Japan Peace Prize in 2001, the Assisi Mandir of Peace Prize in 2006, and was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 2004 and 2005. He is founder and president of the global think-tank The Club of Budapest, Chancellor of the Giordano Bruno University, and Founder / Chairman of ELCAS, the Ervin Laszlo Center for Advanced Study.


Academy of Visionautics



Academy of Visionautics

The Academy of Visionautics supports social innovators to develop imaginative visions and courageously implement them in a professional and joyful way.

founded in 2008


based in Berlin, operating in Berlin and in cooperations throughout Europe.

◦◦ visionautic labs for social innovators: 10 days of inspirational space, workshops, coaching and support for social innovators to develop ambitious visions and put them into professional practice: - vision creation lab - vision implementation lab - vision empowerment lab

2 to 30 staff members, tailored to the current project approximately 60 learners served per year +49 30 61285075

◦◦ visionautic lab for facilitators: The visionautic methodology lab introduces trainers and facilitators to the visionautic way of working. Academy of Visionautics

◦◦ vision lab for business leaders: This lab on visionary leadership is focused on developing and using a vision for authentic and powerful leadership. ◦◦ short workshops and firewalks for organizations and individuals about different topics in the field of vision creation, vision implementation and empowerment. ◦◦ consultancy about visionary leadership and corporate identity. ◦◦ in planning: An intergenerational study course to become a Visionaut. 9


Jutta Goldammer


“What I see as a commonality is the capacity to see what doesn’t yet exist. To see how things could be. To have that vision and then to help make the invisible visible. That’s part of what we share and that’s also part of the nature of the work.” Kanada, Embercombe


For many years my husband Boris and I had been talking and dreaming about our vision - the Academy of Visionautics – in our holidays, after work. It was one of the greatest pleasures for us to envision, to plan, to imagine what this Academy of Visionautics could look like. At the beginning, we could hardly imagine that one day we would really found an academy for visionaries. We were both students and had little experience. But at some point we couldn’t imagine not founding it. This dream has become a part of our lives and can no longer be wiped away.

how to have faith in something that is still invisible. And I learned how to convert an invisible idea into something that can be shared with others who don’t see it yet.

In the first years, the Academy of Visionautics was not much more than a dream and that made things difficult to explain. There was nothing to show yet, nothing to prove that it would work out. Indeed, apart from Boris and me, nobody could see this academy.

But when the intentions, the basic assumptions, the first designs are still invisible they are often deeply underestimated as “mere ideas” or “castles in the air”. Who says that something is less real, just because it cannot be seen with our eyes or touched with our hands?

Some of my colleagues said to me: “You are stupid not to take on a job as a teacher. With your high grades you can choose where you want to work and be tenured with a decent salary. And instead you’re founding a crazy academy. Your dream is naïve. It is just a fluffy idea. And - how will you finance this?” I have to admit that I didn’t have an answer to that question. I was full of doubts myself. I knew this was the right thing to do, but I often felt small, unprepared, and I asked myself if I were really the right person to do such a thing. I longed for others to encourage me. But the main reaction I received from others was pointing out those doubts and weaknesses and advising me to do something real. Something solid. Something tangible. During that time I learned the painful lesson to protect our vision. I carefully chose to whom I spoke about it. I learned Academy of Visionautics

Most people in Europe, including myself, have difficulty believing in something that cannot be seen and touched. It is easy to see and praise a social business that has won prizes, proven impact and boasts a good press echo. But that social business started as an idea first, and in a dream long before that. It is in that very early stage that most of the crucial development happens: this is where the course is set.

Today I see that our visionary path towards the Academy of Visionautics was one many social innovators take. Most powerful social movements start with a few people sitting together and dreaming. It gives me a great joy and satisfaction to assist and support social entrepreneurs and changemakers in grasping the invisible. In reshaping it, fighting with it, kneading it until it fits them, their purpose, their reality. Once one finds clarity in that invisible picture, manifestation just happens. Jutta studied pedagogy and is a certified organisational developer and firewalk instructor. Before she founded the Academy of Visionautics she worked in the field of education in Spain and Scotland and as a consultant for profit and non-profit organisations.

“I learned how to have faith in something that is still invisible.”

Developing potential: A participant’s presentation during a vision creation lab.

Academy of Visionautics


Releasing brakes with a clear ‚yes‘ And if I could, how much would make sense? One million? Ten million? One hundred million?

Boris Goldammer Once upon a time (actually 2008) a fairy came to me. She said I could have as much money as I wanted as long as I spent it on a rebellious project, preparing for a life after the big collapse of our current system. The fund she had access to had one billion euros. The Academy of Visionautics was just one of more than a dozen projects that could be fostered, so I shouldn’t ask for the whole lot. “Just take as much as makes sense.” I had neither experience with fairies nor with these big sums of money. Could I trust a fairy?

After long talks with Jutta, we decided that we’d go for it. It does not happen often that a fairy approaches you and even if you do not believe in them, you won’t forgive yourself for ignoring a chance of a lifetime. So we began to write an ambitious business plan. We experienced an unprecedented freedom: Money had been a limiting factor for all our projects so far. It felt as if we had been working with the handbrakes on -- and they were finally released. With the help of our fairy, the business plan got approved – ironically by some of the big global players of the current financial system. At the beginning of 2009 she said that the first money would come within the next couple of weeks and we should start to look for venues and staff. But then she delayed it for another two weeks. After that she said that she would come back to us as soon as she knew more. The waiting literally made us ill. We had the flu and bronchitis, our children had ear infections, our washing machine broke. We had planned our first Summer Laboratory for July and we did not know if we could pay the staff. Those

released brakes were pulled again, harder than ever before. Much later we would find out, that the fund of the fairy was a high-risk investment and had gone bust in the financial collapse of January 2009. One billion euros: gone. But back then we were completely in the dark. It took us until April before we finally gave up waiting. At first we cancelled the Summer Laboratory. But we soon noticed that this did not feel right. We agreed to do it despite the fact that we had no funding and there was very little time left to promote it. And now I am coming to the unbelievable part of this story: the clear, almost stubborn decision to go for our first step – the Summer Lab - released the brakes again. The very next day people approached us offering support. Soon we had more pro bono staff than we could make use of. Our first Summer Laboratory left us with a small financial loss, but we had wonderful feedback from our participants and staff, as well as truly encouraging press coverage. It was a good start. We had learned that there are wonderful fairies out there even if their powers are limited. And we had learned that if you want to release your brakes, money can help. But a clear ‘yes’ is even more important. And this is something you can do yourself. Boris Goldammer is co-founder of the Academy of Visionautics and managing partner of the corporate identity agency alad’or. He worked as an architect, illustrator and advertising photographer. He loves to design the world around him and to encourage others to do the same.


Academy of Visionautics

Experiencing the impossible strength of a focused mind: Bending rebar with our throats during a vision empowerment lab.

“If you want to release your brakes, money can help. But a clear ‘yes’ is even more important. And this is something you can do yourself.”

Academy of Visionautics


How I became a Visionaut Kerstin introduced me to a tango-dancing couple who were organising their second Visionautic Summer Laboratory. It sounded fascinating what I would learn and do there, but I thought: “Am I visionary enough for this?” I wasn’t planning to start a social business, but I wanted to give this workshop a try. And off I went to the wonderful location by a lake outside of Berlin.

Joos van den Dool

In the summer of 2010 I moved from Amsterdam to Berlin to follow my love and future wife Kerstin. In many regards it felt like turning a new page in my life: I had a clear knowing that I was to live with her now, but all the rest was yet to be written. Most of my friends were now living far away; I had left my job as an urban planning consultant; we needed to find a new home; we were expecting a baby. Insecurity and expectations were pulling me into two different directions. On the one hand, I felt freedom: I was at a point in which I could consciously shape a lot of the conditions of my future life. On the other hand, this felt like a great responsibility and I had many, many questions. How would I make a living for my family? Would I find a job? How would I develop myself further?


Most participants worked on project creation and implementation but I decided to reflect on my professional development at this stage of my life. In a very playful and hands-on way, Boris and Jutta invited us to bring the threads of our personalities, our dreams, our passions and our abilities together. The Visionauts helped us to lovingly scrutinise ourselves and identify the themes, the values and beliefs that were helping us and those that were blocking us from moving on. With a bit of physical action, a pinch of courage-making and a twist of stillness I saw the threads of the past and the future coming together in a way that was easier to grasp. It was as if I could suddenly read between the lines of my own biography. There was no magic to it, but the careful dedication, the positivity and the attentive presence of both participants and coaches (from hypnotherapist to organisational consultants) was so encouraging! By the way I was seen and could see myself, it became easier to know what really resonated with me - and what did not. After the workshop I decided to ask Boris and Jutta if I could work with them – a step for which I needed a lot Academy of Visionautics

of courage. They said: yes, but we can’t pay you a decent salary. Not much later a job opportunity arose that looked good on paper but which would distract me from my life’s purpose. I didn’t really have an alternative. Overnight I decided to visualise a different scenario (I’m a planner after all) so that I could at least choose. The alternative became to start working freelance to support and design co-creative projects for a sustainable future (something I could not have formulated before this point). Co-hosting Visionautic workshops was one of my first assignments and the beginning of a grand qualitative change of my occupation. Now I find it easier to choose what really means a lot to me and I feel more free and responsible – more alive – than ever before. A new career path has presented itself and is unfolding as I write this. The flow my life has taken feels very right; the new challenges are also the right ones. Looking back, I am grateful and amazed about this set of unconscious, conscious and half-conscious decisions that has led to the sudden opening of new, previously unimaginable doors that I am free to step through - or not. I have started to trust this concurrence: when the inner feelings and the outer signs of the world resonate. I wish that we all may know this trust and develop ourselves and the world with it. Joos is a project manager and urban planner based in Berlin. He initiates and supports co-creative design processes for a sustainable future and is allied with the Academy of Visionautics.

Finding support and collaboration: Public project presentation after a vision implementation lab.

“It was as if I could suddenly read between the lines of my own biography.�

Academy of Visionautics


Playful changemaking a peek behind the scenes of our work Boris and Jutta Goldammer We believe that everybody has the right to shape the world with verve and playful ease. This is a core part of our Visionautic manifesto. Some people react with outrage when they see that we apply this attitude to solving the burning problems of our times. Serious problems must be dealt with in a serious way, they say. Working on a topic like world hunger in a fun way seems inappropriate to them. In our experience, seriousness is the best way to act in emergency situations, but it hinders creativity and long-term motivation. And both of those are just what’s needed: creative solutions and people with stamina to put them into practice. How can we bring that playfulness into the changemaking process?

We have found out that the setting in which new ideas grow has an enormous influence on the results. The outcome mirrors the process: you are very unlikely to come up with creative ideas in a dull and conservative setting. Therefore one of our main tasks as transformation hosts is to provide a playful setting to make innovative outcomes more likely. One of our favourite settings we developed for that purpose is Signposting. It’s not just playful, but also works with our highly diverse groups of participants from different cultures, backgrounds, disciplines, working-styles and stages of their projects. Imagine this: signposts guide participants along an exploratory course of activities to solve their most burning question. Each participant’s curiosity leads them along their own

individual learning and development path – full of unexpected encounters, in their own rhythm, with multi-sensual activities, inside and outdoors. Sometimes those tasks can be solved alone following a written instruction, sometimes in dialogue with a coach or other participants. Here’s an example of one of those signposting tasks: ‘Tinspirations’, a problem-solving technique that can easily be done alone without the help of a facilitator. We highly recommend you to use Tinspirations not only for social innovation purposes but also in your everyday life. All you need is a set of little tins or matchboxes which you fill with small objects that are of no practical use anymore but have the potential to inspire, e.g. buttons, uncooked noodles, broken zippers or small gear-wheels. Once you try it you’ll see: there’s so little needed to lead you into a whole universe of new inspiring ideas and playful solutions. A signpost in a self-learning parcours leading to 70 exercises for project and personal development.


Academy of Visionautics

Try it out: Follow the steps of the inspiration exercise to create ideas for your present challenges. Here’s an example how it works.

Academy of Visionautics


Art Monastery Project

is a secular non-profit arts organisation dedicated to applying monastic principles to art making & creativity. The Art Monastery cultivates personal awakening and cultural transformation through art, community and contemplation.


Art Monastery Project

founded in 2008 located in Italy & USA 3 staff members approximately 276 alumni served Programmes Artmonk Retreat - a weeklong silent meditation retreat aimed at investigating the connection between contemplation and creativity, serving up to 30 retreatants of all ages Art Monastic Laboratory - an experimental 30-, 60- or 90-day intensive development period, applying monastic principles to create a single collaborative art piece and serving 9 to 25 emerging professional artists. WorkTrade & Internships ranging in duration from one week to three months, these programmes offer the handson experience of the Art Monastery’s experiment in temporary community. Italy +39 333.153.7353 USA +1 415.644.5096

Art Monastery Project


A lake, a desert, a being American tenor and director Christopher Fülling took his Early Music ensemble, The Pacelli Project, to stunning Maria Laach, a Benedictine abbey perched on the southwestern shore of a glassy lake, Laacher See, in Germany. Driven by the desire to develop their work within architecture that was relevant to the music, the musicians adopted the schedule of the monks, waking early, sharing meals, and when the monks went to pray, the musicians went to play. Christopher left his time at Maria Laach agape, deeply inspired by how much he and his ensemble had accomplished and the depth of satisfaction that accompanied the work.

Betsy McCall

Shortly after that, he and I met in a dramatically different environment: the Burning Man Festival in the Black Rock Desert, USA. There, in the relentless

heat and severely alkaline dust of the dried-out lakebed, we talked about his experience on the grassy shores of Laacher See. I had been living in San Francisco for six years and had become frustrated with the hipster lifestyle of keeping the world at arm’s length, shielding oneself with irony and resisting a sense of awe. I thirsted for depth and meaning. Amidst the blinking neon and thumping electronica beats of hedonic Burning Man, Christopher and I dreamed together: What if someone were to take all those thousands of years of monastic tradition and aim them at art making instead of religion? What would happen if you put contemporary urban artists in an ancient rural building, one that has a silent energy cultivated in it for hundreds of years? What would happen if you asked rockers from San Francisco to sing Gregorian chant every night after dinner? What if you actively cultivated

“I could never have started the Art Monastery 20

Art Monastery Project

a sense of gratitude, profound openness and authenticity? How would that affect you as people, as artists? These ideas transfixed us. We talked about it day and night. We started referring to it as the Art Monastery. Eventually, we talked the idea into existence. That was eight years ago. When I stand where I am now and look back, I try to remember what I thought the Art Monastery was going to be and what - exactly - I was so excited about. I ask myself that because when we started the Project I had never meditated. And now, as a direct result of experimenting with monastic practices like meditation as a result of facilitating Artmonk Retreats, meditation has impacted my life profoundly. Two years ago we started experimenting with making Artmonk vows, a one-

year commitment to practice gratitude, resourcefulness, and fidelity to oneself and to one’s communities. How I paint, how I experience my emotions, how I interact with other people, how I brush my teeth, my very way of being in the world has been shaped, slowly, over time by meditation, by practicing the vows, and by the Art Monastery. I am as much a subject of the Art Monastery as I am an instigator of it. Sometimes I feel like the Art Monastery is a being unto itself. A powerful being. A being that reached backwards through time and called me -- demanded of me -- to become the kind of person who would help birth that being. I could never have started the Art Monastery until after I started the Art Monastery.

