“I believe the future of Schumacher is networked”
“Right time - right concept!”
The Schumacher Network has long been requested by our alumni, friends, teachers, like-minded organisations and worldwide supporters of transformative education for sustainable living.
It is developing in an iterative and organic way. Starting small – listening and adapting to feedback, what works, and where the life and energy is.
We can now connect, communicate and collaborate on the Schumacher Network.
- Connect: add your own profile, search and connect with like-minded people
- Communicate: share stories and co-create news from around the world with blogs, discussions and resource pages
- Collaborate: create your own groups and communities of practice, organise dialogue and conversations with like-minded people from all over the globe; and go on to co-create your own events, projects and courses.
We have created this simple structure and are now offering it to you to let it go where it wants to go. So please make it your own.
This has been possible thanks to the very generous and kind supporters of our crowd funding campaign. Thanks to you we raised our target of £25,000 to develop this first phase.
Coming into being
If we were to map the journey of the Schumacher Network what would it look like? How did it come into being? What were the catalysts and turning points?
A growing voice from the Schumacher alumni
“Wouldn’t it be great if we could connect together with friends we met at Schumacher College to come together to put into practice what we learnt in our own countries.”
Pressure to grow and expand
This pressure was both internal and external. The reach of Schumacher College in offering face to face learning opportunities is inevitably constrained by physical capacities at our campus in the UK.
Our question was how to grow our influence worldwide, without losing our small is beautiful approach to teaching and learning? Taking inspiration from our ecological pedagogy, means creating decentralised networks of learnings, small scale educational experiments, co-creating and sharing of knowledge and emergent dialogue, worldwide.
Schumacher College in the 21st century, is Schumacher Networked...
Being more inclusive
The Schumacher Network is partly a response to the growing voice of concern that Schumacher College is too exclusive and expensive, and limited by the financial and time barriers that exclude many from participating in courses.
‘I have always been very interested in the Schumacher College, dreamed of going there or somehow having access to the courses. This project seems to me a way of giving those of us who do not have the economic resources to have access to the frontline issues and amazing thinkers that revolve around the College. I could organize small groups here in Mexico City to attend and discuss relevant issues’. Schumacher Network Survey Respondent, 2013
Enlivening, empowering and making our alumni visible
Our alumni are at the centre of who we are and what we do. Sometimes you can’t see what is closest and most valuable to you.
In our case, this was our alumni. We love to welcome them every time they visit the college. But when they left, it was if they disappeared into a void. The Schumacher Network turns inside out, by making visible our large, growing and committed international community, showcasing what is happening around the world, and empowering the next generation of tutors, teachers, facilitators, activists, entrepreneurs, policy-makers, life-long learners, leaders.
The development of communication technology and on-line learning was a decisive factor. Our experience shows that it is possible to use virtual technology to create intimate and transformative learning experiences.
These events and trends coming together catalysed our thinking about the Schumacher Network
In the early days, there was little consensus about what this might be and indeed, whether it should be a priority for Schumacher College. And what form might it take? Are we going to create a franchise of fledging Schumacher College’s around the world? Is there some standardised form, or set of principles or essence that we could apply in other places? Or should we experiment with an emergent form, which arises out of a place; a group of enthusiastic alumni; experimenting with teachings and learnings inspired by Schumacher College; evolving to what is needed and alive in my place right now?
Check out what is happening in Brazil and the evolution of Escola Schumacher Brasil.
Can we also create a space to collaborate with those people and organisations that inspire us? So that together we can offer transformative learning programmes that we could not do alone. Such as the one year Right Livelihood Programme in collaboration with the Gross National Happiness Centre in Bhutan.
And what is Schumacher College – is it the Old Postern, is it the staff and volunteers, is it the participants, is it the teachings, is it Julia’s cake? Or is it the relationships of love and trust and wonder that melds the traces of the College, so that it is present and alive in all corners of the globe? Where all those that have been touched and inspired by the teachings and experience of Schumacher College have walked and talked and laughed and sang and touched and influenced other people and places – from east to west, from north to south.
What is the Schumacher Network?
Yes, we did start with a set of aims and objectives that helped guide the evolution of the network. Perhaps, the most important one is to empower Schumacher College alumni and the wider network of members to become teachers, tutors, facilitators and next generation leaders in sustainable living and learning.
Maybe a more evocative way of imagining what the Schumacher Network is and can be is to contemplate and visualise these possibilities.
The Schumacher Worldwise Network or perhaps, Meshwork...
As many evolutionary leaps go, this started with a mistake. A spelling error catapulted us on an evolutionary leap from ‘worldwide’ to ‘worldwise’. Yes of course, we absolutely love the possibility of the network becoming a place of wisdom, teachings and practices, worldwide. A place for meaning making, to learn, to inspire, to transform – organisations, economies, communities. The leap from Network to Meshwork was inspired by the great anthropologist, Tim Ingold. Moving beyond the idea of a destination or network with nodes and connections, a meshwork is where ideas and values are like threads floating through space. The places where these threads get tangled (temporarily) are knots.
“These lines are bound together in the knot but they are not bound by it. To the contrary, they trail beyond it, only to become caught up with other lines in other knots. Together they make up what I have called a meshwork.”
Tim Ingold in Lines: A Brief History (2007), Routledge: London.
