Learning, Education and Wisdom
The Schumacher Institute September 2012
“More education can help us only if it produces more wisdom.” E.F Schumacher
sustainability in a very practical and meaningful way. Those who We are strong believers in E.F. Schumacher’s assertion have joined have been looking for practical guidance and that ‘to talk about the future is useful only if it leads ideas to make their life and work more sustainable, to "Our task – and the to action now.’ For this reason, we found ourselves task of all education understand systems thinking and its relevance to on a ‘think‐and‐do’ principle – we strive to ensure sustainability.” – is to understand that our work is relevant and has application in The course has proved immensely successful, the present world, the real world. with students finding themselves clearer about where the world in which As part of this approach, we founded our they are headed and part of a supportive network of like‐ we live and make learning programme 2 years ago. These courses minded people. our choices." E.F. are designed to equip people with the We are very excited, therefore, about the launch Schumacher understanding and tools that that will enable them of our MSc in Managing Sustainability and Uncertainty in to develop a more meaningful and sustainable life March 2013. on both personal and work levels. This newsletter is dedicated to the learning and For two years our Director of Learning Programmes, education endeavours of the Institute and the role that these Martin Sandbrook, has been running the ‘Sustainability Toolkit.’ have played in putting the work of E.F. Schumacher into This 12‐month course was designed for those who want to learn practice. about systems thinking and make the transition to sustainable We have invited several people to contribute their views work. on learning and we are also very pleased to have a piece by Martin says: "The Toolkit is a very useful course for Charlie McConnell, Director of Schumacher College 2008‐2012. meeting like‐minded people and engaging with the issue of
Our interdisciplinary research work, whether it is theoretical or action research, provides an ideal environment for learning programmes such as our MSc and Sustainability Toolkit. We have a rich source of materials, events, connections, projects and people ready to support students as they struggle with ideas and, in return, Can we ever hope to manage this lack of surety? Why do we present us with new challenges. want to manage it? Can we sustain this constantly Two of our main programmes are: changing, complex mess that seems set on its own Seeing the world in Convergence – This is about ‘equity within planetary destruction? These and many other questions on different ways and limits.’ Can we bring environment and development closer the interactions of humans in nature are the seeing that other together so that efforts to improve our impact on Earth’s substance of our research and our learning. people see the world in resources are achieved through equality and fairness? Can we Our work, at the Schumacher Institute, is pursue development goals and social justice without different ways allows inspired by E.F. Schumacher. He was an economist forgetting the finiteness of the planet? To this end the and great systems thinker who always placed you to build the Institute is leading on the creation of the Convergence Alliance people at the heart of things, rather than money understanding that – to amplify and disseminate these ideas. and machines. His form of economics was true to will make coping with Prepare for Change – an action research project that the word ‘oikos’ meaning home, a place where uncertainty easier than considers how prepared communities are for changes coming people thrived and fulfilled their potential ‐ before… from many directions: environmental, social, new supported and served by the processes of business technologies, geo‐political, economic, and many others. The and finance. A rather different view to traditional economics, where core of this project is a monitoring unit that scans the horizon and the demands of the systems of production and consumption are runs systems thinking workshops to consider the projections and foremost and are served by disposable people, whose needs and predictions in the light of their potential effects. The outputs aspirations are manipulated to further increase those demands, in a provide vital information for businesses, public and civil society malign reinforcing feedback. sectors. Seeing the world in different ways and seeing that other The opportunities for learning with the Schumacher Institute are people see the world in different ways allows you to build the enriched by this connection to our action and to our development of understanding that will make coping with uncertainty easier than theory. Students are encouraged to get involved. before. Decisions and choices that you then make will not necessarily We cannot dispel uncertainty but we can help you to see it and be the right ones – and who judges that – but you will have attempted how it arises. We cannot provide any formulae for how to create a to do the best for the best with others, with nature and with the sustainable world, we can help you select the ingredients, refine your future. values and indicate directions in a continuous process of learning.
