ALT REPORT 2017

Awakening Leadership Training Program

Towards A New Paradigm of Holistic Sustainability

3 September 2017 – 25 January 2018

 

Course Overview

This EDE was part of the second Awakening Leadership Training, a collaborative effort which took place from 3rd September 2017 – 6 January, 2018 (plus TOT from 9-25th January 2018) in Thailand. The EDE framework was integrated into this programme which expanded modules of learning with increased emphasis on self cultivation and social transformation. The 5 areas of learning were:

  • Interpersonal dynamics: Power sharing and compassion (Social Dimension EDE)
  • Self-discovery, healing and cultural integrity (Worldview Dimension EDE)
  • Ecology & Design (Ecological dimension plus Design in EDE)
  • Eco-political Economy ( Economics Dimension of EDE)
  • Skilful means for Social Transformation (Including Training of Trainers)

Over the 18 weeks, participants took a journey grounded in critical self awareness. Different forms of mindfulness and reflection were embedded into the daily rhythms of the programme. From this they learnt to be present, to understand themselves as a way to understand others and vice versa, and they gained the confidence and grounding to find their way forward. They got to spend time in nature, to explore their own inner healing, and practice diverse forms of inner inquiry. This all helped to bring awareness to a sense of interconnectedness, and the potential of many paths.

They learnt together and from each other, strengthened by their diverse cultural backgrounds and life experiences. They built their own community of good friends and care over time together, and had the time and space to practice possibilities of what community can be and how it can transform society.

 

 

Participants:

Overall, 116 participants joined at least one module of the training. Fourteen participants completed the core components of the EDE, from Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, India, Brazil, UK and USA. Two monks completed the course, while over 50% of participants were female (8 out of 14). The wider participants included China, with further participants coming from Thailand and Myanmar. Many of the participants were active in social realm in differing capacities, (lawyers, trainers/facilitators, NGO workers, environmental educators etc.), as well as a number of participants seeking direction in how to walk their path with sustainability and authenticity at its core (business sector, school teachers). Conventional educational levels ranged from participants with few years of schooling to PhD candidates, and ages ranged from 20 to over 60.There was also a wealth of diversity in the knowledge and experience from the many resource people and communities  that the participants learnt from and interacted with.

 

Course Rhythms: 

Every day began with movement-based practices, and each learning day was introduced with half an hour of meditation together in the classroom, which the students also helped to lead. Learning sessions began with group re-caps of the previous days learning and reflection on the emotional energy of the group. Six-seven hours of study made up the rest of the learning timeframe, with another half hour of guided and self directed deep relaxation in the middle of the day. A new activity of journal writing was introduced for half an hour at the end of each day for this activity, to continue the flow of self awareness and reflection. Wellbeing circles were held intermittently, as a lot of reflective sharing also took place during modules.

 

 

The long-term group of students (14 pax) were given space to practice and experiment with self governance. They were handed responsibilities such as organising Hands-on work, writing up reflective articles for posting on social media, and teaching daily meditation practices. Having space for decision making and taking responsibility strengthened their own skills in social dynamics.

Half of the course was spent at Wongsanit Ashram, where participants stayed in separate accommodation and ate together in the communal dining hall. One month was spent in an indigenous Karen community in N Thailand, where participants stayed with families and ate together with them. Some participants also joined their daily livelihood activities on free days, which included communal rice cultivation and market gardening.

The final parts of the training included exposure visits in S Thailand, including homestay with local communities, deepening learning experiences through sharing daily lived reality of people and having the space for dialogue and sharing together.

 

Social Dimension

Core of the social dimension was building a community of good friends. Here participants co-created the space for learning, experiencing, inquiry and experimentation, which formed the foundation for the ongoing four-month learning journey. Trusting each other and being vulnerable brought out the quality of good friends, and allowed everyone to see what is possible in living together. Participants were able to practice deep listening, compassion and empathy, as well as celebration and exploration of common values.

Within this space, self awareness practices were introduced, and expanded to inter-personal relations, understanding power issues of rank and marginalisation in order to challenge underlying dynamics, and foster equality and justice. Leadership was explored in terms of the diverse expressions and ways that a leader is able to share power, build unity, and facilitate people to express their potential.

