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Schumacher Life in Brazilian Land: The coming into being of Escola Schumacher Brasil

students sharing food

The Schumacher College model of learning in community has spread worldwide, including to the thriving Escola Schumacher Brasil as Luiz Gabriel Vasconcelos, one of its Director Associates, explains. 

Escola Schumacher Brasil was born in 2014 from a network of people engaged in giving life to the Schumacher ethos in Brazil. Since then this life took many forms, transforming its shape in order to maintain its vitality. Its activities are sustained by a collective of people with different roles, under the form of a charitable organisation. 

Beyond this, there is a whole constellation of people that were part of its history and still surround the existence of Escola. Teachers, facilitators, members of our Advisory Board, cooks, guest teachers, alumni from Escola and from the College, friends, and of course current and previous members of Schumacher College.

People who walked with us as we crafted our experience and understanding of what is a Schumacher Education. In gratitude to all of those, we write these lines, to give a taste of the movement that grew to be recognized as Escola Schumacher Brasil, and hopefully help serve as a reminder that we can always take Schumacher with us, wherever we go. 

Caminhada

A good point to start this attempt of telling our story is the expressive and growing presence of Brazilians among Schumacher students. Of the postgraduate and short course Schumacher College alumni from outside Europe, a surprising majority are from Brazil!

More than a thousand Brazilians have studied there, coming from a variety of backgrounds - private companies, public sector, nonprofit organizations, students, entrepreneurs, etc. Well, it was in response to this increasing interest that in 2013, Juliana Schneider and Mari Turato (alumni of the masters), together with members from Schumacher College and other Brazilians, began to explore with practical next steps how this kind of education could possibly come to life in Brazilian territory.

An exploration deeply informed by relational understandings of action in the world, such as the complexity sciences and phenomenology, which are very important elements of what we learned at the college. Juliana Schneider, a Schumacher College alumnus from Brazil, says.

“It is hard to describe in short the birth of Escola Schumacher Brasil, because it didn’t happen as a result of a business plan or an idea. 

It was through taking seriously the relational movements, very subtle at times, where there was a sense of reciprocity around the joint exploration of next steps towards directions in which there was life, vitality, curiosity”.

In 2013 Juliana and Mari invited the Head of the College at the time, Dr Jon Rae, and professor and fellow, Patricia Shaw, to spend ten days in São Paulo. A visit made possible by the financial support of Instituto Arapyaú.

A great variety of meetings took place - breakfast with alumni, lunch, dinner, a weekend outside of São Paulo and, of course, chance encounters.

“All these moments kept opening spaces for further next steps to be taken and sustained, just like in ordinary conversation: some threads are followed, others not, some not followed in a particular moment but then suddenly appear afresh in a further occasion”, Juliana reflects.

From this cascading of events, with the support and encouragement of Schumacher College at the time, Juliana started to sustain monthly gatherings for the alumni, and soon in 2014 the first educational programs were offered: the Leadership for Transition program, initiated by Juliana Schneider in partnership with James Heffernan (RIP), and the first “Experiência Schumacher Brasil”, conceived in conversation with alumni Mari Turato, Luiz Gabriel Vasconcelos, Tomas de Lara, Denise Curi e and Cláudia Mattos.

The Experiência was a one week program inspired by the Schumacher Experience in the college, but done “in Brazil, by Brazilians, for Brazilians” as it was announced. It took place in Fazenda da Toca (Toca Farm), one of the inspiring projects visited by Jon and Patricia during their stay in São Paulo.

As Juliana describes, it was an evolving process.

“It was, conversation by conversation, gathering by gathering, that possibilities were woven until we recognised ourselves as a group with different involvements and responsibilities, giving life to activities that we began to call Escola Schumacher Brasil”.

Following the success of this first Experiência, and the growing understanding of what it takes to collectively bring Schumacher’s spirit alive in these initiatives, we offered the first Certificate in Holistic Sciences and Economics for Transition.