Betsy McCall, Co-Founder and Executive Director of the Art Monastery Project, continually explores the merging of her contemplative and studio practices. Her work takes the form of labor-intensive, largescale pattern-based paintings and abstract video, often finding inspiration in her days as a competitive synchronized swimmer.

until after I started the Art Monastery.”

Art Monastery Project

21 Photos by (top) Cate Corbitt and (bottom) Catherine Sieck

Puppy love and utter awe that have arisen through these relationships have profoundly shaped the life I’m living.

Charles Darius Remember when you first fell in love? That sweet, innocent, puppy love? When, for the first time, you felt like you had found something, something transcendent, something you could dream about? I remember. I was 16. I fell in love with a girl, and she with me. I was amazed. It was so new. I couldn’t believe that somebody else could share that with me. We had a wonderful six months together, discovering the world in and around us. I had discovered romantic love. Having peered into the infinite space of my human heart, I was able to go so much deeper in my next relationships. It became clear to me that my first experience was a child’s version of what was to come. The tender compassion, openness, support, guidance, patience 22

Now, after three years of working and living with the Art Monastery Project, I’ve discovered a parallel to this change of perspective, this widening of worldview and self-view. The key word here is community. I thought I had already discovered community in my schools, with my friends, classmates, and teammates. I found it with the circles of friends with whom I played music, spent countless afternoons laughing in the park, or imagined and built Burning Man camps. Then I was invited, at first to be an Artmonk-in-Residence, and later to live and work at the Art Monastery year round. Here my puppy love understanding of community found its way toward adulthood. The community, as such, wasn’t there when I arrived. We built it together. I have held and been held as expectations crumbled. I feed and am fed by my peers day after day. We each guide the ship in areas or times when we are strong, and take guidance in turn. We shine and serve equally. I am emboldened to face challenges that terrify me, from teaching English and leading Gregorian chant concerts to managing the finances of a international organisation and publicly expressing my true desires. Alone, I am paralyzed by tasks like these. Now, with the collective courage of my fellow Artmonks, I believe that I can do anything. We can Art Monastery Project

do anything. Limitations give way to possibility and choice. Like those profound reservoirs of strength and awe I found in my capacity to love, I have discovered that this sense of community is borne from within me. The point I take from this is that I am the change. I have community because I feel the ability and desire to create that feeling, that space, within and all around myself. This feeling permeates every way I’m inspired to give back, from cooking and chopping firewood to contemplative practices and my administrative and creative work. I’ve grown up in an individualist world. Families are separated by continents. The tribes of old have faded into marketing departments and tennis clubs, and communities are gated. I’ve finally learned how much we have and want to offer each other. I’ve learned how much more we can accomplish, and how much more meaningful and sustainable the victories can be, when we cross over together. Charles Darius, Music Director and Chief Financial Officer(also Chef, Grounds & Facilities Manager, WorkTrade Supervisor, etc.). Having studied mathematics and music education at university, he brings an eclectic approach to his composition and performance, not to mention his cooking and dialogues on the nature of reality. He believes there’s no such thing as tone-deaf, and likes to ask, “How can this be more fun?”

“By finding your own dream and following it through, it will lead you to the myth-world in which you live. But just as in dream, the subject and object, though they seem to be separate, are really the same.� Joseph Campbell

Background, a moment from an Artmonk Retreat (Octavio Choi). Foreground, the first dinner at the 2012 Summer Art Monastic Laboratory (Betsy McCall).

Art Monastery Project


“I was excited, nervous, enthralled. And so, I did the obvious thing in my unsure state: I stood up to make a speech.� 24

Art Monastery Project

Just begin It was June 1, 2012. The artists had just arrived. Nine fresh faces joined our core group of four to embark on a 90-day creative, contemplative journey together. I was terrified. I had dreamed up this program and convinced a bunch of people (friends and strangers) to buy flights to Italy in order to participate in this experiment of collaborative art making and intentional living. I felt an immense amount of personal responsibility, self-doubt and exhilaration at the knowledge that it could totally fail. But I was in. We had started. There was no turning back now.

and producing work that was rushed and lacked profundity. So when the summer began, the stakes were high for me personally. The first night, I looked around the dinner table - excited, nervous, enthralled. And so, I did the obvious thing in my unsure state: I stood up to make a speech.

I had arrived at the Art Monastery three years earlier. From the first moments, I was inspired by the incredible landscape, the beautiful vision, and the passionate souls all around me. But after three years, I had become acutely aware of the ways in which we were falling short of our wonderful aspirations. We talked about living peaceful, monastic, sustainable and creative lives - but we were mostly stressed out administrators, making little time for self-care or even recreation.

In this speech, I started talking about goals and aspirations that had been consciously and subconsciously weighing on me for years as if they were already solved. I spontaneously started talking about the Art Monastery as a place that put equal value on creating a really high-quality art product as well as caring for the artist as a whole person. I talked about how excited I was about all the possibilities we had to co-design whatever kind of summer we wanted: where artistic practice could meet contemplative practice could meet community practice. And that we were in this beautiful situation where we could make fabulous art that would really touch people’s hearts and make the world a better place.

We wanted to be a haven for artists to experiment with the relationship between contemplation and creative practice - but we rarely had the resources to truly offer them this experience. A lot of resentment built up around serving ‘external’ artists while the core team did the grunt work and was artistically frustrated. And maybe most of all, we dreamed of being a community where meaningful, highquality, professionally driven, socially relevant art was produced - when in reality, we were creatively drained

And then, the shocking thing is... that’s what happened. We started living it. That speech was a tangible example of a shift in tone in our community. That summer, we all, in our own human and flawed ways, strove to genuinely care for the creative, emotional and spiritual health of each individual and the group. I stopped resenting others from ‘holding me back.’ I let the fear and self-doubt rush at me head-on and did my best to meet it with gratitude for each new moment, loving every human being I encountered, and

Art Monastery Project

Liz Maxwell trusting myself and the process. And we made a theatre show that I’m incredibly proud of, and lived together in a way that I feel really good about. We did our best. And we did it - one day. And then the next day. And the next. And each day now, I still try to wake up and choose. Because I know that change - even huge, radical shifts - can happen suddenly, and all at once. All you have to do is begin. Liz Maxwell is an award-winning theatre director, physical performer, and the Artistic Director of the Art Monastery Project. Originally from New Orleans, Liz likes to think about space, time, and what it’s like to be a human being these days. Photos by Sean Yoro (left) and Betsy McCall (right)


No way to fail

Neva Cockrell I have been running around like crazy in New York City for years working to earn a living, choreographing and dancing as much as possible and trying to still maintain a healthy lifestyle. In 2012 I was invited to come to the Art Monastery for a 3-month artist residency program. That summer’s Art Monastic Laboratory created a space for me to train as a choreographer and a performer, as well as to create new work. Moreover, it offered me a safe place to do this with other committed and talented artists, where I could ask big questions about my art making, make brave choices and try new things. Built into the summer program was time and encouragement to look more deeply at my life and my choices. Our daily schedule was full, but carefully crafted to leave free pockets of time to encourage us to care for our bodies, our minds and our community. Not to mention that we were in the middle of the mountains with no internet, and hardly any other people—so the distractions were few and far between. Free time became a place where I truly had to encounter my 26

priorities and myself. I practiced sitting meditation for 20 to 30 minutes twice a day, went running in the mountains every morning, navigated deep—and sometimes challenging—relationships while living closely with 12 people, ate incredible food, journaled more than I ever have, sang almost every day, and was pushed to learn new skills outside of my comfort zone. Five days a week we trained as a performance ensemble, giving many people a chance to practice teaching and practice learning new skills. I was surprised by how nervous I would be for some of the singing sessions, some days it was incredibly challenging and scary for me to explore using my voice in front of my peers. But we all committed to this daily practice, and we shared both the things we were skilled at and things that were new to us. Learning to be this vulnerable, this open, allowed me to grow so much. I didn’t have to pretend to be better than I was at anything, I didn’t have to be afraid to try something new—it felt like there was no way to fail with the support of my community there. It was a full-life, full-bodied, full-time experience. Art Monastery Project

Now, at the other end of my time at the Art Monastery, I feel more free than I have in a long time. As I have re-integrated back into my New York life, I have held my experience at the Art Monastery close to my heart. I have recommitted to practising sitting meditation for 30 minutes every day, I more freely reach out to my friends and community here to offer help and ask for support, I have a short daily singing practice, and have been diving into my choreography and dancing with new passion and commitment. My experience there has absolutely changed my life and changed the way I am as a human being. The permanent Artmonks laugh more than anyone I know, and lightly make their way through a lot of hard work. And because of their work many people, like me, find lasting inspiration, authentic questioning, and joy while visiting the Art Monastery. What an amazing gift. Neva Cockrell is a New York City-based choreographer and dancer. She is interested in everything having to do with the human body and experience, and being outside.

“It was a full-life, full-bodied, full-time experience.�

Neva dancing in the streets of Spoleto Photos by (left) and Sean Yoro (right) Art Monastery Project 27

Youth tiative gramm


YIP is an action-oriented venture. We seek to help young people recognise their potential to work with each other and with communities. We believe that this process enriches their lives and the lives of all those with whom they come into contact. 28

Youth Initiative Programm

founded in 2008 located in Ytterjärna, Sweden (55km south of Stockholm) 6 staff and 2 volunteers 40 learners served each year 154 alumni total

Programme Youth Initiative Program YIP’s residential 10-month programme is an international initiative and social leadership training course for youths, ages 19 to 25, who want to create positive social change in the world.

Youth Initiative Programm +46(0) 855170087


Ytterjärna, where YIP is situated, enjoys a beautiful location on the Baltic coast. It lies amidst biodynamic farms, the forests of Södermanland and open meadows, 55 km south of Stockholm. Unique surroundings have been created by the use of organic forms, natural materials, light and colour. Each house is itself a work of art, providing the participants of YIP residential accommodation as well as a study environment. Ytterjärna and its surroundings have been a social entrepreneurship area since 1934 and today encompasses everything from a dairy farm to a large performance venue.


Youth Initiative Programm

A YIP Story The Youth Initiative Program (YIP) was founded, on courageous hope and a clear vision for change, as a space where young people could seek, question and dare to think and live outside the box. Today it supports young people from around the world in their pursuit of a higher purpose, and challenges them to find life work that sustains not only the individual but also the world. YIP provides young people the space to discover their true selves and their immense potential, and to awaken their will to do the work that the world demands. After only one year of preparation, YIP opened in the summer of 2008 with 38 eager participants who were brave enough to leap into the unknown alongside their equally uncertain, yet dedicated, YIP organisers. By the end of the first year, it was clear that something miraculous was taking place. The quality of meetings, the growth and transformation within individuals, and the depth of love and trust for community and humanity as a whole that was forged in that year was astounding. None of us foresaw that the founding of YIP was, in fact, the establishment of a modern-day school of initiation, in the purest sense, where meetings of the heart and exploration of self were to be the greatest accomplishments. The beginning was tough. We, the organising team, worked day and night planning, making calls, writing letters, designing, dreaming, fundraising and manifesting what was soon to become

a very successful programme. Despite unconditional love for our YIP “baby,� we faced constant tests of our patience, flexibility and trust. We all learned as we went, took on tasks that stretched and challenged us, and felt what it meant to create and work as a team. We saw ourselves and each other in our highest highs and lowest lows, and like the family we are, supported each other through it all. We worked, strengthened by the knowledge that what makes YIP special is that it is an initiative held by an international network of incredibly inspired, talented and creative individuals. Together, we form a network of community spanning the globe. Together, we hold YIP in its becoming and support those that take up the call to organise, run, participate in and contribute to this incredible programme. YIP is the unending passion we feel for making a positive change in the world. For three years I lived and breathed YIP. I know now that I could not have done the work I did without the continued support and unconditional love and trust of our incredible network. Through YIP, I learned what it meant to be a facilitator, the host of a space where learning, recognition, transformation, development and deep meetings occur. We worked from a profound commitment to each other and what YIP stands for, to change and develop. And at the end of three years, I felt that my time running the programme had come to an end. By leaving, I was allowing YIP to Youth Initiative Programm

Ani Hanelius


grow and change, creating space for new energy to come in, so the programme could continue to meet both current and future impulses. Although I now live a continent away from Järna, I still feel the pulse of YIP coursing through me. My work with YIP gave me so much; it showed me what I am capable of, and taught me the value of true community. YIP lives in me, and I am so grateful for the opportunity to have been part of its creation. I hope that it continues to grow and thrive far into the future as a place where young people may continue to find themselves and their source of inspiration for whatever work they are called to do in the world. As long as YIP exists, I have hope that young people will move authentically into the world and therein find their place and purpose, fulfilling their highest potential and giving back to a world that is in desperate need.

Ani Hanelius is one of the co-founders of the Youth Initiative Program (YIP), and was on the original organising team during the first three years of the programme. She is currently on the International Advisory Board of the YIP Association.