Within the community, diversity was explored through creating a safe space where people felt free to express themselves, find beauty and uniqueness within each person, and begin personal journeys to understand self and each other. Expressing vulnerability and moving out beyond comfort zones allowed participants to step into new roles and behaviours that helped them to grow together.

Beyond Building a Community of Good Friends, other modules in the Social Dimension included Non-Violent Communication, and Conflict Transformation (Process Work).

GOOD PRACTICES: Strong levels of trust built through activities encouraging vulnerability and expansion of comfort zones; Active participation throughout from experiential activities and praxis, co-creation of the learning framework and setting ground rules.

 

CHALLENGES: No real challenges during this dimension.

Topics covered:

Self Cultivation – Self Awareness, Edgework, Personality Archetypes;  Social Awareness – Roles, Rank, and Marginalisation, Group Dynamics and Decision Making, Art and Ritual, Leadership and Participation, Trust building; Community Building – Ancient Wisdom and Contemporary Approaches to Community Building; Art and Celebration

Youtube: 

Building a Community of Good Friends: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6dDvzzU04TI&t=316s

Compassionate Communication: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FJipsZ3nfQo

Conflict Transformation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Kpa8MCoFopo&t=12s

 

Worldview Dimension

This dimension was placed second in the flow of learning after community building, to help participants ground their own perspectives, and utilise that as a basis to explore the world around them (Ecology and Eco-Political Dimensions, and Skills for Sustainability).

The module on Paradigm Shift was both experiential and intellectual, and began by taking an excursion into the values, belief and energies driving the old paradigm. This included one of Bangkok’s newest and most luxurious shopping malls, as well as the city’s red light district, a major tourist attraction. Time was spent mindfully exploring, observing and sensing the energies and personal feelings. Numbness, distraction, exploitation, commodification – these were some of the thoughts that surfaced during group reflection the following morning. At Sulak Sivaraksa’s Bangkok home later the same day participants were again asked to walk mindfully around the space, before sitting down for an afternoon of dialogue with him. The space was peaceful and full of memories, there were books and art everywhere and a towering mango tree, which he planted as a young child. The last experiential visit into old and new paradigms was to a community of (mainly) farmers to give participants a sense of their transformative community development model. These visits helped prepare participants to relate on a deeper level to the classroom material, including historical background of the old paradigm and formation of new paradigm, with forays into new science, food, and health.

Worldview dimension was the broadest of all 5 dimensions, with other modules including: Mindfulness and Meditation (7 days), Vision Quest (7 days), Trauma Healing (8 days), Art and Self Transformation (3 days). As these modules were experiential rather than intellectual, with each modules’ experience building onto the next one, allowing for deeply transformative processes within the learning space to open up. These four modules also provided different pathways into self exploration, so that participants could experiment, explore different ways of knowing, and acknowledge the different aspects of themselves as they were revealed. This flow of modules was most powerful in terms of inner transformation, and participants continued with some of the practices as a group and individually over the remainder of the program.

 

GOOD PRACTICES: Flow of modules that highlighted self cultivation for deep transformative work; Safe space developed by facilitators to allow participants to explore and express deeply;  Diverse range of practices for self cultivation, allowing participants to explore and identify pathways suited to them;

CHALLENGES: Large group numbers for trauma healing reduced capacity for individual needs; Not enough safety guidelines during solo Vision Quest (one participant was lost for 12 hours);

Topics Covered:

Framing Knowledge on Worldviews; Old and New Paradigms; New Science; Food and Health; Meditation – 4 Foundations of Mindfulness, Loving Kindness, Body Awareness practices; Vision Quest – Archetypes, Stages of Life, Threshold, Transition and Re-incorporation; Art Therapy – Soundscapes, Self Discovery and Expression;

Youtube: 

Paradigm Shift: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-9RkBwf9kE8&t=1s

Vision Quest:    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BmV0tkoypj4

Art and Self Discovery:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NORSKHIfA3Q&t=160s

 

Ecological Dimension

There were four modules on ecology: Foundations, Technologies, Deep Ecology and Ecological Design (see below, design week). The one month dimension took place in an indigenous Karen community in N Thailand, where participants stayed with families, and took part in community livelihood activities during the days off. It was a fully integrative experience, to follow the rhythms and interact with the daily life in a traditional community. This whole experience deepened all aspects of the study, bringing in the unique worldview of Karen people and their relationships with the environment. This brought a rich learning dimension of ecology to participants through connecting to the daily lived experience and worldview of the community members, and being exposed to other ways of connecting with nature – specifically through natural science, appropriate technologies, and deep ecology practices.