Many of us will be familiar with James Lovelock’s extraordinary insight that the earth was a supra living organism. Through complex processes of feedback, learning and adaption the biota and abiota self-organise to create conditions for life to thrive. Lovelock named this scientific discovery of the living earth, Gaia, after the Greek goddess of mother earth. Whether Gaia is a ‘conscious’ living organism remains controversial. But even as a metaphor, it is easy to imagine the Schumacher Network as a knowledge network for sharing and adapting learning for the healing of our planetary home.
One year, the postgraduate ‘economics for transition’ group at Schumacher College named the new economy, as the funghi economy or the mycelium economy. Mycelium is a complex network of funghi spores and tendrils, existing largely underground. Unseen and invisible. Except in the season, when the underground network makes visible a hundred thousand or more fruits. Our activities can sometimes feel unseen, invisible, too small to make a difference. The Schumacher Network acting like mycelium, creates symbiotic relationships, to connect and transport nourishment and learning, to make visible the fruits of all our work, love and intentions.
Perhaps you see this as an emerging social movement, a network of relationships and shared understanding to co-create and co-produce the world we want to see. There is no need to wait for someone else to act, we can come together to solve our problems. Commoning also is about creating new forms of ownership and decision making, recognising that the commons belong to us all.
And of course, you will have your own images, metaphors and narrative for the Schumacher Network. Let us know.
Who is on the Schumacher Network?
This was a tricky one. Should the network be only for alumni? Or alumni, staff, teachers and volunteers? Or be open to all those people [and organisations] that are aligned to the Schumacher College vision and teachers?
In the end, after a lot of conversations, we decided that the primary purpose of the Schumacher Network was to influence and empower as many people as possible to make changes in their own lives in service of the well-being of people and planet.
So, in other words, the Schumacher Network is open and non-exclusive. We intend to start small, focusing on the Schumacher College community and then extend out to widening circles of like-minded friends.
How can you ‘be’ on the Schumacher Network?
The Schumacher Network is about creating a community of like-minded friends. It is about making visible and empowering this large, vibrant and diverse community – to showcase, inspire and connect what we are doing, to be part of a mass movement for sustainable change. A virtual forum to make the invisible, visible.
The movement for sustainable change is about re-balancing ‘doing’ and ‘being’.
Satish Kumar once said, the counter-balance to sustainable growth is sustainable retreat. Our industrialised culture is very much about doing, creating, innovating, starting up new projects. Some of us are not so good at letting go, retreating, restoring and just ‘being’. Becoming more present in what we do.
“The success of our actions as change-makers does not depend on what we do or how we do it, but on the inner place from which we operate…We cannot transform the behaviour of systems unless we transform the quality of attention that people apply to their actions within those systems, both individually and collectively”.
Otto Scharmer and Katrina Kaufer (2013) Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies. Berrett-Koehler: San Francisco.
The content and nature of what is taking place on the network will be self-organising and self-regulating. This means it is up to you to let us know if there is anything happening on the network that makes you feel uncomfortable.
- Our intention and the quality of how we interact is just as important as what we are interacting about.
- Our virtual presence and interactions might be a mirror reflection of how we would be with a community of like-minded friends.
The intention and qualities of our online presence and interactions may be a characteristic that distinguishes the Schumacher Network from other social media and online platforms. If you feel uncomfortable about anything that is happening on the network, then please let us know.
The community guidelines are offered as a useful reference point for guiding how to ‘be’ on the Schumacher Network.
What can you ‘do’ on the Schumacher Network?
We are growing the Schumacher Network in an iterative and organic way. This is the first iteration. This iteration (or phase) is based on feedback from our alumni about the most important capabilities of an online platform for them.
This was by far the most important function that people said they wanted.
“Anything that would mean I could connect with like-minded people who are local to me would be amazing”.
“It would be great to have a larger network in place that is both local and global of like-minded free spirited free thinkers. I know they live all around us, it is just so difficult to connect with them”.
The connect function allows members to add their profile, and connecting, searching, networking with like-minded people and organisations across communities of place, practice and interest.
This is a place to communicate and share your ideas and projects. There are various ways that this can happen – perhaps through writing a blog, contributing to the discussion forums, or adding your own links to resources. In this way, news will created locally and shared globally.
“An excellent if not essential idea allowing linking globally and spreading the word to people and places who know nothing of Schumacher”.
Here are some of the reasons why you thought collaborating and setting up on-line groups is an important function of the network:
“I think this has been requested many times … I think it could be enormously interesting to get people to work together, form groups/projects/orgs/ online on the platform”.
“I see opportunities for collaboration with regional Biomimicry networks that are being set-up worldwide”.
“I live in Brazil and I am not able to attend the courses at Schumacher College, but I always read your news. There are so many groups and people interested and working in the same issues that I think when all those people and groups really connect, we will be able to make a difference and have strength. I would be able to organize groups here.”
The collaborate function means you can create your own groups, organise dialogue and conversations with like-minded people from all over the globe; and go on to co-create your own events, projects and courses. In this way, communities of practice will be forming and acting across the world, both on and off line.
This first iteration provides a simple structure to facilitate connecting, emerging conversations, forming groups; sharing learning and creating a news and knowledge landscape.
We do not have a grand plan for the final design of the Schumacher Network – our intention is for it to evolve in iterative steps based on what’s working, your feedback and what aspects of the network are growing and alive.
So let us know what is working for you, what is not working, and your vision of what you would like to see in the future and how you could be a part of making this happen.