I don’t seek, I find Seeking is starting from what is old And discovering in the new What you already know. Finding is something entirely new, New also in movement. All paths are open, And what is found Is unknown. It is a risk, a venture, a holy endeavour. Only those can embark on The uncertainty of such ventures Who know they are secure in insecurity, Who are led into lack Of certainty and direction, Who in darkness Give themselves up to an invisible star, who let the goal draw them And do not limit and narrowly determine it By human constriction. Being open to each new insight, To each new experience Both inward and outward Is the essence of modern human beings Who, despite all fear in letting go, Allow the grace of being held To enter them and manifest New possibilities. Attributed to Pablo Picasso

Youth Initiative Programm

We were a loose network of initiative takers who answered an invitation to co-create the possibility of YIP. With our collective wish for something like YIP to happen, we came together and brainstormed what a curriculum would contain, and a group volunteered to commit for three years to make it happen. We, the organisers of YIP, are quite diverse characters. Those differences allow us to see the gaps in the need and the questions that exists around us. It has been challenging at times, but the longing to create change has powered us and offered a real gift to the participants. One of the most significant things I have realised is that it is more fun to do the work together. Another is that one doesn’t need to know a person so well in order to make a dream come true together. Also, operating as a network, rather than as a lone person, brings the richness of diversity into the process. What drew me to this adventure? A wish for a better world. You can put different glasses on and that can shift your perception of the world. What if I change my glasses to be blue instead of red? Would my life then shift as well? And if I want to see a change, how can I not begin with myself? Walk your talk. I have made my life into a project, allowing myself to strive for happiness and doing things that make a difference, for myself as well as others.

There is a gift in giving The students at YIP are away from their homes, sometimes very far away, for ten consecutive months. One day, I started asking students what kind of cake they wanted on their birthdays. A lot of the time, they would say they didn’t care, or that they didn’t have a favourite, but I soon discovered that everyone does, indeed, have a favourite or a dream cake, even if they don’t know what it is when they are first asked. I asked again and again; I stayed with it; I didn’t take no for an answer. The results of this process were various. There is something that we would discover together that was deeper than the type of cake the person really wanted. After finding the answer, the journey continued for me, learning what it is to bake a cake I’ve never baked before, sometimes from a recipe in a foreign language. Witnessing the happiness of someone who feels seen in this moment in life, seen on their birthday, seen for who they are, has been a true blessing for me. Something that started out as a gift for someone else has become a vehicle for me to see what gifts I have as well. I discovered that something I had always done could mean so much to someone else. Each year there has been a cake on all birthdays, baked by me. It has been profoundly personal. Transforming the world into a world we want to live in is sometimes as simple as baking a cake for someone’s birthday. There is a gift in giving what you have as a gift in you, and letting others receive

it. To use terms from Theory U, we are prototyping and learning by doing. Keeping a balance between head, heart and hands is a lifelong learning practice we encourage at and after YIP. Shifts happen as a constant practice; it’s about choosing it every day. A goal for me in my work has been to always try to be as authentic as possible; there is no other Pernilla when I get home from work. I’m me all the time. Whether it’s being mum or a course leader or a mentor or the last person dancing on the dance floor on the Friday night club - it’s me. Making that choice brings real meaning to the values that we are holding in YIP. We are who we are. By letting people see us we can allow for the choice of transformation to happen slowly. Bit by bit, every day, if it wants to happen that way. We are in some ways living in a bubble of utopia, but it is possible to come here to Ytterjärna and live it for ten months to get inspired and see that one can do it anywhere.

Pernilla Fogelqvist

Pernilla Fogelqvist is a co-founder, Project Coordinator and member of the board of YIP. She has been involved in Swedish Youth Meetings for a decade, together with the association Vad Vi Vill (Whatever we want) in Ytterjärna. Her roles have ranged from participant and workshop leader to coordinator and advisor. Pernilla has worked at a curative home, and has also opened her own home, hosting people with special needs. She is also a trained Waldorf teacher and a mother.

Youth Initiative Programm


Steadfast transformation

Thijs Moonen I do not believe transformation is limited to breakthrough moments. True transformation does not only come in flashes; it is in its nature to be constant. It is a steadfast, patient interplay between experiencing and reflecting. As I experienced during my year at YIP, one way of fostering this constant movement is by living in the conditions necessary for transformation to take place. At first, transformation did not seem relevant to me - after all, I came to YIP to change the world, not myself. I had not looked at myself as an object I could observe, but through living together with 37 others, virtually all the time, my own shadows became apparent, as they were reflected in the community.


Meeting your shadows is not always a pleasant thing. If brought up in the wrong conditions, it can bring about a drop in self-esteem and self-worth, but in the context I found myself in, it was hugely liberating. Throughout the year, the participants of the programme created an implicit agreement which said that no one would be ridiculed for their struggles, their need for healing or their need to be heard. There was a true ‘knowing as the other’ - perceiving reality as the other does. Creating this type of safety allowed people to see their shadows, face them and resolve or transcend them. This is lasting transformation, and it usually only becomes clear in hindsight.

the highest potential in a person. This non-attachment to outcome is only appropriate when the capacity for caring is present. It is the basis on which a person can project their own highest self. During my year at YIP, I allowed myself to do exactly that. I gradually transmuted the trust the organisers put in me into trusting my own actions and decisions. It led me to develop what I call a ‘soft will,’ a subtle but determined decision to always walk the edge of what is possible for me. Steadfast, constant transformation. I have no silver bullet to share, no one-size-fits-all trick. Instead, I advocate for interest and trust as two basic ways of being with others, to help them realise their own potential for selftransformation.

The organising team held the participants in a similar way; while the focus was on developing the new, rather than resolving the old, there was no pressure whatsoever as to what the outcome of any part of the programme should be. The relevance of transformation had become clear to me, even though the reason for this method escaped me at the beginning. In a world where quarterly results have become as relevant for grades as they have for stocks, here was a programme that seemed to not care about outcome. The point I had missed was that caring is exactly central to this method. Caring, in this sense, means being interested in ‘knowing as the other’ again, a knowing that results in a love for

Thijs grew up in northern Belgium and postponed his Bachelor’s degree in Journalism at Artevelde College to participate in the pioneering year at YIP. Since then, he has remained active in the YIP network. Thijs co-founded the organisation for Individual Studies in Ytterjärna, expresses his deep interest in new forms of higher education through involvement with the True Teachers Project and is training in Core Integral.

Youth Initiative Programm

“I advocate for interest and trust as two basic ways of being with others, to help them realise their own potential for self-transformation.�

Youth Initiative Programm


Let your own light shine by Amanda Martinez

Amanda came to YIP as a petite powerhouse from northern Sweden with the warmth of Chilean blood running through her. She attended YIP the first year of its existence, and found a life here in the Järna community after the programme. Working in an NGO and as a reporter and editor she touched many people in the larger community. She gave birth to Ronja, now two years old. Amanda passed away due to a very unexpected complication during her second pregnancy, not long after she wrote this. We believe her passion for YIP is a story to be shared.


just us. Looking back, I can’t believe that the conference actually was a success, despite The first few years after my YIP year, the way it seemed just one day before it I worked for a local NGO. Part of the began. We had participants, we had an job was to engage young people in awesome time, and above all, I realised a concrete action project, and it so happened that I involved a handful of that none of this would have been possible without my YIP students from the class of YIP3. “At a very early age I was filled by experience at YIP. I do I am very much a a sense of urgency that I had to do things, but I doer. I take action. pride I do things as well something. Anything to make things don’t myself with the as I possibly can a little better for everyone.” things I do. In and don’t need to fact, I probably theorise about it. think too little I didn’t theorise of myself. But reflected in the eyes and about YIP after it had ended. It was words of my team members, I became over and it led me to new things, so aware of what absolutely essential I went on. Through the autumn, I qualities I have: holding a fragmented worked closely with the ‘Yippies,’ group together, leading in the right organising a conference for highdirection, pulling through, communicating school students to raise awareness about sustainability and globalisation. and keeping the goal clearly in the vision. And being nice. And funny. The work was hectic (if not frantic at times). Toward the end of the planning I was embarrassed when one of the team members (she was several years older than period, I thought the conference I was) told me that she initially joined the wouldn’t happen. We had no project simply because of me, because of participants, various members of the how confident I appeared and how easily team from YIP suffered from illnesses I conveyed the vision of what I wished or fought amongst each other, and I to be achieved. I have now gone a little was, as it happened, seven months further and can, instead of simply feeling pregnant with a daughter that I already knew was very ill. I remember abashed, enjoy this wonderful piece of pie that YIP has offered me. the phone call to my team members when I asked them if they truly felt we Amanda Martinez was a YIP1 alumna (2008should still do this conference, even though there were no participants and 2009). At the time of her passing, she was the project manager of a newly started publishing things were as hard as they were. It house. Under the motto “words may change was a long and difficult conversation, the world,” her work conveyed real-life stories and finally, to my initial surprise, we and theories that can change the world, and decided together: we wouldn’t give help people manifest their highest possible up. Spending a weekend together selves. would be just as fun with or without any other participants. Even if it was Youth Initiative Programm

Finally, like the slowpoke I tend to be at times, I actually got the quote from “A Return to Love,” by Marianne Williamson, that was read to us by the organising team of the first YIP year.

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.

Youth Initiative Programm



founded in 1999, when the land was gifted by a benefactor. In 2006, Embercombe registered as legal entity, UK Charity and Company Limited by Guarantee located in Devon, UK 6 staff members, 6 apprentices and dozens of volunteers 3000 learners/alumni served each year +44 (0)1647 252 983/5

38 Embercombe

Embercombe - a garden to grow people - is a social enterprise situated in a beautiful 50-acre valley in South West England. Our mission is to touch hearts, stimulate minds and inspire committed action for a truly sustainable world. We offer transformative programmes for organisations and individuals, equipping people of all ages and walks of life to stand up as leaders, and energetically contribute their gifts and talents towards creating the world of our longing.

Programmes The Journey: Finding Earth, Finding Soul - A weeklong residential programme for people who love our Earth, wish to make a difference and who elect to undertake a voyage of discovery towards their authentic self. Runs 5 times a year with 24 people; part 1 of our four-part Circle of Fire programme. Heart of Leadership - a four-day transformational programme to empower and inspire business people to become part of a new and growing wave of ethically sound, engaged, brave and committed leaders. Launching in 2013. The Catalyst Course - A leading-edge five-day residential programme for 18 to 25 year olds who wish to be changemakers: young men and women capable of navigating through change, authoring

their own lives and co-authoring a positive future. Runs three times a year with 24 people, and as a bespoke module for colleges and universities. Wildcraft - a weeklong summer programme for 13 to 17 year olds, offering a mix of exciting outdoor craft, survival and building skills combined with courageous conversation, soulful enquiry and focus on living an authentic and sustainable life. Learning Outside the Classroom Year round programmes for primary, secondary and tertiary education annually offers 500 teachers and students curriculum-based opportunities to connect to nature and discover their place in the world.


Apprenticeship Programme - a yearlong residential programme for 6 to 8 people seeking to make change in the world, providing personal, interpersonal and practical change-agent skills. People & Organisation Development Embercombe’s team have many years’ experience facilitating transformation and developing leaders with some of the world’s largest commercial organisations. Keynote Speaking - Mac offers powerful presentations that probe, challenge, and inspire.


The origins of Embercombe: an epiphany

Tim ‘Mac’ Macartney

As the second day of the Earth-Sun Dance Ceremony dawned I was exhausted, depleted, discouraged, and just a little desperate. It was still dark but I could hear the sounds of other dancers waking and struggling into their ceremony skirts. The tight, clipped commands of the ceremony chiefs and the half-light of pre-dawn combined to further intimidate me. Thirty-five hours had elapsed since I’d had my last drink of water and I was thirsty. Yet it wasn’t this that had me trembling, fighting to hold my ground, choking back tears, and poised on the edge of an abyss of shame. It was an ancient memory of betraying myself, of backing away from the cliff top at the very moment of sprouting wings. The determination, bloodied ego, and ferocious longing that had held me committed to this pathway was still with me, but having prayers answered is not always cause for joy. I was confronted with the knowledge that now was the time, now was the moment, now was the slender momentary outreached hand when I was invited to jump. Instead, I held back. Come to the edge, he said. They said, We are afraid. Come to the edge, he said. They came. He pushed them…. ….and they flew. Apollinaire Together with other dancers I lined up, our whistles ready, watching the mountain ridge for the first spilt rays of golden light to crest the horizon and splash us with their beauty and challenge. The light streamed across

40 Embercombe

the forest announcing the new day and the whistles screamed their acknowledgement. The day is begun, the drums begin to thunder, the singers take their places and like young fledglings we lurch to the cliff edge. “Dance!” The circle of dancers run for the tree in the centre. Like the petals of a flower we close, open, close, and open again. Fear gives way to a roar of fierce joy. I am surf on the ocean’s edge, I am the Iceni tribesman riding my chariot against the legions, I am the arrow loosed from the longbow towards the beating heart of the deer that will feed my people. I am ancient, and I am beyond all else, powerfully and ecstatically alive. The old songs evoke feelings that have hibernated for a lifetime, and the drums are the heartbeat of my lost dreams seeking freedom. It was the third day when I felt the wind under my wings, a soaring recognition of the pathway marked for me. On my hands and knees retching, falling over, coughing and spitting, I struggled on to my feet again and ran the beaten earth to the tree again. In billowing clouds, high aloft and seeing the great circle of a vast horizon, tears streaming down my face, I heard my calling, I saw my destiny, and I was overwhelmed with gratitude. Looking back, I understand that time as a vision. In the moment it was just how the world is. There was no separation, no disconnection, I was alive with a profound knowing that I had work to do, the means to do it, and the determination to prevail. The gift that my mixed-blood First Nations mentors brought me was

“I was confronted with the knowledge that now was the time, now was the moment, now was the slender momentary outreached hand when I was invited to jump.� photo (left) by Suzie Mumme Embercombe


The Embercombe Council Seats, based on the ancient Council of Law

no less than finding home. Since childhood I had lived with the atavistic wild knowing of my ancient soul, but along with this I had the belief that I was born out of time. A stranger to my own culture and society, I lived with a sense of unconscious loneliness and dislocation. In the heat of ceremonies like the Earth-Sun Dance I found and recognised myself, and I recognised my people, and the unremembered beauty of the islands where I was born. I discovered my own indigenous soul. It is this which pulses at the heart of our work at Embercombe. There is a depth, wisdom, and authenticity that informs so many indigenous spiritual traditions. Everything which is ordinary in our world, is appreciated and acknowledged as extraordinary. Everything is known to be alive and part of our family circle. There is no need for belief in this way of living. Recognition is more accurate. It is the recognition of the rational and mysterious fact of our interconnectedness and belonging. In this way of experiencing life the hubris of

beliefs, which elevate us to the company of gods and goddesses, is considered bewildering, childish, and explicitly dangerous. Now, some years on, I walk our trackways and reflect on this small valley and the women, men, and children who pour their passion and gifts towards our mission to touch hearts, stimulate minds, and inspire committed action for a truly sustainable world. I pause by the stones that mark our stone circle, and if I am quiet and listen I can still hear the drums, still hear the old songs, still see the world tree in the centre of our circle, our circle of longing and becoming. Mac is Embercombe’s founder, an entrepreneur, management consultant, storyteller, author and public speaker. He trained for 20 years with Native American Metis people and this deep immersion in indigenous culture underpins his work.

