Student Profile - Chris Tittle

chris tittle

What had you been doing prior to beginning your PG course at Schumacher College? What was it that made you want to take the programme?

My path to Schumacher College and the Economics for Transition course was circuitous and marked by many synchronicities, like all good paths should be. In fact, my path to Schumacher started, quite literally, on a walking path – a meandering 800-mile walk around an ancient Buddhist pilgrimage route in Japan known as the Shikoku 88 Temple Pilgrimage. That walk, and the subsequent 9-month backpacking journey that took me from Japan to West Africa almost entirely by land and sea, was a significant transition point in my life, shattering my previous expectations and perceptions about the world and my place in it.

Upon returning to the US from that experience, I spent about two years working in the environmental education field, but also studying and connecting with more transformative approaches to understanding and confronting the many interconnected crises of our time. I joined Transition Pittsburgh, a local Transition Town, and became rather convinced that many of the roots causes of our ecological, social, and political ills were tied to the dominant economy and the worldview it represents.

It wasn’t until attending a lecture by Fritjof Capra, whose books I had read during my pilgrimage, that I learned about Schumacher College and the opportunity to join the first cohort of a new program exploring ecology, economics, and social change. At that time, I had been trying, unsuccessfully, to decide between two other Masters programs in the US with a more mainstream focus on environmental science. I can only describe the moment I read about this new Economics for Transition course as one of intense clarity, a resounding inner “yes!” It seemed to offer things I didn’t even know I was looking for in an educational experience, such as communal living and a more holistic and systemic exploration of non-traditional thought.  

Describe your time at the College?

In many ways, my time at the College felt like a continuation of the pilgrimage that I had begun in Japan two years earlier. It was full of profound joys and revelations, simple pleasures, intense yet rewarding challenges, and a richness of experience I have not found in many places since. The relationships I developed during my time there were some of the most fulfilling and nourishing I’ve ever had, and the intensity of learning – about myself, about community, about the incredible work being done in the world right now – was complemented fully by the beautiful forests, gardens, hills, and pathways of Dartington and Totnes.

The coursework was incredibly stimulating and provided essential foundations in ecology, systems thinking, and a broad understanding of dominant and alternative economic thinking. As importantly, I deepened some essential personal and interpersonal skills that have proved incredibly valuable to me since, including reflective inquiry, group facilitation, and how to thrive in both an intimate community and a wider and more uncertain world. World-class scholars, a deep culture of inquiry and exploration, and a nourishing community of peers...all that can only be topped by the food!

What have you gone on to do since leaving the College?

After completing my dissertation research and writing in Nepal and Thailand, I returned to the US not knowing exactly what I’d find, but certain that I had something unique to offer. It wasn’t long before I connected with a really innovative and creative organization that was enabling in practice nearly all the things I studied on the MA program – worker cooperatives, ecovillages, local food systems, community land trusts, complementary currencies, grassroots financing, and other community-driven mechanisms for localizing economies and more equitably distributing wealth.

I now co-direct the Sustainable Economies Law Center (SELC) along with seven colleagues, in what is best described as a worker self directed nonprofit. We are a democratically run organization based in Oakland, California cultivating the legal roots of more just and resilient local economies. We provide direct legal services to projects creating community resilience in the San Francisco Bay Area, as well as offer public education, legal research, and statewide legislative advocacy to enable community control of the economy. For example, over the past three years we’ve written and stewarded into law four bills in California that have removed legal barriers to complementary currencies, urban agriculture, cooperative housing, and home-based food businesses. My broad focus at SELC is governance for a new economy, with a particular focus on cooperative housing, land access, and community currencies.

I am also involved in several other interesting projects, including i) co-facilitating an annual convergence of new economy leaders from across North America called the “Emerging and Evolving Economies Jam,” ii) developing a collaborative governance model for a partnership between UC Berkeley and local community members creating a community-driven center for urban agroecology on public land, and iii) studying to become a lawyer through California’s unique Law Office Study Program, which allows people to become licensed attorneys without going to law school. 

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