Empathy and Self-development: A Pathway to Sustainability

Empathy and Self-development: A Pathway to Sustainability

Sustainability can only be achieved through social change. Self-development and empathy is where it begins.

Sustainability can only be achieved through social change. Self-development and empathy is where it begins.

Awakening a need for change

  • Who believes we are facing an environmental crisis?
  • Who believes we are facing an economic crisis?
  • Who believes we are facing a social crisis?

These three questions were asked to two different groups of grade 11 Bishops (Diocesan) College learners by the PLANT THE SEED EDUCATION (PTSE) team. The response was clear, and not surprising. The entire theatre was filled with learners raising their hands.

The problems that face our generation are immense: our natural capital is being ignored by the current socio-economic system; inequality is increasing globally, and in many regards perpetuating poverty; the ecological systems, which make up our life support systems, are being degraded; and we have exceeded four of our nine planetary boundaries. This increases the risk of irreversibly driving Earth into a less hospitable state.


“Modern man talks of the battle with nature, forgetting that if he ever won the battle, he would find himself on the losing side.” – Stephan Harding


Too often we see these crises in isolation. Too often we forget that all of these crises are ultimately manmade and are as a result of our lifestyles, behaviour and actions. It has become apparent that a change needs to occur. The calls for change and an end to these crises sounds globally, yet we struggle to achieve it, let alone see where this change is going to come from.

Our lifestyles, behaviour, and actions have consequences

Our lifestyles, behaviour, and actions have consequences

Change is never easy; humans certainly avoid it as far as possible. However, the time has come and gone where we can ignore the fact that environmental (and economic) change won’t happen without social change. As Mahatma Gandhi said: “be the change you wish to see in the world.” We have to start remaking ourselves to remake the world. In order to remake ourselves we have to start becoming aware of the cost and consequences of our progress. The time couldn’t be any later, especially for the youth, to dive head first into self-development and empathy-development. Only then can we start seeing and paving a path for change.


“The socio-economic systems have been created by man, and therefore can be changed by man.”Murray Bookchin


Humans will need to evolve to survive the impacts of climate change. Many may think this evolution is about adaptation; adapting to our deteriorating surroundings. We at PTSE disagree – we believe that our next evolution is a conscious one. A conscious evolution enables us to be aware of what is taking place around the world. A conscious evolution enables self-development and as a result change in our lifestyles, behaviour, and actions. A conscious evolution enables us to develop empathy and therefore find unity and balance between social, economic, and environmental contexts. A conscious evolution enables social change!

Education is the most effective platform for engaging in self-development and experiences which develop empathy. Only through education can we realise a conscious evolution and therefore greater social change for the next generation. PTSE have identified this and taken initiative in developing various programmes, content, and experiences necessary for the self-development and empathy processes. We have targeted schools as our initial platform to launch our programmes as we continually work hard to develop more means for doing so.


“It is what we think we know already that often prevents us from learning.” – Claude Bernard.


On the 28 November 2016 PTSE embarked our first Social Change Programme with grade 11 learners from Bishops (Diocesan) College. The two-day programme comprised of six workshops, three plenary sessions, and a guest speaker.

Day 1 focused on:

  • Building consciousness – learners explored ideas and elements of society necessary for understanding the environmental, economic, and social crises. Core themes looked at the disconnection between economy and ecology (workshop 1), imbalance and patriarchy (workshop 2), and separations from nature (workshop 3).

Day 2 focused on:

  • Building empathy – learners engaged in workshops, discussions and activities necessary for developing empathy. Core themes included current issues affecting youth such as privilege, #FeesMustFall student protests, and education in South Africa (workshop 4).
  • Inspiring action – learners were provided with a safe space to envision the South Africa they dream of (workshop 5) and come up with collective action projects for their school, which work towards achieving their dreams (workshop 6).
Understanding privilege is important for developing empathy

Understanding privilege is important for developing empathy


 Yesterday I was clever, so I wanted to change the world. Today I am wise, so I wanted to change myself” – Jalaluddin Rumi


The Social Change Programme challenged the Bishops learners’ assumptions and thought processes about the world. The workshops provided a safe space allowing learners to feel comfortable to engage with and share opinions. Energetic discussions and debates on topical issues and philosophies enabled learners (and facilitators) to learn from their peers. Learners grappling with different ideas as agreements and disagreements were expressed was captivating to experience. It was encouraging to feel the positive energy of intensity and critical thinking building throughout the two days. A highlight was seeing the learners transform some of this energy into positive thought processes as they planned practical projects to achieve their dreams for South Africa. The dreams and ideas generated as a result of positive intentions was inspiring. We look forward to seeing what these learners achieve in their formative years to come as young adults and responsible, connected citizens.

Contact us here to get a SOCIAL CHANGE programme into your school.

High School Sustainability: Activating Sustainability Leadership

High School Sustainability: Activating Sustainability Leadership

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Sustainability leadership requires more balance between feminine and masculine traits

A need to redefine leadership

Leadership is a term too loosely used and a concept with often outdated understandings. Its verb (lead) has lost its essence of doing and is a view too focused on patriarchal traits. Today we live in a world where there are vast social and environmental imbalances around us. Inequality (income and wealth) is increasing on a global scale, and the fact we have exceeded four of our nine planetary boundaries – as a result this increases the risk of irreversibly driving Earth into a less hospitable state. Today we live in a world which needs profound change on multiple levels. We need new leaders and leadership – sustainability leadership.