42 Embercombe

David Mann

After more than 40 years in the London insurance market David now concentrates on social enterprises, poetry and motorcycling. He has been involved with Embercombe from the beginning. He was the founding Chairman of the Trustees and is still serving in that capacity.

Atlas unburdened Walking the wood Walking the wood Of the Combe In early light When the wind Is just born From the womb Of the night Can feel With my sight Nature sprites Awakened now To dance With my heart And my joy For only joy Can weave The grasses And the leaves About me And conjure In the embers Of my life And clasp Her wings Upon me

Kanada Elizabeth Gorla Already an activist at age 15, Ben returned to Embercombe three years later to attend the Catalyst Course. Overwhelmed by the scale of the challenges he saw facing humanity, he was suffering from despair in the form of depression, anxiety and burnout as do so many who bear witness to our world. Like Atlas, Ben was carrying the world on his shoulders and not surprisingly felt inadequate to the task. Although a born performer, he decided he should become a human rights lawyer and was studying law. A turning point came when Ben saw his story reflected back to him by the group in this painful image of himself as Atlas. Grief gave way to release and then relief and eventually to excitement as Ben accepted the legitimacy of his own gifts.

Fast forward through the inevitable ups and downs that followed in the next three years to the 2013 TEDx Whitechapel, London where Ben, now 22, opened the day with his original version of the Atlas myth. “Atlas’ Burden” brought the house down and, through the alchemy of storytelling, Ben renewed the myth and transmuted his personal pain into a powerful story for our times.

Dawning awareness created the space for choice. Ben left Embercombe determined to contribute to the cause without martyring himself to it, and promptly changed his degree to anthropology.



Crossing the threshold of adolescence discover the purpose in every action, increasingly feeling a sense of belonging. Students, volunteers, apprentices, staff and teachers share every experience; harvesting vegetables, planting trees and preparing meals. We offer the opportunity to slaughter and prepare a pheasant for supper, the only meat available all week. As the week progresses the students realise that the food we are eating and the firewood that keeps us warm are the gifts from those who came before and our work is the offering for those yet to come.

Jo Clark

Life is hard, temperatures around freezing. In the morning check-in, expression of feelings is encouraged, and day by day some begin to find the words. Slowly the students reveal themselves,

bringing our own gifts.” “I am going to think about what I eat and where it comes from.” “I have realised I can do more. I’ve got a purpose. I feel alive.” “I’ve realised I need to give others a chance to shine and be their best. For this to happen I have to stand back. Leadership is not always about being at the top of the pile.” “I feel more happy because I can say how I feel.”

On the last morning, ‘falling in love with everything’ is in the air, and amidst A muddy windswept February at laughter, exhaustion, tears and long Embercombe, 24 fourteen-year-old goodbyes, the coach departs. Those of students spend seven days living in yurts us left behind, waving goodbye, know with no screen technology in our hearts that something or central heating. The valuable and extraordinary “In the Sunday rain, playing football, took place here. The students invitation is to explore both their inner and outer previously reluctant girls discover a new game -- ‘belly have grown through their landscapes. active engagement with their mud surfing’ -- which proves more popular.” environment, the land has been Day one in the woods, their teacher, the adults simply we visualise this land their guides helping them one, one hundred, then five hundred unfolding, coming home. towards living a life of their dreams as years past. We observe a clearing where It’s the conversations that matter as caring citizens of the world. a building was ‘harvested’ and from much as the work: the meetings of where forty oaks are now becoming worlds, telling of and listening to stories, Jo Clark, Head of Land-Based Learning, our education centre. We visualise one discussing choices made and those we was bought up on a Devon farm. He has hundred years hence when new trees will would like to make. On the penultimate worked with gardening, farming, theatre and again provide buildings and firewood. day we give the students the hardest teaching, often weaving them together. After task yet. “Go onto the land for an hour developing an outdoor curriculum within The work begins; coppicing, singing, and reflect on your experience this week, Steiner education, he joined the Embercombe clearing, laughing, log-splitting, telling then bring what you have discovered and team where he has been exploring ways in stories and creating habitats. We engage share it this evening.” which all people can experimentally engage with our thoughts, our hearts and our with land-based activities leading to a deeper hands and as we immerse ourselves, we “The world is like a tetris puzzle and as understanding of self, the earth and our form a relationship with the place and a community we all fit together, each relationship with it. 44 Embercombe

“I have realised I can do more. I’ve got a purpose. I feel alive.”



Running the same risk as a personal story of transformation

Kanada Elizabeth Gorla September 1996, South Wales. We were in a glade that time seemed to have forgotten. I was then directing opera and theatre. Mac ran a top London consultancy. The aim of this, our first collaboration, was to bring together the transformational power of the expressive arts with a deep experience in nature. The opportunity was a whole company event with a London reinsurance company run by the man who would become, and still is, Chair of the Trustees for Embercombe. We were there two months in all, consultants and artists on an adventure. An understandably somewhat guarded group arrived the first week to find a circle of tipis they were meant to live in. “You mean... together?” We briefed them on their task of learning different art forms by day, and performing

original creations by night. On the final day, we told them they would co-create an original performance beginning at nightfall, including fire-breathing and culminating in a bonfire. “Riiiight....”

as I sensed the narrowing of the sky as the buildings grew taller, and felt the loss of the greens of the glade, with its sweet air and birdsong, I felt something new opening up.

We had begun.

Two months living and working to the rhythms of the day, the weather, the seasons. Bathing in the river each morning. Singing across it to the hills beyond. Seeing the first leaf turn colour, and later the first one to fall. Gathering round the fire each night to eat, drink, talk, sing, drum, tell stories, laugh, dance -- as humans have done together for as long as we can remember.

As they got stuck in, scepticism gave way to play as they shapeshifted from a company of reinsurers into a troupe of performers. Relishing in the power of the art forms, they discovered latent gifts, a newfound cohesion, shared values and perhaps even a greater sense of shared humanity. Word went back as it does, and the next group arrived a little less sceptical. The experience unfolded over the weeks until we found ourselves on the final night with the last group staying up all night to witness a total eclipse of the moon. When everyone had departed and all sign of our presence had been cleared away, we headed back to London. Even

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That in hosting transformation I would myself be transformed had not occurred to me, though I know now that this is at the heart of its nature. Agosto Boal said that solidarity is ‘running the same risk as.’ That’s what had happened, and I returned from that magical glade a changed person. I left off directing opera and theatre,

“Relishing in the power of the art forms, they discovered latent gifts, a newfound cohesion, shared values and perhaps even a greater sense of shared humanity.”

joined Mac’s consultancy and threw myself wholeheartedly into the work. I had no idea where this new path might lead or indeed what the experience would prove to mean over time for those we had worked with. All I knew was that somehow I had been re-membered in the alchemy of that liminal field, and sensed that so too had many others. I caught a glimpse of a human culture we could create that would be worth coming home to. And I understood that we belonged to the land and to each other in a way I had not known before and would not now forget. Kanada Elizabeth Gorla is a leadership & transformational change coach. She runs her own social business, Shine in changing times, and is a longtime Associate of Embercombe. Her work? Releasing people’s innate genius, launching young people powerfully into the world, developing values-led leadership and contributing whatever she can to the creation of a culture worth coming home to.



Three little questions experiencing the embercombe approach

In 2007 I finished University and found myself at a crossroad. I was searching for a direction, but all I knew was that I did not want to simply participate in a world that seemed immensely unjust and unsustainable. My attention was grabbed by three questions Embercombe asks: “What do you most deeply and profoundly love?” “What are your deepest and most profound gifts?” “What are your deepest and most profound responsibilities?”

Johannnes Moeller

‘What do you love?’ spoke to me about what makes me come alive. Searching for my true gifts gave me a sense of how I could create impact in the world.

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Enquiring into my responsibilities brought direction and challenged me to apply my passions and gifts in the world. The Catalyst Course ‐ which I initiated at Embercombe ‐ enabled me to weave together my love of bringing a community of people together with my gift to make projects happen and my felt responsibility for contributing to building a more just and sustainable world. Johannes’ work focuses on strengthening people’s capacity to initiate positive change in their own lives, organizations, and communities. He initiated Embercombe’s Catalyst Course and Apprenticeship Programme, and most recently co-founded Edventure Frome (see Edventure Frome Chapter). He also works internationally as a freelance facilitator and learning designer.

“What do you most deeply and profoundly love?” “What are your deepest and most profound gifts?” “What are your deepest and most profound responsibilities?”

photo by Gavin Starks Embercombe



founded in 2009 located in Amsterdam, the Netherlands 6 to 8 staff members 25 to 30 students present at any time 40 alumni

Programmes Knowmads, 1 year (almost) full-time education for people ages 20 to 30. Students co-create their program with the staff, experience lectures and workshops that focus on personal development, creativity, entrepreneurship and peer-to-peer learning. Knowmads Greenhouse, entrepreneurial co-working space for start ups. Knowmads Go, short courses and workshops for special target groups and people working in companies or self-employed who want to experience parts of the Knowmads education, but don‘t have a full year available to devote to study.

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Knowmads is an independent one-year education for social entrepreneurs that want to make a difference in the world. The educational programme focuses on personal development, purpose and entrepreneurial attitude to help the participants’ dreams become concrete professional actions. Knowmads


The end is the beginning Start with the question “Who am I?” now.” “Make your passion into a reality people will hear of and that will bring hope and joy into their lives.” I want to fight the judging, the fear and the testbased education system. No more “I need to learn this otherwise I will fail,” but a true and motivated “I want to learn this because it will bring me further into the direction I want to go!”

Pieter Spinder It’s the summer of 2009 and I hear the waves softly washing against the boat. The sea seems to share our dream, the dream of freedom and constant change. Our dream school KaosPilots Netherlands has just ceased to exist. Things have changed. We want to combine our years of experience and experiment in creating the best possible education. “Changemakers” - we want to educate them. A new vision is starting to take shape, and we are working to sketch out a new future: an education built on love, action and leadership. I stand up. “Lead or follow with a smile.” “Dream big and take the first possible step right

That night the platform Knowmads is born. And, in February 2010, we opened the doors for our first tribe of students. Our students come from all corners of the world: South Korea, USA, Brazil, Switzerland, Germany and Netherlands. In a very short time the building transforms: paint, furniture and a kitchen make it into a homey environment. But not just that, we all really want to be here, at this time, in this place. We believe in what we are building and creating. The starting idea was and is to enable and empower young people to find out what makes them tick. Where lies your passion, what makes you want to jump out of bed at 7:00 instead of snoozing your day away? To figure that out, you must enable and facilitate your own learning. Our motto “Welcome Home” is an important part of that. Because: ask a random crowd to write down what the most important lesson was up until now in their lives. The outcome is always connected to real life situations. Like ”passion comes first” or “always help each other“ or “listen instead of speaking first.” You never hear “The marketing lecture on the 12th of January 2009”

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or “taking the mathematics test about Pythagoras.” In this way, people learn the most in life - in a familiar setting, with real life assignments that bring the learning into practice. For this to occur, we have found important these four words that I came up with during the three years we have been running Knowmads: Rhythm & Attention and Vulnerability & Enthusiasm. For learning, one needs a good rhythm, a good beat and flow, and to be aware of yourself and your surroundings. Also a good and not too big tribe, so you can show who you are, and be vulnerable when needed. And to show enthusiasm and put things into practise. At Knowmads Business School, we try to facilitate learning, starting with the question: ``Who am I, and what do I want to bring into the world?`` And then we try to empower and enable each other to make it happen. For real. No dress rehearsal, but real life.

Pieter Spinder is the Knowmads firestarter. Wherever he goes he brings an abundance of energy. He is a dad to his two great kids and adores his wife. He loves to make things happen, to empower the people around him, to do challenging things, and to make life worth living. He has a degree in economics, studied philosophy, and has been an entrepreneur since his early twenties.

“Students pay a tuition fee of about 5,500 Euros. They don’t get a diploma. They do their own dishes and have their own keys to the building. And what they design depends on what their passion is and what they see the world needs right now.”



The importance of playfulness boundaries of our professional masks and come up with an expected answer that will not insult anyone or challenge the way we do things around here.” One statement, or fear, can bring everyone back within boundaries of what we already know. And as Einstein said: “You can’t solve a problem with the same consciousness that created it.”

Floris Koot Hosting transformation is about getting people in exactly the mood of truly authentic play. On the 12th of March 2010, I hosted the “Laboratory on the Future of the Netherlands” (laboratorium van de toekomst, de Baak), organised by the Great Place to Live Network. More than 100 people gathered to discuss a vision of our country in 2022. I had the honour to be the central facilitator of this event, with many others who hosted small group discussions. The challenge was not to get lost in political debate or chew through settled convictions, since many different political colours were present. Now a danger in the Netherlands, and thus my fear, is that, most often, in a creative process a guy will say: “Okay, now let’s be serious. What do we really need to come up with?” To me, this means he states: “Let’s step into the

So what did we do at this Laboratory? We set the event up as a party. We wanted to create the right mindset through choice of space, playful invitations and openness in the hosting and activities. To kick things off, I hosted a silly warm-up game with all the attendees. We often misjudge the importance of such a moment. If we are all silly with another for a moment, then people soften up. Their masks fall a bit and they become more human. They’ll be less ‘serious’ and more willing to try something new. Such people can play with each other. They are willing to test, play trial and error and let something unknown emerge from within the group. Thus, we created an atmosphere filled with play, in which the game quickly became “how many new thoughts can we come up with?” The working space transformed into a laboratory instead of a competitive arena. Seriousness is the root of fundamentalism, war, harsh laws, tunnel vision and other social blindnesses. You may wonder: Yes, but the cause, the objectives, the goal! How can we reach it, if we’re not serious? While the participants might say they worked seriously, I’d like to instead say they showed commitment and were attentive

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and constructive. Try to park a car seriously. It’s idiocy - actually, you must park attentively and carefully. Great athletes never win because of seriousness, they win because of commitment and being true. A football player has to stay open for what everyone around him does. He can never fix his ideas. In the end, the laboratory was filled with dialogue, openness, co-creativity and very little debate. There was a very good mood and a kind of energy many more formal people had rarely encountered. New partnerships and projects were born. Did it change the Netherlands? I don’t know. All I know is that playfulness is the key to help people become physically present and not just be talking heads. Playing makes it possible to test ideas immediately and improve them, too. It helps us to wonder again and see all our options with new eyes. I am amazed how much I have discovered by being playful, where controlled seriousness failed utterly. When we play, there is nothing at stake but the potentiality of finding new ideas. To create a new future, we need play in abundance. Floris Koot is Knowmads’s playful spirit and challenger of the system. He loves to play with possibilities and sees them everywhere. As a kid he started being horrible at school, feeling he had all the wrong talents for traditional education. It’s no wonder he loves to explore new kinds of education that help reveal and grow all kinds of talent.