Foreword – Learning and Uncertainty Ian Roderick, Director of The Schumacher Institute
Schumacher Institute MSc in Managing Sustainability and Uncertainty How do I see the world? How does the way I see the world affect how I act? What do I choose to pay attention to – or, for that matter, not pay attention to? “To change the way we act, we first need to change the way we think (and feel).” [Donella Meadows] Are you interested in exploring these and other similar questions?
year programme, which compares favourably with similar master’s courses. Free from the constraints of a university, the course is designed to fit in with your work and become a part of it. Starting in early March, the teaching consists of 6 workshops – one every 3 months. Each lasts four days (Weds – Sat) with outstanding visiting speakers to inform and inspire your reflection on how you see the world, what it means to be sustainable and the importance of ethical, social and environmental responsibility. Our postgraduate certificate course, the Sustainability Toolkit, explores some of the same themes as the Master’s. A student of the course, Lenie, says: “The Sustainability Toolkit met my needs and went beyond my expectations. It provided a much‐needed structure to the year and enabled an exploration of deep‐seated personal and “We need to societal value systems, worldviews and behaviour patterns. The course also look at the world and see it whole.” introduced systems thinking methodologies [EF Schumacher] and applied them to a broad range of practical scenarios.”
The Schumacher Institute is re‐launching its own MSc in Managing Sustainability and Uncertainty in March 2013. This fully‐ accredited programme is firmly rooted in the ideals of E.F. Schumacher – helping you deepen your own experience and understanding of the world and explore effective ways of working in a world that is becoming increasingly complex and uncertain. We are introducing a new lower fee of £3000p/a for this two‐
If you would like to know more about this MSc, please contact Martin Sandbrook – firstname.lastname@example.org and visit www.schumacherinstitute.org.uk/learning.
planet. We don’t rubbish it (we celebrate its benefits) but we question its dominance, suggesting that there are other ways of being, thinking and feeling, in the world, which we call systemic. We propose and explore whether this may be more useful and relevant to the complex uncertainties of our emerging crisis. The world is becoming ever more complex and uncertain. The The accredited MSc in Managing Sustainability and evidence of our negative impact on the planet is daily more obvious. Uncertainty is our flagship. The 6 workshops of four days each are Increasingly we need to find better ways to sustain the natural self‐ spread over 2 years, to allow time for deep learning to take place. The organising ability of the great system of which we are part, to achieve programme allows participants to follow their own energy and more balance and less destruction. interests, demonstrating personal learning. We explore After a career trying to find better ways to and experiment, sharing learning and deriving support We explore and do things in organisations, I was fundamentally from our peers on the programme, stimulated by visiting affected by the most significant learning experience experiment, sharing Schumacher Fellows, by readings and other interesting learning and deriving of my life when I took part in the Masters in inputs. support from our peers on Responsibility and Business Practice (RBP ‐ The Sustainability Toolkit covers similar ground the programme, University of Bath). I graduated from that but at a different depth and is tailored specifically toward programme determined to bring the messages of stimulated by visiting people who are looking to find more meaningful and systems thinking to people who daily, in their own Schumacher Fellows, by worthwhile work. Completion of this programme, lives and in their work, face the challenge of readings and other accredited as a post‐graduate certificate, can carry 60 managing uncertainty, people who are aware of a interesting inputs… credits towards the 180 credits needed to complete the growing need to be more sustainable and to find MSc. more relevant and effective ways to bring about If you would like to explore different ways of seeing the world, beneficial change. have tried conventional approaches to doing things better but feel you Inspired by the wisdom of EF Schumacher, I joined forces with need more effective ways to tackle the increasing complexity and the Schumacher Institute (and fellow RBP graduate Ian Roderick), to uncertainty of a fast‐moving world, would like to deepen your develop two learning programmes, both designed to introduce experience and understanding of the world, to learn more about what systems thinking as an alternative way of being in the world, but also being sustainable means, then you are looking to follow the same road to go further – to answer the question: ‘Systems Thinking ‐ So what?’ that I am travelling. Come and join me – we can try to work it out In the MSc, we look at prevailing worldviews – our individual together. way of seeing the world and the prevailing western way ‐ the scientific, the mechanistic, the rational. We consider the consequences of this way of thinking, particularly in relation to the wellbeing of our
Systems Thinking ‐ So what? Martin Sandbrook, Director of Education Programmes at the Schumacher Institute