A seven month program, in which Rita Mendonça joined Escola’s faculty, and Livia Burani, alumni from the first Experiência, stepped into the role of Escola’s Coordinator. With her, comes her husband Wago Burani, who joined Cláudia Mattos in making the kitchen the heart of this education, as in the college, but also in bringing and valuing the flavour and ancestry of our Brazilian roots through it.

In 2015 the “Transformative Political Practices” course was launched and in the following years many different courses emerged, around topics such as the Phenomenology of Design, Transformative Education, Complexity Thinking, Animate Earth, Enterprise Live, Economics for Transition, and Gaia Alchemy.

“With no list of principles, agreements or visions, but rather coming from an acute attention and detailed appreciation of the elements of this kind of education, reflecting in each moment about its effects in practice. That’s how we saw this ethos sprout and thrive in Brazilian land, a learning that has also grown between alumni all over the world and also in different places in Brazil”, Juliana reflects, expressing at the same time how we wrote this history, and how we approach every new initiative - like now, facing the pandemics and adapting to online activities.

Today, close to 1000 people have attended the different programs offered by Escola Schumacher Brasil, and other thousands of people have participated in talks and gatherings, including events bringing Satish Kumar to Brazil, as well as Patricia Shaw, and Tim Crabtree.

In these activities, the core Schumacher College themes - such as Economics for Transition, Deep Ecology, and Complexity Science - are brought to life in dialogue with our local contexts.

We explore and learn from the experiences of different inspiring spaces such as farms that have a rich experience in regenerative agriculture (Fazenda da Toca, Fazenda Ambiental Fortaleza), restoration of the land (Rincão Gaia), and the integration of art and ecology in the rural environment (Fazenda Serrinha, Sítio Glória). Places that become the temporary home of an emerging community of learning.

Progressively Escola is getting more in touch with other territories - be it the Amazon, the peripheries, organizations, and projects from alumni in other countries.

 

Throughout all this history, the partnership with Schumacher College has always been an important support, through the many people who walked alongside us, and today it continues to be, together with many Schumacher related initiatives all around the world, such as the Murmurations and Schumacher Society”.

Along this journey, different people became involved whilst other involvements changed, as the lifelines of everyone involved carried on weaving at the same time the fabric of Escola and of our personal lives.

As motherhood changed the lives of Mari and Livia, and Juliana moved to exploring new grounds worldwide as a member of the Schumacher Society Research in Action Community as well as collaborating with educational projects worldwide, they moved out of the center of activities, remaining an important support, (Juliana and Mari being part of Escola’s advisory group).

In the meantime, Beatriz Tadema and Flávia Bueno came back to Brazil from the masters in Economics for Transition at the College and after having collaborated on Schumacher related projects, stepped into very active participation in Escola.

Beatriz, together with Guilherme Lito and Luiz Gabriel, are now our Director Associates, sharing the lead of the more central activities of running Escola.

Together with these more recent movements and in response to our changing times, in January 2020 we moved into the legal form of charitable association. This change also reflects this new movement towards more distributed leadership and further involvement of the continuously growing network of alumni in sustaining, in different ways, this collective endeavour.

Also, this change comes as a way to open up possibilities for funding the activities, in order to be able to broaden the forms of taking part in the courses and programmes, therefore, in continuing to strive for having the courses more accessible and thus more diverse and inclusive.

This is currently one of our main goals and challenges to address, in order to keep giving life to the Schumacher College ethos in a way that it is more and more rooted and responsive to the Brazilian context.

That’s a history to be continued, step by step, relationship by relationship, responsively and relationally written.

And that’s precisely what is going on in the current moment of global pandemic, adapting and experimenting with the possibilities of flowing into online activities, something we had never explored much before, and that is already showing to be a very fertile terrain. But that, let’s leave it for another chapter.

You can find out more about Escola Schumacher Brasil here.