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Schumacher College charts new paths towards the new economy

Written by Jonathan Dawson

The last few weeks has seen the college pioneering two exciting new directions in its work contributing to the evolution of a new, more sane, equitable and regenerative economy.  The first was a youth economics festival called Generation of the New Economy.  This pioneered an entirely new way of convening at the college, bringing together 80 young people from all corners of Europe (as well as a few from further afield) with the invitation being to co-create the event with us. True, a number of respected, recognised names – Satish Kumar, Meg Wheatley, David Graeber, Molly Scott-Cato, Rob Hopkins, Kaira Jewel – did join us.  However, the whole event was designed around a distinctly collaborative ethic and the great majority of the sessions during the course of the week were led by participants in a peer-to-peer teaching and learning format where all played the role of both contributor and recipient.

The woods behind the college were animated by a mobile cinema, a bar serving a local ale commissioned for the event and fire-pits around which convivial conversation continued late into the night.  Our ambition to create a space that would empower, inspire and delight felt more than fulfilled.

The second pioneering event, just ended, was a workshop called Towards a Commons-Based Political Economy led by Michel Bauwens of the Peer2Peer Foundation and cooperatives activist and campaigner, John Restakis   This workshop was pioneering in that it opened up what will become in the near future a core thread of work for the college, namely the emergence of the open source commons movement with which we are currently building strong partnerships. 

The course was somewhat paradoxical in nature, given that although the subject matter perfectly mirrored the ethic of Generation of the New Economy – namely, peer-to-peer and collaborative - the teaching style in fact turned out to be fairly conventionally didactic.  Effectively, this was because Michel and John are vastly wise and experienced experts and the appetite within the group was primarily aimed at downloading as much information as possible in the time available.

For me, it is a source of celebration that the college is able so comfortably to draw upon and move between such a wide range of pedagogical traditions and tools.  We will be building on the experience of the last two weeks.  Already, we are scanning for themes and issues around which to build future festivals; and plans are already afoot to expand our short course and postgraduate offerings relating to the commons and cooperatives.  Perhaps the two threads may merge one day in the design of a commons-based festival?

Please share any thoughts you may have on any of the issues raised here.  Looking forward to hearing from you


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