The role of learning in SocialCapitalist Alastair Roderick, Project Manager The Schumacher Institute completed a pilot of its SocialCapitalist project in Spring 2012. The SocialCapitalist project is based on the idea that during an economic downturn it is not just financial capital that is destroyed. Growing problems such as unemployment, depleted infrastructure and personal debt means that social capital, the bonds between individuals that We were not aiming to collectively make a make people ‘work‐ready’ community, is destroyed so much as to give them while less money is the necessary tools to available to prevent this apply their learning to a decline. passion for improving Although the their community, and to instinctive response to secure long‐term and recession is to focus on the sustainable work… demand side of the jobs market, increasing productivity in order to promote growth and create new jobs, SocialCapitalist also seeks to address the supply side of the equation, making the communities on which a successful economy is built more productive and sustainable, in order to offset the depressionary effects of economic downturn. SocialCapitalist volunteers, aged 18‐25 and unemployed, signed up to organise a local community event, the North Street Spring Fayre, Bristol’s largest one‐off street closure dedicated cal shopping and community groups. Personal development and learning was central to the SocialCapitalist project. We designed a ten week curriculum based around personal development training, incorporating elements of
training in social enterprise developed by a partner organisation in Bristol: Real Ideas Organisation (RIO). In addition to this, we organised a speakers’ series of prominent social activists and community figures in Bristol to talk about their careers and working in the third sector. The learning process was central to the SocialCapitalist pilot. We were not aiming to make people ‘work‐ready’ so much as to give them the necessary tools to apply their learning to a passion for improving their community, and to secure long‐ term and sustainable work. Our volunteers were educated to A‐ Level and degree level, and we sought to develop new social capitalists by demonstrating how learning about the jobs market and about community development could be applied to securing long‐term, fulfilling Figure 1 Chris Richards, SocialCapitalist work. volunteer, at North St Spring Fayre The learning process also applied to us while putting the programme together. We were keen to emphasise the benefits that focusing on improving social capital would bring to the community, as well as the need for work programmes to emphasise their place in the wider community. Social capital acted as a useful metaphor for what we were focusing on.
Social capital can be described, simply, as applied systems science. Complex adaptive systems don’t come much more complex and adaptive than society as a whole; and large‐scale social policy, whether labelled ‘The Big Society’, ‘Mending Broken Britain’, or even ‘The New Deal’ focuses on nudging (another grand scheme) groups and communities to create the sort of social capital thought to be good for us, and to constrain that thought to be bad. Social capital is a new name given to a body of thought that draws on the moral philosophy of John Rawls, the social positivism of Durkheim, the social contract tradition of Rousseau, and as far back to John Locke and Thomas Hobbes and even to the Magna Carta. Simply put, social capital theory says that in addition to human, physical and financial capital, a political economy also contains reserves of social capital that are the sum of the links that people have with each other, and the institutions they create to mediate these. It dovetails interestingly with systems‐thinking, in its insistence that the collective links between individuals that make up a community have normative value independent of their separate parts. A focus on social capital, therefore, is to focus on the system of how communities work. Social capital is not a magic bullet for society, although the best known work in the field, Robert Putnam’s Bowling Alone (2000) is a convincing argument that weakened social capital is associated with pretty much every negative social trend in America over the last half‐century. A dark form of social capital also exists to remind us that how we interact is just as important as the interaction itself. Putnam terms this ‘bonding social capital’ as opposed to a more positive ‘bridging social capital’, and it explains why communities sometimes don’t see any improvements even as incomes increase. If more
disposable income leads to more trips to the pub, or more cinema and restaurant visits, or even to more overseas holidays, improvements in quality of life remain within small peer groups rather than being shared with the larger community; especially if this leisured lifestyle means less time for Rotary Clubs, or PTAs, or Neighbourhood Watches or local politics and the like. When we share our social interactions with the wider community, a virtuous circle of wider community improvement is promoted. But when our interactions are limited to a smaller peer group, the benefits tend to stay only within the group, contributing to wider stagnation. Misdirected social capital is well understood. Philip Gourevitch documents the careful, systematic drawing up of lists of Tutsis and moderate Hutus in the Rwandan genocide, following the direction of frenzied and politicised radio broadcasts that only one community were listening to. It was not an outbreak of insanity, industrialised murder involves paperwork. Bonding social capital, or anti‐social capital to be accurate, is a result of social policy just as bridging social capital is; and while bonding social capital is not always a bad thing (as animals we form small units of family and friends), not paying attention to the sort of social capital a community produces, certainly can be. A lot more research is needed on the role that social capital plays in the creation of healthy, productive social systems. An opportunity exist here for systems scientists, and it could provide an interesting social policy response to the Big Society agenda.