“All cultural change comes from people playing with what is and what is possible.� Johan Huizinga



Transformation through frustration and love Sitting in a night train from Copenhagen back to Amsterdam, the scenery is constantly changing. Looking out the window, I wouldn’t call the evolving landscape ´transformation´ - it’s change. But what happened in Copenhagen two days ago is what I would call transformation.

Kim van Rijt


In Copenhagen, I said goodbye to someone I love, who I thought I could love for much longer. It feels sad and it feels relieving. Strange how sometimes two seemingly opposite feelings can co-exist. Not just these last few days have evolved around transformation and change. It’s constantly present in my life and in the life of our organisation Knowmads. We even “educate changemakers.” That’s a clear slogan. But it raises questions: How do you educate change? Can Change: make or become different you initiate transformation?

(late Latin cambiare, from Latin cambire ‘barter’, probably of Celtic origin.). to substitute one for another; to make (something) other than what it was. Transformation: A marked change. (late Latin transformatio, from the verb transformare).


Working and educating from the heart is a good start. ‘Welcome Home’ is our basic attitude. An open attitude, whoever you are, whatever you want to do. This freedom gives way for the transformation to happen. Typically, when using the words transformation and change I freely interpret them as: from one state of being into another. It can be a very visible, tangible change to describe, or perhaps a more subtle, unconscious vague feeling, that will only be noticed by the people closely involved. Often

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these more subtle transformations are best shared through stories and not through measurable facts. What’s my story? The facts are clear. I want to focus on making a positive difference to our society. I want to do this via my work. I want to leave a legacy. I want to stay at one ‘home base’ from which I can work. What’s the story? My wonderful and brilliant, but now exboyfriend-friend (Mr. C) in Copenhagen wants to roam the world. He wants to be free. He does not want to work from a ‘home base.’ It results in two stories that don’t seem to fit together. Sad (will miss him) and relieving (I know now what is important in my life). Many stories I hear about transformation and change come from a place of sadness or frustration. Many students come to Knowmads out of a feeling of, “I don’t want to live and learn in this current education system.” I started working at Knowmads because I didn’t find what I was looking for via my job in social work. Mr. C travels the world, always finding beautiful places that also tell him: no, this is not how I want to live my life. And he travels on... We have traveled on. Hearing all the stories of the people around me makes me fear: Does a change always mean that first you’ll have to go through a stage of frustration? This thought and the nagging feeling that comes afterwards has lingered for at least the last year, but now sitting in this train, I’ve come to a relieving insight: If you

have a perfect situation, then there’s no reason to change it. So change is almost bound to be connected to at least some kind of frustration. And, luckily, the story doesn’t end there. Because what makes you want to change something? It’s love for the thing or person, for yourself. If you despise something you will easily walk away from it. If the topic just isn’t important to you, you’ll just accept the situation as it is. So only if there’s love and care involved one will be motivated and inspired to change the situation. Me, and many (if not all) of our Knowmads have a clear picture of how we don’t want it to be. But we’re changemakers only because we also have a clear picture of how we do want it to be. I care about education, I love learning, I love our world, I care about the place we work, I love positive optimists, humanists, hippies, entrepreneurs, business(wo)men, realists... everything that contributes to a life that says: I’ve given my all, I have taken leadership of my own life, I have contributed to the world around me.

walk away. But if you do so, you know you’ve given it your all. Your heart, your love and your tears, your smiles, your hopes, you’ve conquered some fears... if that journey feels ‘I’ve done enough, it’ll not change’ then walking “What makes you want away is fine. “I love you, but is not what I want for to change something? this myself in this life, so here’s It’s love for the thing or a goodbye kiss, on your person, for yourself.” forehead, just not on the lips any longer.” Like I just did in Copenhagen.

So, no complaining without an action attached to it. Love, action, leadership. Through frustration, yes sometimes. Complaining, yes it happens. But never without love, never without care, never without action. And sometimes the last and final action is to


Kim van Rijt has a hand in almost everything at Knowmads, where she wants to make sure that creativity can happen. Laying down the basic structure, she creates a great working environment so that students can excel, because creativity can thrive best in a chaordic space. Kim loves to sing in the hallways and wants to learn something new every day. She has a background in social work and healthcare for people with mental disabilities. Caring and communication are her specialties. But research, interior decoration, working in a shop or organizing events are also her cup of tea. 57

The beauty of teaching it is. It has got all the knowledge, all the curiosity and all the beauty within. Just by being there. There‘s nothing wrong in being there. Nor in trying to be good. But it‘s not alright. There is something I haven‘t seen a person who didn‘t try that still pulls me away from entering to be good (whatever their perception of a classroom as a teacher and instead good was). And even if somebody did toward joining a crazy school like something really ‘wrong,’ in my world it Knowmads, which at first sight doesn‘t happened because we couldn‘t manage to lead to this being-a-teacher-thing at all. give that person the right attention. Being But it does. At Knowmads I figured out what the beauty of teaching is for me. It is a teacher, for me, is about giving the right attention. It is giving the amount of time, being there for each other, it is listening, the love and the support the student it’s discovering, it‘s an adventure and needs. That is: being fully present. And we don‘t know yet where we‘re going. while doing so, we can And yes, that is the student to do the what bothered “When the student is ready, allow same. In that sense, I would me most about the teacher will appear.” love to be a teacher - one my learnings at university: it was Siddhartha Gautama day. all fixed. We all If that dream comes back knew what our to me, I would love to let go, to ease all future students had to learn. We already knew where they‘re supposed to be at the pressure and tension and let myself lie down, right there on the floor, saying: end of the year. I cannot do this. And I wonder what The goal was set. And those who couldn‘t would happen next. reach it obviously did something wrong. How can we ever give a child this feeling of being wrong, of lacking something, of not being good enough? How violent can we be with our words, with our Maria Jacobi was born in 1987 in Lörrach, corrections? How many children are Germany. Her parents, still married, sent her coming home from school, knowing to a Steiner School, 1994-2007. After that exactly what they are not good at and she taught English in Lahore, Pakistan and what they are still missing? I‘m asking went to South Africa to learn more about myself whether I really want to put my the world. Then she studied mathematics time and energy into that. Can I judge a and philosophy in Munich & Berlin to learn student for not being able to tell me what more about our minds (and to maybe one the root of 25 is? There is no root of 25 day become a teacher) and finished with a there is not even a five! We just made it up - or let’s say we discovered it and then bachelor thesis in wallpaper patterns. Maria joined Knowmads Business School in August mathematics meets philosophy. So if I 2012 to learn more about herself and released can choose a world, which I think I can, a CD of her songs in June 2013. then every single child is already good as stand up again, saying, “It‘s alright, we‘ll soon go on.“

Maria Jacobi Why? Why would I? Why in the world would I like to be a teacher? I‘ve been asking myself this question since the beginning. I didn‘t even know whether it was a true wish of mine - I still don‘t know. So I studied it. Both mathematics and philosophy, in order to become a teacher - one day. While working on my bachelor thesis, I realized that the distance between me and this wish had become bigger. I felt close to philosophy, even closer to maths, but far away from being a teacher. Away from standing in front of a class, trying to get their attention by doing some magic on the blackboard. It didn‘t work. It felt like I had to sell my knowledge instead of just passing it on. A week ago, I had this dream: while standing in front of the class, a huge force was pushing me down to the floor and I couldn‘t resist it. I couldn‘t reach the students anymore. All I wanted was to let go, to let every single part of my body go down to the floor. What I did was sit down, and then try to

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Personal, beautiful, clear and strong stories. Often combined with some societal ‘success‘ stories next to it, but the real focus and centre of gravity for our Knowmads is inner personal transformation. It‘s somewhat vague, it has no clear reference to THE business world, but we all know and feel: this is transformation, this is important and hell yes, it‘s a business school.


I hereby share with you the business plan of Anastasia, one of our students. The beauty of this story is that she wrote it on the train going to the Netherlands to start her year at Knowmads. She found this text in one of her notebooks at the end of her year and she realized that all that she had wished for, she actually had made into reality. She started the food company called Bite Me. Kim


founded in 2008 (as succession organisation of the Austrian Institute for Sustainable Development) located in Vienna, Austria 8 staff members Alumni served: 155 “Corporate Social Responsibility” managers and 89 Pioneers of Change +43 1 52468460

Programmes Pioneers of Change – Initiated in 2010. Thirty-five days distributed over one year of capacity building for young changemakers. A transformational process to empower “pioneers” in an early stage for developing projects and organisation for making the world more beautiful. Quint.Essenz – Initiated in 2005. Master class for integrated sustainability management. A 15-day management training in five modules to unfold human, ecological and economical potentials in organisations, businesses and individuals. Sustainable Leadership Training - Initiated in 2012. A sustainable leadership seminar in the context of the biggest sheep drive in the Austrian-Italian Alps. Managers learn to lead a herd through dangerous territories, identify analogies to leadership issues and get inspired by a sustainable way of living.

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PLENUM consults, trains and accompanies businesses, organisations and individuals in realising sustainable living. Through Pioneers of Change, we empower young changemakers to contribute to the “Great Turning.�


Photo by He Shaohui / 61

Let go, get up, again time with my kids and earned some money writing software. I let everything go, burning all my materials in a ritual. Two years later, the ecovillage project was reborn and in full swing. I had followed the impulse to get up once again. This time a new team came together that was more grounded and determined. I got the feeling it was now or never. I took on the full risk, stopped all other income work and concentrated fully on building up momentum and a foundation for more people to come. And they came!

Martin Kirchner For months we had been working feverishly on the concept of the Changemaker Academy. My friend Georg and I had printed business cards that said ‘Co-Founder’ and we went to an international conference featuring the Dalai Lama at Melk Abbey. We were looking for the right person to finance our great idea. But nothing. No door opened, and the businessmen looked at us as if we were immature greenhorns. In many aspects, we were. So, failure. Again. Again we put so much excitement and passion into an ingenious idea, and again it just didn’t come to fruition. I had already spent so many years starting a failing an ecovillage project. Crisis. No energy left, my body said STOP. “Do I just have good ideas or can I realise anything at all?” I entered a time of focusing on ‘nothing much.’ I spent

In that ecovillage group, I met Sylvia and Alfred, heartful and powerful people who were devoting their lives to inspire the business world towards a sustainable shift. I told them about the Changemaker Academy concept sitting in my drawer. They loved the idea and suggested that we could actually start it together, within Plenum, their company for holistic sustainability. In the following months, we entered into an amazing flow. We redesigned the concept, benefiting from the experience of Sylvia and Alfred. We also successfully ignored well-meant critiques by educational experts. Finally we launched our programme - now called Pioneers of Change. We launched a website with renowned people listed as speakers (we didn’t have the time to ask all of them but put them on the website anyway). But no participants yet. And then some magic happened. Out of our first big kick-off event emerged an atmosphere of inspiration, great potential and community. Within weeks we built up

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momentum and attracted more than enough people to embark with us on the adventure. However, we still lacked essential financial resources. And there we really needed strong nerves. Only a few days before the first module we got a generous grant from a Swiss foundation, thanks to Plenum’s mastermind Alfred, who didn’t let up. Our ‘fake it till you make it’ approach had succeeded. But honestly, we would have started anyway, even without having money secured at the beginning. That absolute determination is, in my experience, what really gets things moving. And how they were moving! Suddenly, I found myself co-leading a yearlong educational process and being some sort of mentor to young people, and others even older than me. I suddenly expanded into a bigger kind of Martin, and finally had a role where I really felt at home. All my life I had been struggling with the feeling that I was doing the wrong things in the wrong roles (I was a software engineer for many years). And now I felt I had really found my calling. What a relief! After three years of Swiss funding, we now run the programme with contributions from the participants. A community of almost 90 people has formed and becomes more powerful every year, the members co-creating new ventures amongst themselves. Last but not least, our hosting team has grown enormously. Joschi Sedlak and Irma Pelikan, participants from the first year, have stepped into leading roles in the 2013 programme.

Alfred Strigl

Alfred is CEO of Plenum, teaches at university and counsels companies, start-ups and the Pioneers of Change. Connecting the business world, government and civil society, his focus is sustainable development and deep innovation. So what did we learn? That you have to keep moving forward -- despite failures -- and you must try things over and over again. It is good to start with small projects where you can have early successes and failures – mine were much too big. An ambitious project has to grow and mature within you, until you are embodying it, becoming so sure in yourself that others believe you. Mostly things really start to move when you surrender and risk a lot.

Sylvia Brenzel

Martin Kirchner is a social entrepreneur, passionate about developing spaces and processes for learning and building community that are co-creating the world of tomorrow, now. Knowmads

Sylvia co-founded Plenum, studied entrepreneurship and is leading the Plenum Academy for Sustainable Development. As coach and trainer she is co-facilitating the Pioneers of Change, training courses and is working with companies on CSR. Photo by He I-Sheng63

I am the one I’ve been waiting for Martin Kirchner When I first met Lana, it was like she was living on a different plane of existence - like I was only seeing her holographic projection. She was pale and had a shivering voice that was sometimes hard to even hear, especially in a group. At the same time, I could feel that within her was an enormous power and that she was actually pretty wild. She had studied theatre in different places around the world and was driven by the idea to connect applied theatre with sustainable development. Lana had just arrived back in Austria and felt lost. More than that, her mother - a founding member of Plenum - was dying of cancer. It was an intense process for us at Plenum, and Lana was carrying an unbelievable load for her young age. Finally Lana participated in the Pioneers programme. Although she had started an educational theatre group with friends, it was not really taking off -- a very loose bunch of nice people, meeting occasionally. But Lana wanted more. Lana wanted to touch and engage people, especially young people. She wanted them to feel what it means to be a part of a precious, nourishing world. She wanted to work with others to develop creative approaches to create real change. And she knew that arts and movement, and especially

theatre, are empowering tools for that. “But am I the right person to do it?” She didn’t feel ready, and doubt swallowed a lot of her energy. Then, in our Power of Nature module, something happened. For five days we all went to a mountain hut, away from cellphones. We were bathing in cold streams and connecting around the fire. We wanted to really ignite the participants, invoke some ‘life & death’ quality and deeper dedication in them being Pioneers of Change, to motivate them to overcome blockages. We had a crazy idea. The hosting team sat in the centre of the circle and talked about each participant, naming what we saw in them. This is not what we normally do -- to talk about someone in front of others! It was scary and we were cautious, but at the same time it was very powerful. It really turned up the intensity. When it came to Lana’s turn, I shared how in my ecovillage projects I was always waiting for the others, always oriented towards what they wanted. The others were not so committed, so nothing was really moving. My story really seemed to strike Lana deeply. Then we did Medicine Walks: participants went out into the forest with a deep question and watched, listened and sensed what nature mirrored back, followed by reflection in the group. Lana had a revelation:

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“There was a point when I saw that I can grow into the person who can bring my dreams to life.” “When I set out on the walk I was full of zeal, eager to move, to be on the mountain. But I soon lost my way, getting scratched by the undergrowth, sweaty from the steep climbs. I found new paths and lost them again, got frustrated and annoyed facing barbed wire fences and clear-cut areas of forest. Tired and deflated I stopped to reflect what on earth nature was trying to mirror to me. As I looked out I saw a young tree growing out of an old tree stump, the message became more clear: this was THE journey, not just for me but for all of us. We set out full of excitement and lofty goals, but sooner or later we lose our way or we try to create our own new path. We are confronted by aggravating obstacles and images of hopelessness, but eventually do find new paths. We keep looking, climbing, letting our senses guide us in another direction. Sometimes I feel like I’m running down a forest path, sometimes I have to climb a rock face without shoes, and that’s just it!”


