Free publishing, 2013
Reviewed by Fiona Tilley
On the back cover it says, “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 life-long learning. This book is about the change that is already happening. Are we there yet?”
Education like all sectors of our economy and society is undergoing huge changes. On the pioneering edge of this process is a group of organisations across Europe exploring and experimenting with what education and learning might look like in these times. McCall and van den Dool have woven together threads of stories from many people hosting innovative educational experiences.
What you find within these pages are eight organisations; Academy of Visionautics, Art Monastery Project, Edventure Frome, Embercombe, Knowmads, Plenum ~ Pioneers of Change, Society of Organisational Learning (SOL), Youth Initiative Program (YIP). As fascinating as it is to know about the existence of these organisations, what this book does most brilliantly is bring to life the people, facilitators, teachers, participants and learners who inhabit them.
People like Floris Koot inviting in the mood of truly authentic play such that an atmosphere is created with play, fun and games calling in the unknown and asking questions like, ‘How many new thoughts can we come up with?’ From this a working or learning space can be transformed into a laboratory instead of a competitive arena.
People like Jutta Goldammer assisting social entrepreneurs and changemakers to grasp the invisible; to reshape it, fight with it, knead it until it fits them, their purpose, and their reality. Based on Jutta’s own personal experiences she asks, ‘Who says that something is less real, just because it cannot be seen with our eyes or touched with our hands?’ How do we nurture and attend to the dreams and ideas that come first, before the proven impact of a successful eco-business has been achieved? Through the courses offered by the Academy of Visionautics the first glimmers of a bright new future emerge and are given a protected space to grow into something others can see and feel.
And people like Kim van Rijt working and educating from the heart whose basic attitude to learners is ‘Welcome Home’. This raises questions like, ‘Can you initiate transformation?’ Kim suggests by bringing an open attitude allowing all ‘to be whoever you are and do whatever you want to do’ gives way to freedom and enables transformation to happen. Sometimes this change can be measured in visible, tangible ways and sometimes when it cannot be seen, when the change is more subtle it is best shared through stories.
One could argue there is nothing theoretically new in this book and if that is what you are seeking maybe this is not the book for you, however, what I found most affecting and inspiring is to read the first person stories that ground the transformation learning in real practice, real people and real situations. If you want to connect with others in a tribe of valiant educational pioneers then turn to these pages for inspiration. A roundedness and authenticity can be tangibly felt through each colourful leaf of this book. It’s less a recipe of replication and more a sharing of understanding processes and conditions that enable the hosting of transformational learning to be seeded elsewhere.