I am often asked: who takes the Gaia Education courses? Where do they come from? And, what can they do with the learning?
The answers actually amaze me, and they should also impress anyone looking for new skills and ways of thinking globally while acting locally.
In the 2016-17 online Gaia Education Design for Sustainability (GEDS) cohort we had over 80 students from 27 countries, representing at least 24 different work sectors, such as biology, philosophy, accounting, management, law, communications, international development, arts management, architecture, engineering, applied science, horticulture, environmental technology, farming, organisational development, administration, ergotherapy, and ecosystem design. Participants’ level of education ranged from High School graduates to BA, Masters or PhD degree holders, and even one who identified as from the School of Hard Knocks.
I can safely say that the Gaia curriculum applies to just about every field of work and social innovation. But what is even more impressive is how graduates of the Gaia Education courses apply their newly gained knowledge to deal with social, economic and environmental challenges around the globe. As a result they become Changemakers bringing real life solutions to poor and over-consuming communities alike, wherever they live.
Consider that in Sub-Saharan Africa alone there are 1/2 million people living without electricity or secure sources of food. Put this together with the fact the private investors from Silicon Valley and Europe provided 200 million dollars in venture capital last year alone to fund innovative social entrepreneurs in the most needy areas of the world. In this sense, it is safe to say that everyone can be an entrepreneur, not just the privileged few. With their newly acquired knowledge Changemakers can impact every sector of society, from health services and access to electricity, to education, ecological literacy, and crisis prevention, to name just a few. Knowledge also enables people to shift their mindset from “people are poor and need our help” to seeing an opportunity to provide much needed services to the local population. This represents a huge employment market for designers, installers, repair services, and consultants. Innovation of this kind also makes investors more willing to put money into new financial architecture that builds trust through care and communication, and that demonstrates new ways of living and thinking.
To give a glimpse of the kind of projects that graduates from the GEDS courses engage in, here is a list of the 5 case studies developed by the 2016-17 group:
Colombian Rural Farms: With the onset of peace, millions of Colombians who had been displaced from their lands are returning to their villages to start a new life, free from violence and conflict. It is so important that they become the guardians of the natural resources this country is so abundantly endowed with in order to ensure sustainble livelihoods and food securoty. It is in this context that Annapurna Farm aims to become the nerve center of sustainable living and economic activity in the region North of Bogota, through sharing with local schools, peasant associations and universities, practical knowledge about conservation, reforestation and sustainability – in the form of workshops and trainings specifically tailored to the needs of locals. They are also planning to start an economic unit and are exploring various options for organic food production, herbal extraction and essential oils, and high nutrition value foods such as avocado.
Latvia Eco-Community Project: offers to take part in developing a decade old dream eco-community in Latvia. It will be located in a wild, natural, silent and remote place, where the local ancestors have lived for the past 3 generations. 20 minutes from city of Priekule, in North East Europe. This project will look closer at problems in poor Eastern European nations, their culture, natural building, and wastewater treatment in colder climates, as well as the huge agricultural and handicraft potential, maximizing biodiversity by creating a paradise garden for the community and its families.
The Pacific Village and Earth School: an ocean-side sanctuary in Australia, where an intentional student community enjoys the freedom to study a range of mainstream regenerative degree or certificate programmes while weaving an ancient understanding of “connecting to country” into a co-created residential experience. Regenerative sciences such as deep ecology, systems thinking and permaculture principles, merge with ancient wisdoms, natural history, biology, ecology, cosmology and creative expression, to collectively blend into a nourishing and rhythmic daily culture. The village collectively applies integrative eco-social and ecovillage design, social entrepreneurship, project management and holistic property development in a supportive living-learning environment.
Mexico Rural Community Shift: to drive the local community towards resilience and create together a strategy for how to improve the community through application of SDGs 1,2,3,4,5,6, etc. to bring it out of poverty and improve nutrition, increase wellbeing, education, clean drinking water, healthcare, and be a role model for such plans of transition in their region. Its mission is to find with the local community a way to strengthen the local economy, and create direct impact to the village of San Isidro Chichihuistan, a small indigenous villages, about 40 km from the next biggest city of San Cristobal de la Casas, Mexico.
Hart’s Mill Ecovillage and Farm, USA proposes to design a community currently in its development stage. Its vision is of a world in which people live in justice and harmony with each other and the land.
Join the next round of the Gaia Education Design for Sustainability online courses. The opportunities for action are limitless, from securing food production and renewable energy in remote villages, to providing safe drinking water, and innovative communications technology across poor areas of the world, even changing the way people use alternative currencies to pay their bills.