Education for Sustainable Development Seminars, USA

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EDUCATION FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

Regional and National Seminars in the USA


Pre-Conference Development Seminar

From Spirit to Reality: The Practical Application
of Spiritual Principles for Sustainable Development

18-20 December 2006
Orlando, Florida, USA

held prior to the
Bahá'í Conference on Social and Economic Development
Orlando, Florida, USA, 20-23 December 2006


This seminar continued the series begun in 2003 to foster the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development, which runs until 2014. Each year the seminar has built on the previous year's experience to 1) delve deeper into the spiritual dimension of bringing prosperity -- in all its forms -- to people while preserving the world's resources and 2) move the process more and more from the theoretical to the practical. During 2006, three regional conferences on the Orlando model have also been held in California, Michigan and Maine at the permanent Bahá'í schools in the United States.

For two and a half days, more than 50 participants, some of whom participated in those regional meetings, explored the spiritual and material dimensions of sustainable development. Professor John A. Grayzel, who holds the Bahá'í Chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland, challenged them to find a language that will open -- and keep open -- a window through which our fellow world citizens can see Bahá'u'lláh's vision for humanity. To do so, he said, we must make these principles resonate in people's daily lives. Accordingly, the focus of this year's seminar was to identify issues in our own communities to which we can apply solutions that are both material and spiritual.

A major focus was on the development and application of spiritually-based indicators toward achieving sustainable and measurable progress. Drawing upon the sacred writings of the Bahá'í Faith and engaging in a variety of dynamic processes, participants expanded their knowledge and developed new capacities and insights for engaging in service activities in their respective communities.

Facilitators enlisted by Peter Adriance, the nongovernmental organization liaison for the US Bahá'í community, guided the process with help from experienced social and economic development practitioners including Grayzel, Mona Grieser and Shamil Fattakhov. First they explained the concept of spiritually based indicators -- ways to measure the quality, direction, pace and results of change. And they reminded participants of some of the spiritual principles we can weave into the process and hoped-for outcomes of any endeavor: unity in diversity, gender equality, justice and equity, moral development, trustworthiness and independent investigation of the truth.

Then they had participants, in eight self-formed small groups, discuss issues with which their hometowns are struggling and begin spotlighting one issue apiece they would like to tackle in its material and spiritual dimensions. The refinement process continued with a panel discussion focusing on some ongoing social and economic development projects to show how they achieved success and overcame challenges.

Further small-group consultation resulted in the 30 identified issues being framed in a context that was neutral (fair to all parties), future-focused and solvable. The groups looked in turn at qualitative, quantitative and descriptive language for how change would look when it comes.

Finally the teams picked the eight projects they would work on:

* How do we overcome complacency and engage a small rural community to consider its role/responsibility in local and global social, economic, and environmental issues in meaningful ways?
* How do we improve the quality of life in the community so that people are not forced into migration (e.g. services, employment, healthy environments)?
* How do we promote moral and global education of youth in schools and help develop a common vision?
* How do we overcome apathy and disempowerment of junior youth in our community and create meaningful options for engagement in community life?
* How do we empower all teachers to be moral leaders that empower their students to be moral leaders, too?
* How do we create a social, environmental and spiritual consciousness in the local business community?
* How do we help marginalized populations with substandard education develop socially and economically to become the protagonists of their own development and break through the cycle of poverty?
* How do we create a larger sense of community across different strata and across issues of inequality and injustice?

The teams applied a sequence of steps outlined in the Bahá'í International Community's 1998 statement Valuing Spirituality in Development:

    1. the vision you hold for this particular SED issue
    2. the spiritual principles underlying the successful resolution of this issue
    3. the policy area(s) involved
    4. the development goal
    5. how might this vision and goal be expressed in spiritually based indicators
    6. how could these indicators be measured
    7. how would you approach the issue--what human and other resources are available and how would you try to engage them; what systematic plan of change can you envision; what approaches might you use; what cycles of action-reflection can you envision, etc.

After a half day of consultation, the teams reported back in a series of 20-minute presentations imaginatively expressed using song, drama, human sculpture, costumes, and props, describing an incredible array of strategies for tackling hometown issues. Other participants gave each team feedback, and with that fresh input project teams were given a final opportunity to modify their project designs.

The teams also benefited in their consultations from the words of William E. Davis, chairman of the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States. He proposed three main thrusts: to realize Bahá'u'lláh's vision of a new race of men, take a radically new approach to development; to recreate society anew, fuse the varied identities of humanity into a new and distinctive one; and to tap into people's longings, use the power of the core Bahá'í community activities (study circles, children's classes, pre-youth activities and devotional meetings).

