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.

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