Utilising the community and its surrounding natural environment as part of the classroom was also a powerful way for participants to interact, learn from, and explore over time their relationships with the ecological systems around them. By spending one month in the community, observation and felt experience of the surrounding environment was able to deepen.

 

Part of the learning was for participants to do their own research, using their curiosity and selection of tools for measurement that they had learnt and made during the module, to go out into the environment and explore, observe, measure and analyse. This gave the opportunity to bring science into the learning as another path to connect with and understand the wider environment, alongside deep ecology practices and the Nong Tao community way of living (see design week).

GOOD PRACTICES: Long-term stay in the community whose worldview and livelihoods are imbued with a strong connection to their natural environment; Facilitator team for Ecology Foundations included young environmental students who were able to co-teach and encourage curiosity: Exposure to see other eco-village models founded on sustainable principles;

CHALLENGES: Connecting big picture of energy usage with alternative technologies; Not enough time in Deep Ecology; Big transition from Worldview dimension focus on self cultivation to Ecology from Natural Science perspective

Topics Covered: 

Ecosystems and Biomes, Weather Observation, Soil and Forest ecosystems, Observations, Tools for Measurement, Patterns in Ecology, Endangered and Rare Species, Environmental Value Systems, Alternative Technologies,  Deep Ecology (Work that Reconnects).

Youtube:

Foundations of Ecology: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_7cjzz5F_O8

 

Design

The Design Week was integrated into the one month stay at Nong Tao community, as part of the Ecology dimension. Instead of having participants design their own projects, the site and the context of the community and its people was drawn on, through exploring the landscape and history of the community, and listening to the challenges and needs of three families, whose visions were the target for the design week. The process began with the community’s existing wisdom of sustainability and their sense of place as a foundation for thinking around how to co-design a future vision that encompasses their traditional ways of living at the edge of a modernising society.

Mapping began with the unique landscape and its embeddedness in the stories the community tells of itself – the sacred forest, the representation of cultural histories in different parts of the mountains and lakes. With the worldview of the community and their place firmly at the centre of the design, more diverse ways of mapping began in terms of social, economic, ecological and aesthetic. The participants spent time with the 3 families on site to understand their needs and concerns, and wider issues facing the community. Theoretical input was also given on design ethics, principles and skills.

The result was 3 models that attempted to respect the centrality of the surrounding environment and the community’s relationship with it as a major part of their identity. Respect for nature and other cultural values around community living were all common threads in the designs, as well as exploration of ways to integrate into the modernising society at their doorstep that could allow them continuing autonomy over their land and resources.  The models were presented to each of the families and other community members who were curious about the visitors spending time in the rice fields and forests around the village.

The next year ALT program will explore and follow up on the designs with the facilitator, as a way to work together with the community of Nong Tao so they are able to meet the challenges of being an indigenous community in the context of modernisation.

GOOD PRACTICES:   Utilising the already existing community as the basis for design; spending 3 weeks there prior to the design week, so that participants had time to experience Karen ways of living and being; Integration of existing indigenous worldview into design; co-creation between traditional wisdom and new sustainability practices

CHALLENGES: Ensuring the designs are fully applicable to the needs of the community

Topics Covered: Understanding place and landscape; Design Principles and Concept; Co-creation with Nature; Visioning; 

Youtube:

Design Week: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XJAaqnix7vI

 

Eco-Political Economy Dimension

Eco-political Economy week was dynamic with diverse learning methods in order to help digest the heavy content. It was especially powerful with the inclusion of 2 seminars that brought together diverse Asian thinkers and activists, to dialogue and interact with the participants on the themes of: Civil Society and Authoritarianism in Asia, and Capitalism and Liberalism in Asian Context. It was a rich learning experience, to witness the exchange of ideas among thinkers and activists from Taiwan, Myanmar, Laos, China, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand. We plan for this exchange to take place every year as a public seminar. A special evening public talk was also arranged on the topic of Islam in the modern world, providing people with an opportunity to understand the historical political backdrop to the rise of political Islam and links with terrorism.