Combined with Grayzel's exhortation to build unity through unifying language, these comments gave participants food for thought as they ventured home to apply the seminar's outcomes. In a seminar-ending reflection, attendee after attendee testified to the power of the process in which they had engaged. That led to such thoughts as "The fact we can do this means we can teach others to do it" and "If you have the love and the purpose, Bahá'u'lláh can unite even the most diverse people." Perhaps, though, John Krochmalny from rural northwest Ohio summed it up for others when he noted that while here he could consult in a way he can't at home and it was wonderful, "when all is said and done, you have to go home and act."

The Seminar was sponsored by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States in collaboration with the International Environment Forum, the Bahá'í Chair for World Peace at the University of Maryland, and others.

Based in part on a report by Tom Mennillo in The American Bahá'í Online, January 2007.


Green Acre Seminar, September 2006

People, Planet, Prosperity: It's All Connected -- Education for a Sustainable World

Green Acre, Maine, USA
15-17 September 2006

Following on the 9th International Environment Forum Conference in Orlando, Florida, in December 2005, the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the United States decided to organize three regional seminars on Education for Sustainable Development at the Bosch School in California, the Louhelen Bahá'í School in Michigan, and the Green Acre Bahá'í School in Maine, leading up to another seminar co-sponsored by IEF in Orlando, Florida, in December 2006 (see above).

The Green Acre seminar, "People, Planet, Prosperity -- It's All Connected: Education for a Sustainable World", took place at the Green Acre Bahá'í School in Eliot, Maine, on 15-17 September 2006, at the same time as the 10th IEF Conference in Oxford, England. It was facilitated by a regional team in collaboration with the U.S. Bahá'í Office of External Affairs.

This dynamic weekend seminar was the third of three regional seminars held across the U.S. this year sponsored by the National Spiritual Assembly of the Bahá'ís of the U.S., and held in observance of the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development (2005-14).

The participants explored the practical and spiritual dimensions of sustainable development, drew inspiration and insights from the Bahá'í teachings, and generated individual and group plans to foster sustainable development in their families, communities and beyond. A dynamic and participatory learning environment (using World Café, Open Space Technology and other means), infused with spiritual resonance, helped all those present to engage in the collective exploration of key questions.

PROGRAMME
(Links to powerpoints are included)

Friday, September 15 – Getting Started
Opening Devotional (accompanied by live flute music with male and female readers alternating reading) [Devotional.ppt]

How now? – The unfolding story of the three regional ESD seminars held in the U.S. Bahá'í community this year (Peter Adriance) [ RegionalSeminars2006.ppt - 2.5MB]

Learning games to start participants thinking about the weekend's topic. (whole group, with Melinda Salazar)

Saturday, September 16 – Uniting the Practical and Spiritual for Sustainable Development

Devotions – A special A/V presentation from the IEF's conference on “Science, Faith and Global Warming: Arising to the Challenge” held the same weekend in the UK  [Powerpoint 3.5MB or pdf 1MB with music 2.2MB]

Spiritual Reflection I – An interactive exercise using stories and art activities that focus on the transforming power of Bahá'u'lláh’s Message and aimed to foster spiritual resonance and help set the tone for the seminar. (Lloyd Brown)

The Big Picture – Setting the context: What is sustainable development? What is education for sustainable development? Why the UN Decade of Education for Sustainable Development? Bahá'í and other responses. (Peter Adriance) [Green Acre 2006.ppt - 1.7MB]

World Café I - a dynamic exchange on personal sustainability connections and the role of spiritual principles in fostering a sustainable world (whole group, with Diane Brandon)

Breakout Sessions using an Open Space Technology format focused on the day's theme (whole group, with Peter Adriance)

Spiritual Foundations for a Sustainable World - a brief overview of Bahá'í perspectives on Education for Sustainable Development (Peter Adriance) followed by a dynamic consultation exploring the day’s theme using a ‘fishbowl’ format (whole group).

Sunday, September 17 – Bringing it Home

Devotions – A second A/V presentation from the IEF's conference on “Science, Faith and Global Warming: Arising to the Challenge” held the same weekend in the UK [Powerpoint - 1.9MB or pdf 1MB with music 2MB]

Spiritual Reflection II – An exercise to help participants reflect on the purpose of Bahá'u'lláh’s suffering, consider His counsels, and, express how those counsels might be applied to improve the world. (whole group, with Lloyd Brown)

World Café II – Developing personal and group plans for advancing education for sustainable development at home and in the community (whole group, with Diane Brandon)

What next? – Insights on what we’ve learned and where we can go with it. Plans for the Decade and beyond. (whole group, with Diane Brandon/ Peter Adriance)

Evaluation, Closing Circle - (whole group, with Peter Adriance/Lloyd Brown)

“For Bahá'ís, Bahá'u'lláh’s promise that civilization will exist on this planet for a minimum of five thousand centuries makes it unconscionable to ignore the long-term consequences of decisions made today. The world community must, therefore, learn to make use of the earth's natural resources, both renewable and non-renewable in a manner that ensures sustainability into the distant reaches of time.” (Bahá'í International Community)

IEF

Last updated 19 March 2007