Becoming A Young Pioneer

 In Young Pioneers
Chris Baird
Photo by Greta Rossi

I’m not sure whether it was through personal intuition or hard facts but somehow I knew the system was beginning to hit the buffers. Most of us are at least aware that a number of unsettling potentialities are evolving simultaneously — climate change, rising inequality, biodiversity loss, financial collapse, obesity etc. A smaller, yet sizeable proportion is actively trying to do something about it.

In our urgent state of living where most things are in flux, the biggest challenge for our generation of change agents is to understand correctly what is needed of us. Jumping into action before having questioned our basic assumptions and established our worldview is one of the surest ways to become more a part of the problem, than the solution. It is in this space where Ākāśa Innovation has a major role to play.

As an aspiring social entrepreneur I entered a sustainability programme in San Francisco with one of Ākāśa educators, fervent about social change. The loss of a parent to suicide in Christmas 2009 had given me strong foundations for changemaking. I believed that a better world was possible but struggled to design or comprehend a vision for what that looked like. Lost amidst a lifetime of indoctrination, I was left with the wrong map and a defective compass that only ever pointed in the direction the system told it to. While I knew things were going wrong, I couldn’t articulate the problems, and most importantly, I couldn’t understand what was needed of me to fix them.

Over a period of five weeks I had my worldview completely broken down and rebuilt into something that finally resembled a view that was fit for purpose. Surprisingly, I found that in order to be a changemaker I wasn’t required to learn new policies or new financing tools — I was learning to be alert and self critical, aware of how the system and its culturally prescribed illusions would continue to sweep me along should I let it. I needed to move from cog to change agent, not by abandoning the rules and tools of modern life, but rather, by distinguishing between those that were fitting, and those that were not.

At its core the course was teaching me to think deeply and carefully. Too often we find ourselves speeding ahead without prior thought. Too many of us have developed reckless tendencies to design ‘solutions’ and then ask questions later. In doing so, we run extremely high risks of getting the wrong strategy and running in the wrong direction. Dr. Mike Edwards questioned my ways of seeing the world and brought me awareness into many of the background assumptions that have formulated over centuries. Only when I was aware of my conditioning was I was able to see clearly what I needed to create for a better future — a future I had actually thought about.

In addition to thinking deeply, the course was also teaching me to think systemically. Rather than seeing the world as being made up of many isolated parts, it was critical to see things as interconnected wholes. Only when I was able to understand the world as an integrated system was I able to begin building holistic solutions that went beyond mere band aids. Solutions are always best when they go to the root of the issue, but in order to solve the problems it is wise to evaluate the effects on the whole tree. By thinking systemically I was able to learn and apply new tools such as biomimicry, and business built on nature’s principles. With these at hand I could begin building solutions capable of bringing us towards a more sustainable, resilient and flourishing future.

If there is any point in my life where I can stick a pin and say that’s when I gained the knowledge and skills to bring real positive change into the world, it happened somewhere during my five weeks on the course. Ultimately, it allowed me to find my place and take up my spot, teaching me not only to articulate what was going wrong with the world, but also how to build solutions that are required to heal it.

One thing is for sure, the Young Pioneers Programme that Ākāśa Innovation is launching in autumn 2014 will be the most difficult you ever do. It is highly analytical to leave you well informed, but beyond that, it requires you to be dynamic and open to change, to look deeply within yourself and to challenge your formative worldview. It does what few other courses have ever managed to do — it adds the human into the sustainability discourse. Ākāśa Innovation sets the foundations for a better future — it is there for you, for the planet, and for all you wish to touch.

Chris Baird, Guest Blogger

  • Valeria

    The amazing Mike Edwards can make us see the world anew, for real! I experienced the same in his Sustainability classes. I cherished every moment of it. Mark also does this from a societal level, and that deeply transformed me to the person I am today!


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