 

From here, the learning journey shifted to an small family eco-centre, where the rest of the module included deep exploration into the key political ‘isms’, alternatives to neo-liberalism, as well as introduction to money and currencies, food systems, and community organising and social movements.  The heavy content was balanced by daily dance and movement practices, and helping on-site with natural house building. Participants spent the last 1.5 days wrapping up and consolidating their learning, and envisioning alternatives to the neo-liberal world of today.

Next year, this module will expand to give time and space to explore more deeply the theoretical constructs and philosophical roots of political ideologies, including more on Asian schools of Political Thought.

GOOD PRACTICES: Seminars with Asian Thinkers and Activists as unique space for exchange of ideas; Body movement practices and hands-on work to balance with lectures and knowledge-building on political economy; Introduction of ‘big picture’ systemic change with practical examples from Thailand.

CHALLENGES: Heavy content and diverse levels of background understanding meant less participation and benefit from content for some participants. Feedback showed that participants would have benefited from more reading materials and background reading.

 

Topics Covered: 

Islam in the Modern World, Capitalism and Socialism, Green Political Theory, Civil Society and Authoritarianism in Asia, Food Systems, Gross National Happiness, Structural Violence and Money, Community Organising and Social Movements

This was alot about systemic change, and we had a laboratory to think about how to talk about these issues. It was one of the safest spaces I have been in because of the spiritual aspect –Doreen, US/Taiwan

‘Content was critical. These issues cannot be talked about only among elite men, because these are structures that shape our past, present and future. I thought the resource people were great, so powerful, especially some of the women’ – reflection during Eco-political Economy module  

Skills for Social Transformation Dimension

While this dimension is not part of the EDE curriculum, it is integrated into the ALT and includes the Training of Trainers module (separate report). This dimension looked in more detail at skills and learning from good models of practice, especially drawing from their lessons learned.

Models of Good Practice in Sustainable Eco-Communities included visits to:

  • Nong Sarai community (during Paradigm Shift module) who have an integrated grassroots approach to sustain their community economically;
  • Mae Tha community which is a model of inter-generational efforts for self-governance over their natural resources and social entrepreneurship among returning youth.
  • Ban Nam Khem and Ban Taptawan, where there has been extensive community organising to protect their rights and strengthen self governance in the wake of the Tsunami in 2006.
  • Koh Yao Noi and Phang Nga province, where they are utilising community-led tourism approaches to protect their livelihoods and create a tourism based on people to people exchange.

Along with the exposure visits, there was one module specifically on the theory and practice of Community Organising, and how it has been utilised over the past four decades to empower slum community dwellers and build networks among grassroots people as a basis for national social movements for social justice and equality. The theory and practice of community organising is a very powerful framework to work to challenge social injustices at a structural level and empower people, and participants could observe it in action and its results by staying with and visiting to slum communities in Bangkok who have engaged with the process over time.

Another module was named ‘Slow Is Beautiful’, which integrated Asian wisdom practices and philosophies as an antidote to the negative impacts from the Western development paradigm. It included the introduction of thinkers such as Satish Kumar, Vandana Shiva, Masanobu Fukuoka and others who are drawing on and practicing elements of traditional wisdom in an effort to reclaim the global economy and create new patterns of localisation through ‘small, simple and slow’ solutions. Participants were able to explore and contemplate not only the theories, but could practice different traditional practices to bring the theories to life – Haiku, art work, flower arranging.

GOOD PRACTICES: Experiential learning through exposure visits and learning directly from community experiences, especially on the topic of community organising; evidencing solutions that work in practice and learning directly from people who have implemented them; being exposed to the wealth of existing knowledge and practices that are in the hands of ordinary people rather than experts.