this time. The parallels that could be drawn between 2011 and 1981 especially struck me – both years were defined by a recession, rising unemployment, riots and a growing sense of social unease and uncertainty. Last year one of our biggest projects, Bristol’s Green Roots, In Waterland, a novel about memory and history, Graham came to an end. This Heritage Lottery funded project documented Swift’s protagonist describes history as moving “in two directions at Bristol’s history of environmental activism and sustainability. Over once. It goes backwards as it goes forward. It loops. It takes detours.” 100 people were interviewed about the development of the This is not to suggest that the exact same things will happen over and environmental movement that grew in Bristol from 1970 until the over again but I think it’s important to be aware of present day. these repetitions – especially to examine the previous The original aim of the project was to solutions to problems we face now. collect the stories of those who were involved In the 1980s, many environmental groups over 40 years ago, before they were lost or benefitted from a government scheme called the forgotten. We developed an archive of Youth Opportunities Programme. This system paid materials from pioneering environmental people, known as YOP workers, who were groups such as the Urban Centre for unemployed a wage to work with community projects. Appropriate Technology (now the Centre for These people were gaining employment experience, Sustainable Energy), Windmill Hill City Farm, community projects were gaining a free workforce Sustrans and Bristol Friends of the Earth, and the government were empowering those who transcripts from the interviews and over 25 might otherwise fall through the system. Many of filmed interviews with some of Bristol’s those I spoke to praised this scheme and said that they Figure 2 Urban Centre for Appropriate pioneering environmentalists. Technology (1980) couldn’t understand why there wasn’t a similar one in This archive was then used to develop place now. an exhibition for the Create Centre and the This project made me realise that it is as important to look project’s publication. We collected stories of triumphs, set‐backs, back as it is to look forward, to recognise the shared struggles we face collaboration and rivalries, problems and opportunities. It was as those who came before us and to learn about how they tackled fascinating and illuminating. There were stories that made me laugh these problems and opportunities. E.F. Schumacher said, “An ounce of and stories that made me cry. practice is generally worth a ton of theory.” I hope that we can While collecting these stories was of value in itself, I feel that continue to learn from the practice of the past – the good and the bad. the most important part of this project was the opportunity it As George Bernard Shaw pointed out; “If history repeats itself, and the provided for learning. Bristol’s environmental movement was in full unexpected always happens, how incapable must man be of learning swing during the 1980s and those I interviewed had a lot to say about from experience.”
Bristol’s Green Roots: A History Lesson? Emmelie Brownlee, Project Manager
Schumacher College: Reflections and congratulations. Charlie McConnell, Director 2008‐2012
Members of the Schumacher Society and Institute will be familiar with Schumacher College. Founded 21 years ago, it has become one of the leading international centres for education for sustainable living. In this its 21st birthday year we have much to celebrate. Inspired by Fritz Schumacher, the college has sought to promote his belief in whole person education ‐ where learning touches our heads, hearts and hands. Over two decades it has provided a residential experience of living and learning together, recharging the batteries and passion of environmental and social activists from across the world. My near forty‐year career until retirement earlier this year has been in community learning and development ‐ as a practitioner, trainer, writer, grant funder and government policy advisor. For over twenty years I was the head of various UK and international NGOs and foundations, supporting more sustainable approaches to development and, in particular, strengthening the power of the disadvantaged. In 2008 I became the Director of the College. It is an incredibly powerful place; with a hugely dedicated team of staff, volunteers and visiting teachers. The College is an ‘initiative of the Dartington Hall Trust’, with its campus located on the beautiful Dartington estate. As Director I was ultimately accountable to Dartington’s Trustees. Just prior to my arrival the Trustees approved a ‘One Dartington’ strategy, whereby all of their initiatives would henceforth come under the Dartington brand. Why is this a significant part of the Schumacher College story? Quite simply because it meant the dropping of the Schumacher name. My view was that the Schumacher name had such high recognition internationally that a change of name