In the next module Lana appeared and her voice had changed. It was firm and clear. Lana shared with the group that she realised that waiting for the approval and drive of the rest of the team was holding her back. And that now she was no longer waiting for others but clearly taking a leadership role, just doing it, and others could join if they wanted. We were all blown away by her power and her determination. Three steps forward! We all knew, even if she takes one step back, she has won something that she will never lose. When I asked Lana what was the key moment, she said: “There was a point when I saw that I can grow into the person who can bring my dreams to life. And that I have time to learn. And that I need to fail well and often. It is important to just do it, learning by doing, by falling down and then rethinking my approach. I am the person I have been waiting for!”


A culture going viral Martin Kirchner Just three months after the yearlong Pioneers programme started, David was presenting his master plan to me. It was like he was incorporating many of the other projects of this year’s participants into an ultimate vision, a platform and a network of holistic learning centers and ecovillages with a spiritual core named “oasis of living silence.” David showed me diagrams how all the working groups would be structured. Oh no, I thought. Too big and too much in the air. How do I tell him? David’s personality reminds me a bit of the Magician, very smart with lots of experience in coaching and human psychology. He can trick all of us, including himself. He is a visionary who has been developing his ideas already for many, many years. But David was in crisis, because things had not moved forward very much, and holding such a complex vision was difficult. From personal experience, I knew this situation well and wanted to help him to scale down his project. But he did not want to play small. Then David joined forces with Leon, another participant, who in record time started the Kulturwandel Werkstadt. This became a meeting place for hundreds of alternative people dreaming of a shift in our culture, experimenting, learning and celebrating together. There David and Leon started an association called United Creations (UC) as well as a foundation for David’s big vision. Then Gerhard also joined, another participant from that year. Even more of a doer, Gerhard was dreaming of ecological building in community, low-cost and low-tech. Together with

David they managed to get access to experimental building land in Aspern - a city development area in the outskirts of Vienna. With dozens of volunteers, they started to build a fascinating structure out of wood, straw bale and clay. They call the place Sprungbrett Aspern (Aspern Launchpad), highlighting that they want to “play ecovillage” as a preparation for starting ecovillage projects in the countryside – according to David’s grand vision. In order to get more knowhow and skilled people David started a training program called Green Skills which was financially supported by the Public Employment Service of Austria. It was a complete success, giving great momentum to UC! Constantly more and more people joined United Creations. Eight of the fellow Pioneers joined and helped in several working groups. But the success, complexity and number of projects also increased the intensity of the work. David actually wanted to establish a solid but dynamic autopoietic organization with an “empty center.” They were applying methods like Dragon Dreaming, Sociocracy and silent councils. But still David found himself in a vicious cycle: He was facilitating the different working groups, standing in the center of the information flow while fearing the system would crash if he left. He had come to the exact opposite of his prior vision of UC. He was running out of money and energy - living constantly at the edge of burn out. With all his willpower, he forced himself to hold things together, while at the same time searching and finding a new CEO. He was enthusiastic as Florian Bauernfeind, a highly motivated and

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experienced manager of changemaker projects, took over the core responsibilities of UC. That opened the way to move out of the center step by step. He shifted his focus towards developing a strategy that would enable him to solve all his major problems in another big step. He developed a course program, called Coaching and Leadership Skills that would be his new financial base. It would provide interested UC members with the needed self-leadership, coaching, project and organisational development skills. Finally, as the programme turned out to be a success, providing him with enough income, he quit his badly paid job. He gained enough spare time to go on retreat in the countryside, recharging his empty batteries after two incredibly busy and exhausting years. Coming back from meditation and contemplation in the forest, for the first time he experienced that things went even better and more free flowing than when he tried to control everything. What a great relief! Meanwhile, UC has started the third Green Skills course, (managed by two participants of the first course) the second Integral Coaching and Leadership Skills Programme, a new internet platform for connecting individuals and transition projects (, including an ecovillage project in the south of Austria, called Vita Sacra. David loves to emphasize that United Creations grew out of the vision and culture of the Pioneers of Change. He has put the spirit, drive and knowledge of the Pioneers into the self-organizing and selfreplicating social structures and patterns of United Creations - leading to a viral development that is spreading out into the people and the world.

“Through the training, great projects were born and could meet each other and cross-pollinate. Due to their connection, something bigger emerged.� David Marek



Digging deep with dyad Digging for your calling

Joschi Sedlak

1. Tell me one activity or situation where you felt truly alive. Thank you. 2. Tell me about one difficult experience in your life that is connected to a problem in society. Thank you. 3. Which development in the world would be a personal dream-come-true for you? Thank you. 4. If you dare to dream big, what role could you play in making the world a better place? Thank you. 5. What is life calling you to do in this phase of your life? Thank you. 6. Which one of your gifts and abilities will enable you to follow that calling? Thank you.

In the Pioneers programme, we love to work with deep questions. An extremely powerful way to uncover depth within such questions is our dyad format, where the questions need to be answered over and over again. In this structured dialogue, a deeper understanding beyond everyday thinking emerges, along with insights and surprises. Try it out!

• Your partner listens from the heart without commenting, judging or sharing his or her view.

• Take a few hours with a friend or even a stranger. Go for a walk in nature, or find a quiet place.

• Repeat this process until each of you has answered the questions at least three times. Try five times – you might be amazed!

• Let your partner ask you the first question (see orange box). Answer without thinking too much, following the first impulse. Short answers are good. You can agree to answer in just one sentence or say as much as you like.

• When you are finished with the first question, your partner says, “thank you,” and asks the next question. Continue until you have answered them all. • Now switch the roles, and ask your partner all the questions. Always respond with “thank you.”

• When you are finished, take some time to reflect. Write down what was important for you. You may choose to take action on something that has emerged.

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• Follow the order of the questions – they make sense. Do not interrupt. The method works best if you follow it with discipline. Of course you can modify the questions, but always dig for challenges and resources. When asking your partner a question, always ask for one specific example, rather than a range of experiences.

Joschi Sedlak’s academic focus was on international development and peace studies. He is passionate about the potential within people and places, which he tries to unravel with wilderness work, deep listening and heartful action.

“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” Howard Thurman



aims to facilitate the conscious transformation of organisational cultures so that they organise themselves according to values rooted in our humane ecological mind. SOL Hungary is also dedicated to enhancing systemic understanding and cooperation for a sustainable & compassionate society of our future.

SOL Hungary


SOL Hungary

first SOL community founded in the mid 1990s in Boston, USA Hungarian community founded in 1999 located in Budapest, Hungary 2 staff members +36 302382725

Programmes DanubePeregrines - College for Eco-Social Entrepreneurship and Transformational Learning for Young Leaders along the Danube. Six modules per year, learning groups of about 20. The Spirit of Entrepreneurship - a threeyear course to enhance entrepreneurial thinking in secondary and vocational schools in the region. DanubeDialogues – organizing dialogue groups in the region since 2010 with Art Of Hosting, annually with 30 to 150 learners SOL Summer Academy - to enhance personal and organisational resilience, seven-day course for 20 to 40 learners. Systems Thinking Playgroups - learning by playing group, a monthly gathering of 12 to 30 SOL members and friends

SOL Hungary

ProAction Café - to grow ideas into projects in collaboration with H13, since 2013, a monthly event with 10 to 20 participants. Holistic Coaching & Facilitation - based on system-work and mindfulness for coaches and leaders. Participants learn knowledge and skills that open us to the larger whole and that build spaces for creation and contribution even in the time of despair, 6 modules a year, professional development group of 10 to 14. Beyond CSR - The Necessary Revolution - twelve levels of interventions (based on Donella Meadow’s work) focusing on the most important interventions for lasting change, twice per year The Art of Participative Leadership and Community - to develop a base for systemic and community-based strategic development in regional and organisational programmes, twice a year for 3 to 4 days in small groups


Global SOL Global SOL is an association of SOL communities from all over the world. Originally an initiative of the Organizational Learning Network of MIT, USA, Global SOL is now a major network of self-organizing learning communities. Based on the Five Disciplines (personal mastery, mental models, shared vision, team learning, and systems thinking), SOL in Hungary has created different places and events for deep learning and collaboration.


SOL Hungary

SOL Hungary Birthing the organization has been a process of its own since 1998. In 2007 after many initiatives, programmes and events (like the conference Learning Organizations for Sustainability with Ervin Laszlo and Peter Senge), we decided to offer more organized services for companies, educational institutions and NGOs. Toward this end, we formed Learning Organizations for Sustainability, an NGO foundation that initiated a servicebased consultancy, SOL Institute. SOL Hungary, as a Civic Society, was formed with a special focus to generate collaboration, deep

SOL Hungary

understanding and vision for the region to transform. We also are in the process of developing and launching SOL Danube as a regional learning network of people from along the Danube, including Hungary, Austria, Croatia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Romania, Serbia, and more. As a result our major project, with professor Ervin Laszlo as a key patron, is Collegium DanubePeregrines, where we intend to bring together peoples of all nationalities in our region to meet in a transformative, action-based holistic learning space.


The sons who turned into deer Two sons left home to explore the forest. Day after day they wandered in her black beauty, drank her fresh and clear water, smelled the morning dew and the twilight scents. Agota Ruzsa

They grew accustomed to it all.

This is a kolinda (Christmas carol) from the Transylvanian Carpathian Mountains.

One day, while drinking from a pond,

The story, which also inspired Bela Bartok’s Cantata Profana, is the story of all those who transformed such that they no longer fit in the homeland of their origins. In our case it is the story of many, many people of the Carpathian region. It has inspired many dissidents of the past. Now, in these times of change, there is the renewed need for peoples living in this region to learn and transform and to stay so that the whole land of the heart of Europe may grow and blossom.

antlers had grown from their heads.

This kolinda is our main source of inspiration now: to create and manifest Collegium DanubePeregrines where those who need and want to transform, may not need to go away and those who want to go away, may have a space for their antlers, their new awareness and knowledge to share and to be received, for the benefit of the whole.

yearning for home.

they looked into its mirror and saw They had turned into deer. In vain they tried to go home, but they no longer fit through the door. In fear of injuring their parents, they stayed away, treading their new ways, Their mother stood out in the dawn and the night weeping and calling for her sons who had transformed. Deer they were, no sons anymore.


SOL Hungary

SOL Hungary

drawing by Betsy McCall 75

Interbeingness I am a teacher deep in my heart. I often refer to myself as a teacher-being. Whatever I do, there is a profound intention to share my whole self, my knowledge and my experience --- the resources I have. In the 1980s, still the ´old days´ from before political transformation, I dedicated a lot of time to teaching people English so that their capacity as learners would grow and their choices expand. This led to the creation of International House (IH), a language school affiliated with one of the most innovative adult learning institutes in Europe.

Agota Ruzsa

Later, having seen all the rewards and challenges of working together as a group, I turned my attention to personal development and related my inner processes to social change. I have realized how important that is if I want lasting transformation for myself and in my work. This is how I first created Ariadne Gaia Foundation in 1990 with a friend and colleague and deep soul partner of mine. In unity and love and respect we grew and expanded work, impact and connections… until we realized that we had grown somewhat different ´antlers.´ Our paths parted. It was a painful period, crises and next steps had to be listened for and nurtured.


SOL Hungary

What is so beautiful, though, is to see and experience the feeling of being held and carried in the ´palms of some magical and nurturing field´ where choices and resources emerge. Thus earlier seeds grew into new directions. During the time I was working on the International House, the human potential movement was seeded in me, which grew into Ariadne Gaia and all her activities. Then, due to MIT and The Dialogue Facilitation program in 1992 to 1994, new seeds were planted that grew into the creation of the Learning Organizations, while the Club of Budapest and the Schumacher College and Holistic Learning with seven ray metaphysics raised my awareness and seeded my passion for eco-spiritual development. That, in turn, led to the creation of SOL Hungary and more recently the passion for the region and appreciation of who we are. SOL signifies a major shift in my relation to the world we are living in. The very first core course of SoL I participated in, called “CoreCourse of SOL” in 1995, I experienced an inspiration, commitment and depth that I had never before experienced in relation to a large group. It was a deep and active, reflective and aware learning “conference.” It was something like 140 people with full focus on their daily activities, mostly of the business and industrial world. Up until that point, my world was very far away from the world of business and organisations. The five disciplines from the course deeply resonated with me. The disciplines echoed my understanding of and

affiliation to the mission I am here to embody: to become a welcoming and hosting space for the organic interbeingness of the inner and the outer realms. This resonance opened me to new people. I had come from a central European intelligentsia background, cut off from the universe and so many people. My encounters with people whom I had never come across before -- people of the business and corporate world -- rooted me in the sad and joyful, inspiring and depressing world of what some people call “reality.� For a long time SOL has served me as a spirituality-in-action homeland, and a community I could lean against when feeling dried out and thirsty, when losing hope and inspiration. There have been a lot of other great initiatives coming my way, but I have resisted jumping on the bandwagon of the latest trend, or turning SOL Hungary into a money-making machine.