CHALLENGES: Less time for group and individual reflection and interaction with the learning, and exploration of applicability in own communities;

Topics Covered: Theory of Community Organising; Asian community and national-level experiences of social movements for change; Seed Saving and NRM; Post-disaster organising; Community economics; Unlearning the economic mindset; Concepts on slow and small; Materialism and Religion; Asian philosophies on ecology and spirituality; Global to Local

Youtube:

Mae Tha – living eco-village: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yMzfqlwHY_w

 

LESSONS LEARNT

As this was an extended, ‘deepening’ EDE program beyond the usual 4-week training. Regular reflections from participants and final feedback and evaluation gave some inputs into what worked well during the course, and what could be improved:

  • Having Worldview dimension early in the program provided an excellent foundation and conceptual framework for exploring further dimensions
  • Inner cultivation through daily mindfulness practice and a diversity of modules focusing on inner transformation, is the essential ingredient for fostering new paradigm leadership, as it facilitates the shifting of consciousness in tangible ways.
  • Having a multicultural learning group really enriches the learning experience through bringing diverse viewpoints and exchange into the group learning, and creating opportunities to explore relationships beyond what we would normally choose.
  • The learning environment is an important factor in the learning experience. Contemplative atmospheres and exposure visits where participants stayed and learned with communities, provided another pathway to deepen their learning beyond intellect and into experience.
  • Providing structure, daily activities and space that encourage self discipline (e.g. morning meditation, journal writing) gives participants new patterns of living that they take back with them, to continue their own cultivation.
  • Length of training is quite important in really shifting new ways of understanding self and the world, and putting it into practice. Continuous, consistent learning and being together over 18 weeks has resulted in larger shifts in the depth of changes and their ability to sustain, compared with previous shorter 4 week EDE programs.
  • Conceptualising the learning through regular (daily and weekly) reflective mind-mapping is very important skill to cultivate, as it allowed long-term participants to draw together their whole learning experience of 18 weeks.
  • Allowing more space for reflection and digestion after the deep inner work during the Worldview dimension. The process was very energy-consuming, and there needed to be at least 2 extra days for them to fully complete their own process before coming back into the learning community for
  • Feedback also recommended that it would benefit to have the Deep Ecology module at the beginning of the Ecology dimension, so that all participants have already experienced felt connection to the environment, which could support their learning during the dimension.

 

 

KEY LEARNING OUTCOMES

 

Overall, there was clear self-transformation of participants, and facilitators through the learning journey. Not only the full-time participants, but other participants who joined for selected modules or dimensions also benefited greatly from the ongoing energy and actions of the longer term participants. Together there was a continuous co-creation of a compassionate energy field which opened possibilities for each participant to deepen their learning experience and personal transformation through allowing for vulnerability and trust.

 

Inner reflective work provided a foundation of integrated learning across all modules, and a means for exploring diverse pathways for personal growth. As a result, the learning was grounded in experience beyond intellectual understanding, through connection of head, heart, hands and spirit together.

Some of those deep practices led to a greater acceptance of the suffering as part of the cycle of life, and also how to self-heal. Facilitation skills learnt were also about how to help others heal their wounds too. Working with the range of human emotions, there were also opportunities to learn and work with conflict which led to changing attitudes, through realisation of conflict as an opportunity for growth and healthier relationships. Many of these practices opened participants to accepting the polarities, the shadow sides, which exist in themselves and others, and accepting and opening to them as part of the richness of human experience.

New learning arose by being exposed to a broad set of cultural perspectives, through the diversity of participants from around the world and their unique life experiences, and the diversity of resource people, who drew on teachings from their own experience, as well as both Asian, Western, new paradigm thinking and beyond. This is the learning process of edge-maximisation that enriched participants tremendously.

While not every module was participatory in nature, the general structure that gave space for group work and reflection meant there was a general shift in how the knowledge was generated. This clearly built confidence in the participants. They were able to develop their own conceptual understanding of social, interpersonal, and personal perspectives through the framework of the four dimensions of sustainability plus the added dimension on Skills for Sustainability, and identify the connections between them all. Regular mind-mapping also supported this process of integrating learning into frameworks that are useful and applicable outside of the classroom, while daily recaps and a final consolidation of the learning, increased their skills in critical thinking, and public speaking.

Another major outcome was the disciplined daily practice in mindfulness that participants can bring back to support themselves in their lives. Daily practice over 18 weeks has supported them to create new patterns and behaviours that incorporate mindfulness and being present to themselves and the world around them.