would damage the college. The Trustees agreed with me and the name was retained. The second challenge was one that hit the very soul of the college. The Trust decided that the college should move from its campus – a manor house known as the Old Postern, to occupy part of the soon to be vacated (and much run down) 1960s College of Arts campus. Wisdom again prevailed, but this time it took over two years to change the Trusts’ decision, a period of huge uncertainty. In 2011 Trustees finally approved my recommendation to remain and we secured the funds to create new classrooms and workshops, thus enabling the college to expand its programmes. Visiting the college today you will find it refurbished and expanded, with beautifully and sustainably restored facilities. In 2009 trustees approved a new five‐year growth strategy for the college. A question often posed at the college was how small is small? Would the college’s approach to transformative community learning be watered down if we expanded the number of students? When I arrived, the college had around thirty students in any one week ‐ on short courses or the college’s one postgraduate Masters Degree in Holistic Science. My view was that we needed to reach more people in more flexible ways, to widen access for social and environmental activists who might otherwise be unable to come because of cost and distance and, to offer more relevant and practical action programmes. We invested in designing new courses, and more flexible modes of delivery including open learning and modular course design. Through collaboration with other organisations we trebled the number of students attending each week, also running cheaper, non‐residential, practical hands on courses for students interested in sustainable food production and green building. We piloted Schumacher worldwide, with certificates available on‐line, working with former students to directly support activists in situ in the global
south and we ran Schumacher type courses in China and in central Asia. We set up several working groups to design new postgraduate programmes – in New Economics, in Sustainable Horticulture and Food Production and in Ecological Design and Build, all of which have led to the development of new certificates and degrees. We also explored the development of postgraduate courses in Radical Education, in Health, in Rural Development and in Ecology, Place and the Arts. In all cases we worked in partnership with such organisations as the Centre for Alternative Technology, The Transition Towns movement and the New Economics Foundation as well as strengthening our longstanding link with the University of Plymouth. When I arrived at the college, its in‐house faculty was two academics, an ecologist and a biologist. After 18 years longstanding visiting teachers, such as James Lovelock, were finding it difficult to continue to come. It was clear that we needed to attract a new generation of visiting teachers (of which we have over 50), but also to broaden and enrich the in‐house faculty. My discipline was as a political scientist and community development expert. Over the next three years we secured the funds to bring into the faculty an economist, a social scientist, two distance learning experts, a green architect, a geographer, a horticulturalist and a complexity scientist; people who had also had extensive experience outside the world of education, with such employers as the UN and Forum for the Future. A contradiction hitting anyone attending a Schumacher College course, particularly one on food production and land use, is that whilst it is located on the 1,200 acre Dartington Hall estate, the Trust’s farm is neither organic nor doing much to address greenhouse gas emissions and biodiversity. Paradoxically for a Trust that for fifty years since the 1920s had been in the forefront of agricultural education and research in the UK, it had moved away from a vision of using its land assets to support learning and experimentation.
One of my great pleasures was to be invited by the Trust to Chair its Land Use Review Group. We presented our report to Trustees in 2011. They supported our proposal that the farm and estate should once again be used primarily for supporting education, experimentation and enterprise, especially new forms of land partnerships such a community supported agriculture and for promoting low carbon, agro forestry and organic, high animal welfare farming. In practical terms several acres will be secured for the college enabling it to expand hands on education and research programmes. The college is now well placed to ensure that once again the Dartington estate will be synonymous with cutting edge practice in sustainable land use. I congratulate the trust for this commitment. The years since 2008 witnessed many opportunities and challenges ‐ the possible name change, the move of campus, new staff, new programme developments and more flexible modes of delivery. But also the global recession and visa constraints imposed by the UK Government upon non EEA students attending courses here. These latter two hit the college hard, not least as so many of our course participants historically come from outside Europe. However the decision to allow the college to remain at the Old Postern led last year to significant new funds being secured from two other grant making trusts to support the college’s programmes and refurbishment and I am confident that the college will secure further external funds, not least in order to fund bursaries for low income participants. The centenary of EF Schumacher in 2011 undoubtedly raised our profile and in particular strengthened the links with the other Schumacher inspired family of organisations. I was especially pleased with the ever‐closer links we were able to build with the New Economics Foundation, the Soil Association, Centre for Alternative Technology and the Schumacher Society and Institute. The college at 21 has now come of age and under Jon Rae looks set for a confident future.
To celebrate the announcement of our 2013 Learning Programmes, we have compiled a newsletter dedicated to the learning and education efforts...