Co-Counselling International (CCI) and SOL, and most recently Art of Hosting, are true and authentic communities of self-organizing, self-sustaining spaces for individual and societal development. They have kept alive something deeply compelling to me: the potential of sustainable learning. In their core principles and disciplines we can detect and see unfold all that is possible with sustained transformational learning and development. SOL and CCI have been generative and gracious, a life-sustaining mother to many new lines of thoughts and initiatives and schools, a host of the transformation of ideas into organisations, which in turn host transformation of individuals.

I deeply feel that Collegium Peregrines of the Danube, interwoven with all the beautiful initiatives of our International Partnership for Transformative Learning, will be another sustaining and nurturing space for us all. I must honor this core quality I have learnt from my mother; she sustained my life and vision and dreams while nurturing the spaces for me to grow. She did this, though at time must have been painfully aware of how big my antlers had grown. Agota Ruzsa, SOL Global trustee and co-founder of the Hungarian Fractal organisation, has dedicated herself to transformative learning for innovation and change in education, business and society.

Image by Betsy McCall

SOL Hungary


External resistance, internal clarity My connection to my inner voice has been steadily growing throughout my career. In 2011, I felt called to apply to the Masters in Strategic Leadership towards Sustainability, based in Sweden. Following the submission of my application I took the opportunity to step out of my comfortable and secure job in the civil sector and challenge myself in a private sector environment offering greater financial reward.

Melinda Varfi

Just as I was settling into my new forprofit position I received notification that I had been accepted for the Swedish masters. The question of going after my passion (sustainability) and forfeiting financial security versus launching a professional career proved to be a great dilemma for me. After a month of sleepless nights weighing the options, writing pro & con lists, and asking friends and family for help, I decided to have a frank conversation with my managing director. He brought me on board the company in the first place and was well respected in and beyond the company. Listening to my situation, he expressed that I would experience greater learning in the company rather than at the masters program – particularly because was a masters with emphasis on sustainability. He suggested staying at the company and offered the possibility of joining an MBA program that the company would


SOL Hungary

sponsor. When I inquired about his scepticism about sustainability he replied that sustainability is just a PR product and will disappear just like all hypes throughout history. I thanked him for his advice and asked for a week to make my decision. I had already made up my mind within minutes of the meeting. But I gave myself the full week to think it over. A week later I conveyed my decision clearly: I would pursue my studies in Sweden in the field of sustainability. After our initial talk I realised that the decision had already been made in my heart and that his views on sustainability strengthened my resolve to commit myself to sustainability. It was a wonderful experience to realise that we often do not listen to our intuition and instead seek reassurance from external sources. I am telling my story in the hope that it can help others to recognise and reconnect to their inner voice in the face of external expectations and pressures.

Melinda Varfi, Project Manager for Danube College of SOL Hungary, brings her passion for discovering a person’s capacities to her work in different sectors – from education to trade development. She is also a voracious appreciator of theatre.

SOL Hungary



is a social enterprise supporting young adults to take initiative and create viable, sustainable futures for themselves and their communities.



We provide free adult education by embedding learning opportunities in projects that generate income and create positive social impact. The community is at the heart of Edventure - training and mentoring is delivered by local people and businesses, and our projects and enterprises are aimed at building a more sustainable economy and resilient community.

founded in 2012 located in Frome (a market town in Somerset), UK 2 staff members, 4 core-facilitators, 20 associates and contributors from the local community number of learners served: 10 full-time apprentices, 70 participants of other learning and development opportunities Programmes Apprenticeship - A 9-month training in social entrepreneurship - a series of team challenges to gain business, leadership and employability skills, and the opportunity to start a project, business or self-employment. Workshops, events and workspace - People of all ages can get involved in projects and challenges to learn new skills, use our workspace and participate for free in workshops, events and other learning opportunities.



Edventure principles: stories of our approach From the initial ‘push and pull’ to the first principle of Edventure

Johannes Moeller

I stared into the white, thick smog of Beijing. The Bird’s Nest Stadium was only a hundred metres away from the highrise I stood on, and yet, I could hardly see it. I had spent our previous team meeting sitting by a Ginkgo tree, the only bit of nature that was not fenced off. I had flown over to China to work with some of the most successful young entrepreneurs from Europe and China who wanted to build a better world through business. Our task was to facilitate the group to write a policy document to be handed to President Barroso and President Wen Jiabao. From being surrounded by some of the most talented young entrepreneurs, I got a sense of possibility. I looked out at the stadium and thought that even the Olympic games must have started with a simple idea. At the same time, I felt irritated talking about business for a better world that was hardly scratching the surface of sustainability and ethics, and questioned my impact of having flown to China to facilitate a few conversations. I was put off by a culture of entrepreneurship that was driven by prestige and success rather than deep questioning and learning about what sustainable business might really mean. The sense of possibility gave me a pull, and my irritation a push into making a decision. I decided to make an idea happen that had grown over the past few years, and to give up most of my previous work. It felt like jumping off the skyrise I stood on, not knowing where to start, and most of all, being afraid of



doing it alone. Not knowing anyone who had a similar idea and would love to embark on a journey to make it happen, had stopped me for a long time. This time, the push and pull had been strong enough to simply start, and trust that I would find peers for the journey along the way. Temujen Gunawardena and I met in a small independent coffee shop in Brighton, in December 2011 to talk about this idea that we later called Edventure. It seemed immensely good timing - I had decided to stop most of my work, and Temujen had just finished studying. We were both passionate about creating spaces where people could come together to make incredible things happen. We both wanted to create livelihoods that were truly sustainable and create solutions to global issues rooted in a local community and an awareness of sustainability. We wanted to question and learn, and invite others to join us. Our starting point became the first principle of Edventure: combining opportunities for deep learning, generating income, and creating positive social impact.

Johannes’ work focuses on strengthening people’s capacity to initiate positive change in their own lives, organizations, and communities. He initiated Embercombe’s Catalyst Course and Apprenticeship Programme, and most recently cofounded Edventure Frome. He also works internationally as a freelance facilitator and learning designer.

“We wanted to question and learn, and invite others to join us.�



Transformational learning through adventure: taking the risk to make ideas happen

Temujen Gunawardena Temujen’s background is in International Relations and setting up community projects. She is passionate about making music, playing games and bringing ideas to life as a graphic facilitator and initiator of adventures. She is the co-founder of Edventure.


As part of Edventure, every apprentice Making an idea or project happen is develops a personal project or business. like going on an adventure. Driven by Ben had been planning to start a a dream, an idea of what is possible, wood-recycling business with Harry. a journey begins that takes people Their dream was to involve young away from what they know and what unemployed people is comfortable, to recycle waste “Adventure is a path. requiring them to wood from the local inner and Real adventure meet community, and use outer challenges. – self-determined, self-motivated, They gain skills it to sell upcycled wood and build often risky – that will help furniture. By taking them on the way, forces you to have firsthand find supporters their dream into action, they gained encounters with the world. and draw out the skills for setting best of themselves The world the way it is, - in short, learn up a business, and met many personal not the way you imagine it.” and transform. challenges along the way. Making a project Mark Jenkins happen is both a A few months in, source of practical Ben struggled to learning and an keep his motivation for the project. In impulse for personal development. This a review session he reflected: “When kind of learning ties into who people are I dream about something everything and what is really important to them. seems possible. It feels like I can be who Ben and Harry are now running a small I want to be, and that I can overcome business building furniture and outdoor anything. But when I get stuck in, shelters out of recycled wood. everything seems so much more difficult. I feel like I don’t have the right skills. I get distracted with new dreams and lose my motivation.”


“Your best pension plan is to strengthen the generation you will depend on in the future and to build a community that can withstand and flourish in times of uncertainty and change.�

The heart of Edventure: community-supported education Have you ever come across an inspiring course, and gotten disheartened by its price? Temujen and I did, many times. In creating Edventure, we both felt strongly that the participants should not have to go into debt to pay for the course. We did not want to attract only people from privileged backgrounds by putting a high price on our offering. And we did not want to rely completely on decreasingly available grant funding. The dilemma was that creating transformational learning experiences costs a lot of money and time. We had to explore other ways of finding the resources to make our idea happen. Currently, Edventure still relies on external funding and it has been created by much unpaid labour. However, what makes it really work are local people and businesses. Edventure’s approach

is to utilize the resources available in the community and to enable local residents and organisations to support the next generation - young adults that participate in our programmes. People have volunteered training, mentoring, and coaching, while others have offered low-cost lodging in their homes for our participants. Others have pitched us paid assignments and challenges that enable us to generate revenue. It is a win-win scenario as people supporting young adults find it very rewarding, a great learning experience for themselves, and an opportunity to invest into the future of their own community. In this way, the learning experience is not only affordable, but also contributes to building intergenerational connections and local networks - a key factor in building resilient and sustainable communities. Edventure


Stories of people on the Edventure apprenticeship Harry Samuel I felt trapped in the education system. I found higher education very rigid with no freedom to explore what I felt important to discover. I wanted to express myself in other ways, to work with my hands alongside my mind, I wanted to be part of a team where you are really questioned and supported at the same time. That’s why I felt the pull to Edventure. Paradoxically, the main thing I’ve found difficult with Edventure has been the absolute freedom. After a lifetime of rigid education and being spoon-fed the answers, there have been times of feeling unsure of what to do and which direction to take my personal project. I had to relearn how to learn and on occasion have been completely swept off my feet by committing to too many projects. I’m currently going through the process of focusing on what I really want to learn.

Joe Hulbert I’ve grown up in Frome, and did not want to go to University. I have many ideas, but often struggled to make them happen. What got me involved with Edventure was the creative buzz that is hard to ignore. Its like a sandbox of opportunities for me, for both personal and business skill development, that is transferable in every way. The network of people and businesses that are supporting the project are completely invaluable, and this networking provides me with a great way to get my foot in the door. I would say that Edventure has a no-force approach, which makes me grasp opportunities for myself, rather than to please anyone else. If I do anything less than my best I only have myself to blame. At the same time, its hugely important to be surrounded by a group of supportive people who are making their ideas happen and to whom I am accountable. 86


Camilla Rose Yuill

Ben Horne

On leaving university, I was unsure of my place in the world and felt unprepared for life outside of education. My degree was eye opening but what I was taught was so distant from my own life experience. I wanted an education that really helps me to find what I love to do and that teaches me about life. Edventure was a project that gave me a blank canvas to experiment on. The freedom and ever growing opportunities that have come my way since being involved in Edventure has in turn challenged me to learn to recognise what is truly right for me. Many exciting projects have emerged over the past six months and my response has often been to dive straight in. However, I have ended up juggling too many things and have learnt how to say ‘no’ the hard way! I am trying to find a balance between following my dreams and taking risks while also ensuring that I can cover the basics - food and rent. What has become really clear for me is that I cannot give my full energy to anything unless I am looking after myself.

I was drawn to Edventure by the feeling of possibility. After having spent quite a few years training and learning in one form or another from other people, I really felt attracted to the idea of having more independence in my learning. I wanted to create something that really came from me, to make my own mistakes and take my own learning from that. The main difficulty that I’ve come up against is the point at which ideas and creativity come to meet reality. We’ve definitely been guilty of coming up with over-ambitious ideas, hitting roadblocks and having to scale back on multiple occasions. As a result I have become more realistic with ideas and involvement in different projects. Also, realising the necessity of asking for help (something that I struggle with) has enabled me to start taking responsibility for my own self employment and my own learning.

Nicholas Balura

Since leaving school I’ve been working on building sites and labouring, and have been unemployed for a while. I have always had to work in low-paying jobs to earn enough money to get by. I could never take my mind off it. And could never take time off to learn a real skill, or do some of the things I really like. What really made a difference for me with Edventure was to stop only worrying about the money. It gave me time to explore other things, learn new skills, meet new people, and look at what I really want to do, and how I can get there. Edventure


The experience of creating Edventure Johannes Moeller Looking back at the first few months of Edventure, I can see how Temujen’s and my experience and learning mirrors the experience of the apprentices. Perhaps this is not surprising, especially considering that we invited the apprentices not to join as consumers of a product that we created, but as active partners in creating Edventure. Just like the apprentices, we started with a dream, a set of abstract ideas, and a bag of thoughts and assumptions about how we can create the lives we would rather live, the world we would rather live in, and the education we would rather have had. The dream propelled us into giving up previous work and other exciting opportunities and spending more time working than any other job we have had before. It felt like a risk without any guarantee of success, costing us many anxious moments as well as giving us an incredibly exciting sense of adventure. I can now see how the dream let us walk naïvely and underresourced into starting a new yearlong programme, in a community we had not lived in before, with an untested business and educational model - all within nine months. This naïvety is what I am extremely grateful for. As without it, the project would not have happened. Just a few months before our anticipated launch we met many challenges that shook our trust in the dream and business model, and even in each other. Our funding and the building we had counted on fell through. Recruitment was



slow, and our team shrank from four to two when choosing to start up in a small market town rather than in a city. There were times when we thought we should defer the launch of Edventure until the next year, but we wanted to learn the right lessons through doing, rather than further planning. We needed to step into the same space as we would invite the apprentices to step into. One of the things that helped us through the muddy waters was trust ‘in the process.’ Trust that plans not working out is part of the process of creating an innovation that responds to reality rather than ideas; that group conflicts are part of becoming clearer about what we want as individuals; that disengagement from what we do is part of distilling the essence that holds us together; and that the death of an old version of a team, model or idea is the part of the growth of something new that better suits reality. But that trust would have left us walking blindly if we would not have met as many allies and friends on the way, a community of people who have been with us through our challenges, triumphs and celebrations. Nothing has ever been shaped and transformed by a single hand or two or three -- but by a community. These are the people who contributed to Edventure Frome through practical help or conversations during the first six months of the project.