Seeing many examples of regeneration of traditional wisdom practices and cultural values as solutions that already exist, is very inspirational and gave confidence that alternative sustainable models are practical, down to earth and are not confined to only middle-class but available and workable to ordinary citizens, even farmers without much cost.

All in all, participants are awakening and empowering themselves by going through the process of this programme. Personal awakening means knowing the strengths and weaknesses within, being able to accept oneself as who they are and learning some skillful means to use their strengths for the wellbeing of all. Social awakening means understanding clearer the structural violence with its consequences at various levels in the society. Ecological awakening means fuller awareness of the ecological crisis including its layers of causes we are facing all over the globe. The social and ecological crises are neither separated from each other nor from our modern way of life.

Empowering means participants have empowered themselves to do daily self-cultivation with self-empathy and cultivating compassion for others. Compassion combined with deep comprehension of social and ecological issues has become a deep motivation for taking action for the betterment by using ones’ own strengths and various skillful means for social change encountered during the programme. In other words, together we are setting up a social movement where more wholesome individuals are working to build wellbeing communities, then networking to co-create a more healthier society and resilient planet earth.

 

Plans for the Future

Together with the participants, we are co-designing a Masters programme to build on the ALT. This will hopefully be piloted in the coming year, with the ALT (including the EDE component) to be offered as the coursework component. To date, 5 participants are willing to explore this learning avenue.

Some participants will also return to support the staffing faculty as part of the next ALT. Four participants will come back (including one from previous year ALT/EDE) to contribute to the running and teaching of the course.

Other follow-on activities that participants have developed plans for in includes:

  • Apply learning to the development of a new sustainability learning centre in Myanmar
  • Teaching English through participatory methods for students in Japan
  • Facilitating participatory learning trainings in Thailand.
  • Translating ‘Systems View of Life’ into Thai
  • Start a reading club to revisit ALT topics, in Taiwan
  • Continue exploring and cultivating a path of mindfulness
  • Documentary-making on ALT learning journey
  • Continue learning to become a Trauma Healer

 

FINANCIAL REPORT

According to the financial reporting for the period of 1 April 2017 to 31 January, 2018 – which includes the preparation period – there is a surplus income of THB  843,806.52 which will be carried forward for the coming year preparation period and ALT 3 which is due to start in September, 2018.

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Majority of costs are made up of the food and accommodation costs, staff salary (yearly salary), and honorariums for resource people. Income came primarily from fees, followed by grants (Thai Health Promotion Fund), and philanthropic donations.

 

SCHEDULE

Modules Title Date
Interpersonal dynamics: Power sharing and compassion (EDE social dimension)
Module 1 Building a Community of Good Friends 4-8 Sept
Module 2 Conflict Transformation  11-15 Sept
Module 3 Compassionate Communication 18-22 Sept
Self-discovery, healing and cultural integrity (Worldview Dimension EDE)
Module 4 Paradigm Shift & Emerging Cultural Values 25-29 Sept
Module 5 Mindfulness, Inner Growth and Leadership 1-7 Oct Oct
Module 6 Vision quest 10-16 Oct
Module 7 Art and Self Discovery 19-21 Oct
Module 8 The Path of Inner Transformation  23-29Oct
Ecology & Design (Ecological dimension plus Design in EDE)
Thai Sustainable Communities Gathering 1-3 Nov
Module 9 Ecology Essence 5-9 Nov
Module 10 Ecological Technologies 11-13 Nov
Module 11 Ecological Design 15-19 Nov
Module 12 Deep Ecology 22-24 Nov
Eco-political Economy ( Economics Dimension of EDE)
Module 13 Deep Democracy 27 Nov – 2 Dec
Module 14 Eco-political Economy 5 -11 Dec
Skilful means for Social Transformation
Module 15 Community Organising 14 – 20 Dec
Module 16  Slow is Beautiful: Ecology Wisdom from Asia Traditions 23-28 Dec
Module 17 Exposure visit to Traditional &  Intentional Eco-Communities 30 Dec to 6 Jan 2018
Module 18 Practical Leadership – Mindful Facilitation for Empowerment (ToT) 9-25 Jan2018