“A sustainability leader is compelled to make a difference by deepening their awareness of themselves in relation to the world around them. In doing so, they adopt new ways of seeing, thinking, and interacting that result in innovative, sustainable solutions.” – , Wayne Visser and Polly Courtice 


Actors globally have realised this need for profound change. The United Nations (UN), through their development of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), highlighted where this change needs to occur. More subsequently was the release of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These were with out doubt the focal point of the well-watched COP21. The SGDs strongly emphasise the amount of change still needed to be achieved. However, despite all these goals being set and various actions being taken, we are still as far from achieving change as before. We didn’t achieve the UN MDGs. If we continue to operate in the same outdated leadership paradigm the SDGs won’t be achieved either.

Bringing sustainability leadership to youth in schools

At PLANT THE SEED EDUCATION (PTSE) we believe that leadership is about bringing profound change to humanity in order to create a just and equitable world. The Transitional Leadership Programme is designed to transform the manner youth view, interact and react to the term “leadership”. Presently the world and its complexities are changing at a faster rate than ever before. The next generation, and those to follow, need lead us through a process of profound change – this is necessary. Education is the most effective platform to build such a generation. We have taken the initiative to speed up this process and therefore target schools in South Africa with our Transitional Leadership (and various other) Programmes.

Millennials need to embody sustainability leadership

Millennials need to embody sustainability leadership

  


“It is easier to build stronger children than to repair broken men.” – Frederick Douglass


29th November 2016, Rustenburg Girl’s High School (RGHS) grade 10 learners, were the first to partake in our Transitional Leadership Programme. The one-day programme introduces learners to:

  1. A better understanding of why we need a new type of leadership – sustainability leadership.
  2. Knowledge, skill-sets, and values required for sustainability leaders.
  3. Sustainability leadership real-life examples.

A key focus of the programme is to motivate young learners to become the change makers and active citizens in all that they do. The programme is comprised of five workshops, two video sessions, and a plenary session. Workshops worked on one of three components, based on academic research: the individual leader, leadership context, and leadership actions. Throughout the day learners engaged with set of elements found within each of these components.

Elements of sustainability leadership

Elements of sustainability leadership

Elements required to grow sustainability leaders in schools

Core themes of the programme centred on:

  • The importance of balance (individual leader).
  • Sustainability leadership traits and styles (individual leader).
  • Context for sustainability leadership (leadership context).
  • Systems thinking (individual leader).
  • UN Sustainable Development Goals (leadership context).
  • Individual actions for the SDGs (leadership actions).

The aim being to:

  • Develop systems and holistic thinking (individual leader).
  • Defining new sustainabiity leadership traits for the 21st century (individual leader).
  • Connect learners to what is important in the world (leadership context).
  • Promote collaboration and partnerships (leadership context & actions).
  • Inspire action and courageousness (leadership actions).
Creative ideas for achieving sustainability leadership projects in Rustenburg

Creative ideas for achieving sustainability leadership projects in Rustenburg


“The secret of change is to focus all of your energy, not on fighting the old, but on building the new.” – Socrates


The Transitional Leadership Programme challenged the RGHS learner’s assumptions and understanding of leadership. Facilitators created a safe space in the workshops to help learners feel comfortable. This allowed learners to engage with and share opinions about the workshop material. Engaged discussions and debates on topical issues and philosophies enabled learners (and facilitators) to learn from their peers. The young women took to the material with eagerness and speed which thoroughly impressed our team.

A highlight from the programme was the seeing the learners release their energy, ideas, and creativity into designing a project(s) centred on a SDG. The young RGHS women blew our team of facilitators away with their project ideas. We look forward to seeing what these learners achieve in years to come. Better yet, we are in the process of developing platforms to help them through the process required to achieve their projects. What they do determines our future.

Contact us here to get a transitional leadership programme into your school. 

Suzanne Simard: How trees talk to each other

Suzanne Simard: How trees talk to each other

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Suzanne Simard:

How trees talk to each other

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About


“A forest is much more than what you see,” says ecologist Suzanne Simard. Her 30 years of research in Canadian forests have led to an astounding discovery — trees talk, often and over vast distances. Learn more about the harmonious yet complicated social lives of trees and prepare to see the natural world with new eyes.

Fred Swaniker: The leaders who ruined Africa, and the generation who can fix it

Fred Swaniker: The leaders who ruined Africa, and the generation who can fix it

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Fred Swaniker:

The leaders who ruined Africa, and the generation who can fix it

About


Before he hit eighteen, Fred Swaniker had lived in Ghana, Gambia, Botswana and Zimbabwe. What he learned from a childhood across Africa was that while good leaders can’t make much of a difference in societies with strong institutions, in countries with weak structures, leaders could make or break a country. In a passionate talk the entrepreneur and TED Fellow looks at different generations of African leaders and imagines how to develop the leadership of the future.