Alastair MacKenzie, Alec Saelens, Alex Hart, Alex Harvest, AlexScott-Tonge , Alison Barclay, Amy Macfadyen, Andres Roberts, AndrewArms, Anna Ling, Annabelle Macfadyen, Anne Linham, Anni Lionet, Arthur Hayford-Taylor, Azeema Caffoor, Azeema Caffor, Barbara Bacon, Ben Horne, BethanyWells, Biz Bliss, Bo Bowmanshaw, CaluLema, Camilla Gavin, Camilla Rose-Yuill, Carlos Caballero, Caroline Wood, Charlie Stephenson, Charlotte Weedon, Charty Durants, Chris Smadge , Claire Hein, Colin Falconer , CollombThomson, Cordellia Rellat, Crysse Morrison, Daniel Dobbie, Dalibor Tomko, Damon Moore, Dannyella Glasgow, David Chandler, David Davies, David Mann, Des Harris, Dicken Moore, Dominic Ives, Dougald Hine, Elise Magnenat, Emma Harris, Emily Gerrard, Erica Sosna, Fiona Ras, Gavin Eddy, George Hayford-Taylor, Georgia Parfitt, Gurjit Singh Lalli, Helen Johnstone, Helen Kay, Helen Moore, Henry Hayford-Taylor, Howard Vaus, Inmaculada Adarves-Yorno, Isis Reid, Jack Scriven, Jacqui Cooke, Jade Leanne Thomas, Jenny, Jenny Box, Jeremy Le Fevre, Jezz Chalder, Jillian Hovey, Jo Berry, Johannes Moeller, JonathanSnell, Josef Davies - Coates, Julia Ankenbrand, Julie, Kanada Elizabeth Gorla, Karen Devrel , Karen Shelten, Kate Hellard, Liz Spurgeon, Lorry Parnell, Lucie Hermann, Luke Wild, Maddy Herbert, Madeleine Mawer, Mark Bearcroft, MatthewStainer, Mel Horne, Mel Usher, Meretta Hart, Micheal Dunk, Monika Koncz MacKenzie, Mothiur Rahman, Neil Oliver, Nicholas Balura, Nick Reynals, Nick White, Niel Howlett, Paul Smith, Paul Wynn, Peter Macfadyen, Peter Reason, Peter Wheelhouse, Peter Babudu, Pippa Goldfinger, Adam Purvis, Richard Gavin, Richard Wallace, Richard Wallace, Richard Andersen, Ryan McKee, Samuel Harry, Sandy Usher, Sara Coffield, Secilia, SennenTimcke, Sheila Gore, SimoneTiesenge-Poutnik, Siobhan McGee, Song Anh Ann Nguyen, Stephanie Hafferty, Steve Macarthur, Stina Harris, Sue Everett, Sue Klepper, Suzie Mumme, Teijo, Temujen Gunawardena, Tim Cutting, Tim Macartney, Tim Hartley, Tim Rutten, Toby Eliot, Tom Rippen, Viv Goodings, Will Angleiro, Zoe Ward



Afterword Highlights from a conversation on commonalities among the IPTL partners, February 2013 Pernilla: I think you have to be Melinda: What I really enjoy and Jutta: Another aspect we have in authentic and try to have that as a connect with is this authenticity. We are common is the combination of project base within yourself. At least that’s able to tap into this collective wisdom and personal development. In the something I do for in the circle, and share business world I often see a focus on myself. When I came beautiful and very only getting the project done, and the to the IPTL I felt diverse experiences that personal development somehow that is something everyone has learned happens. Or I see esoteric spiritual we have in common. through their jobs. The self-reflection seminars that focus on We are striving to thing that comes to mind inner development but stop there. A be authentic all the is a kaleidoscope: you quality in all our work it that we don’t time. That means look into it and you see the separation. In order to achieve taking care of our see different forms and a great project it is necessary to have personal needs beautiful colours. personal growth. And in order to grow and for the whole personally we must find a field where group to see the we can take action and do something. Sylvia: From my perspective we are personal needs. They have to be Sylvia mentioned this wonderful not only visionaries but we are also spoken aloud. Then they can be carried quotation before “If you want to find doers. I see here in our partnership together. Working in YIP, that’s what yourself go into the world, if you want that we manifest things. Sometimes it’s we are doing the whole time. There is to find the world go into yourself.” still difficult to name the social impact no different Pernilla at home. For our I think that really fits to the works of - that’s what we are dealing with at the participants, that’s the greatest gift. We transformation. See Lana’s story in Pioneers - to present the impact so that are not just offering a course and then the Pioneers Chapter society understands going home. We are trying to create the Kanada: I also heard in the (p.64) what we’re doing. culture of transformation. That’s what stories a lot of uncertainty, a lot I sense in the IPTL: we are of unknowns, and also a lot of willing to attempt this path of See Pieter´s story growth. Which is a reflection of what authenticity. For me it is very in the Knowmads is going on in the world. We are nourishing to be in this group Chapter: (p.52) moving in unknown territory with because of that. all the challenges and opportunities Agota: Actually, I that presents. In this environment a Joshi: There is a deep don’t believe that life common thread might be the awareness among us of has a business plan. need to stay with the uncertainty, to the pattern or storyline behind not fix. It is beautiful to say ‘this transformation. We all work is our approach’ or ‘this is who we with a transformational story. are’, and it’s important to stay fluid. I The processes through which we accompany people is am having conversations in the a personal transformation that empowers them to work business community that wouldn’t in the world. There is an underlying pattern of crisis. have been possible a year ago or even It goes in this order: going through a crisis, going six months ago. I feel the need to stay awake to my own through a transformation process and then working for the continued growth and be aware that things are changing world. With different stories, different processes, its not very, very fast. And that’s exciting. necessarily a linear process. 90

Johannes: The courses I created were always experiences I wished I could have had myself. And in creating them, I have always learned as much as any participant. See Mac’s story in the Embercombe Chapter (p. )

Joschi: A very process-oriented way of working is to ask: “what serves the process of the person that’s standing in front of me or this group?” We all have a sort of toolkit or a samurai backpack, we have a sword and a shield and all the sort of things that we need, so we have a huge variety of methods that we can use in order to support that movement to go on. None of us says ``I work only with this or only with that.`` So it’s really tuning into what serves others the most.

Sylvia: We are living a modern spirituality. I would like to name this somehow. There is something we have in common where there are no words for it. Is it love, is it connection to a divine source? Can we call it something like that? We do reconnection work. Reconnecting to business, reconnecting to nature, reconnecting to society to ourselves. The reconnecting to business, that is my work. That´s sometimes hard. See Betsy’s story in the Art Monastery Chapter (p.20)

See Kim’s story in the Knowmads Chapter (p.56)

Johannes: We want to create the world that we would love to live in. Environmental sustainability, social justice, vibrant communities and See Jutta’s personal fulfillment is at the heart story in the of this world. I think our visions Visionauts are our strength, but also lead Chapter (p.10) to our major challenges. Most organizations are struggling financially and to communicate Kanada: what they do - many of us even had It’s so important to have the capacity to invent their own language to describe to see what doesn’t yet exist. To see our work and impact. I think this is a sign how things could be, to make the that our visions and the current reality is invisible visible. And when we hold that far apart. And working towards a vision vision collectively the vision becomes that is far off from the current system is stronger and we become stronger. hard work. Perhaps this is why we are trying to connect and See Martin’s story in the Pioneers Chapter: (p.62) support each other.

Betsy: The people in this partnership have had transformative experiences and they change us and then we want to share that, to offer other people that same opportunity. We do that through all different lenses -- through nature, through social impact, through art -- but the openness to change comes from love. That basic love, the passion for life, is the thing that is a deep common thread. Openness to ourselves is a prerequisite. Openness to ourselves makes it possible to be open to each other. That connection, to ourselves and then to each other, is the magic in the partnership and the magic in the work that we do.

Joschi: I see so much love for change in the world. That’s the bigger picture behind our work. There is so much needed, so we want others to take action and to do something. Behind this is such a deep need or love for just forming the situations we’re in at the moment. And this is also where I think that our common challenges come in, which is this high energy ‘we want to do so much’ and then the challenges come in like lack of money and the lack of personal resources. Joschi: Yes, a challenge I see for us is: sometimes it’s hard to formulate our impact. We all have seen people transform… but what is it worth or what is happening?

Continue on the next page to learn more about the IPTL... Graphics by Boris Goldammer 91

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international partnership for transformative learning * “I prefer ‘the chicken and the egg’ to this ITPL (sic) thing. Just chicken and egg, for me that makes sense. If you say what comes first -- chicken or egg? -- I don’t know, and it doesn’t really matter because both are quite valuable and great. This being able to saying ‘I don’t know’ - I love it.” Kim van Rijt, Knowmads 92


International Partnership for Transformative Learning ... or the chicken and the egg* After two years of generous funding as a Lifelong Learning Partnership by the EU Grundtvig Programme, we have launched a more permanent partnership to investigate new modes of radical transformation and cultivate the next paradigm of sustainable change in the world. We see that the current educational system is in need of a radical shift. People are seeking news ways to use their skills, be challenged, feel valued and effect positive change in the world. The International Partnership for Transformative Learning (IPTL) is working to articulate these challenges that face our modern world, develop and implement new tools for addressing them and bring together the people who have the power and skills to offer solutions. This impulse is a small part of a global movement driven by profound change within societal structures and individuals. This movement is bringing new energy and ideas into the world, improving the quality of people’s lives, and realising environmental and social justice. Individuals who value lifelong learning are encouraged to look deeply within themselves to find new work and meaning in their lives—to find the place where their skills and interests meet the needs of the world. These organisations are currently part of the IPTL: Academy of Visionautics, Berlin, Germany. The Academy of Visionautics supports people seeking to develop ambitious visions and put them into professional practice. This journey of

learning, growing and overcoming obstacles and fear of failure is a thoroughly enriching experience that produces pioneering and future-shaping projects and companies. Art Monastery, Italy and USA. The Art Monastery Project is an intentional community that applies monastic principles to art making and creativity. The Art Monastery is dedicated to cultivating personal transformation and cultural change through art, community and contemplation. Edventure Frome, UK. Edventure is a platform for young adults who want to make their ideas happen. We combine personal transformation and self-directed learning, opportunities for generating an income and creating positive social impact locally. Our aim is to enable young adults to build meaningful livelihoods that contribute to a resilient local economy and thriving community. Embercombe, Devon, UK. Embercombe - a garden to grow people - is a social enterprise situated in a beautiful 50acre valley in South West England. Our mission is to touch hearts, stimulate minds and inspire committed action for a truly sustainable world. We offer transformational programmes for organisations and individuals, equipping people of all ages and walks of life to stand up as leaders, and energetically contribute their gifts and talents towards creating the world of our longing.

Knowmads, Amsterdam, Netherlands. Knowmads is an independent one-year education for social entrepreneurs. The educational programme focuses on personal development, purpose and entrepreneurial attitude to help the participants’ dreams become concrete professional actions that make a difference. Plenum / Pioneers of Change, Vienna, Austria. Plenum consults, trains and accompanies businesses, organisations and individuals in realising sustainable living. Through Pioneers of Change we empower young changemakers to contribute to the “Great Turning.” Society of Organisational Learning (SOL), Budapest, Hungary. The worldwide network, SOL, offers initiatives on systemic thinking, vision realisation and teamwork. Youth Initiative Program (YIP), south of Stockholm, Sweden. YIP is an actionoriented venture and seeks to provide young people with opportunities to recognize their potential to work with each other and with communities to enrich their lives and the lives of all those with whom they come into contact. If you are interested in joining the IPTL or would like to offer your feedback for this book, contact us via


Gugler GmbH is a full-service communication company with three business units - brand, digital and print - focused on environmental sustainability. founded in 1989 Auf der Schön 2, 3390 Melk/Donau, Austria +43 (2752) 50050-0

“I have learned that true change can only begin in one’s own mind and heart.”


International Partnership for Transformative Learning

Looking inside and affecting the outside showcase business with more than 100 employees. His holistic engagement received respect and admiration across borders. The direction for further growth was clear, but he had depleted all of his personal energy.

Ernst Gugler Ernst Gugler is founder and director of the printing and communications business (kommunikationshaus) gugler*, in Melk, Austria. He is a former World Wildlife Fund employee and has been implementing his ecological values in his own company for more than 20 years. The eco-print pioneer is involved with the development of a common welfare economy and the Network Mindful Economy (Netzwerk Achtsame Witschaft). Once upon a time, there was a son of a carpenter who, by chance, ended up working for a screen printer as an unskilled assistant. He completed an apprenticeship there and worked his way up to become a business unit manager. When the possibility arose to take over the company, he took the risk of jumping into self-employment together with his wife Elisabeth. The risk paid off. Within a few years, the business employing six people developed into an ecological

For 23 years, I have advocated for the preservation of our natural resources and for the implementation of more sustainable products and services. There was just one thing I had completely forgotten: myself. The result of this tireless journey of outward action was that I nearly burned out in 2008. Sleepless nights have opened my eyes. They taught me to look after myself, and how to get out of this situation. This path led me to yoga and a Buddhist mindfulness practice. Mindfulness is the awareness of what is happening in and around us and living in the NOW. To be mindful is to look deeply into the nature of the perceived world. In this way, I also got to know myself better. I learned that I was lacking something. I had a longing for recognition that I strived to satisfy through my work. I began to practise calming my mind with regular meditation and living in the here and now. I have learned to be for, rather than against something, and that true change can only begin in one’s own mind and heart. My crisis has also made me question the commonly accepted top-down hierarchy. It channels success, defeat and responsibility too much onto one person – in our case onto me, the sole director. Everyone who knows me also knows that I neither can nor want to always bear this weight upon my shoulders. Now, we are operating as a holacracy, which appears to be a good solution.

I have recognised that there is more than work. My crisis brought me to question my work/life balance. Would I ever blame myself for having spent too little time at my desk? The answer to this question was clear, and moved me to complete a yoga teacher-training course. Today, I offer yoga sessions for employees and visitors, and practise a method called Karma-Yoga. This is the yoga path of consciousness and action free of expectation. Many people are surprised and wonder whether such different roles, yoga teacher and director, are at all complementary. The surprise is understandable. I have to exemplify the values that I ‘preach’ as a yoga teacher in my life as a director. I can say that this truly is a challenge. On the other hand, teaching brings me a lot of happiness. It fills me with joy to see participating employees leave work feeling totally relaxed. Doesn’t a director normally cause employees stress rather than relaxation? But why shouldn’t it be the opposite? Relaxation is an important aspect of work. Without relaxation and regeneration there is no job performance. By the way, it has taken me four years to get more or less out of the crisis. I say ‘more or less’ because I still have not completely found my centre, my inner peace. But who of us has that anyway? You? I recommend that everyone go on an internal journey early enough, to pay attention to one’s own resources and to change the world through an inner transformation of mind and heart. Gugler has generously contributed to the printing of this book in an effort to support the intentions behind it. In turn, we have asked them to share their story.


Hosting Transformation Stories from the edge of changemaking

This book is a collection of stories from people who are dedicated to unlocking the world’s potential. Inside, you will discover the spirit of changemakers through their telling of challenges and transformations faced head-on. This book is about lifelong learning. This book is about the change that is already happening. Are we there yet? hosting

edited and designed by Betsy McCall & Joos van den Dool

ISBN 978-3-00-042450-2

cover art by Betsy McCall SILVER