Who are we and what are we doing?
We are Udi Mandel and Kelly Teamey. For a year we made the road our home — our job to learn from inspiring people and places around the world who are co-creating places of higher education that nourish minds and hearts, body and soul, the non-human world around us…
We are now telling our stories about what we discovered through photos and text on this blog and through the co-creation of a series of short films which are the in the process of coming to life.
We are carving a new path, having stepped out of the confines of academia which we were both a part of for many years in the US and UK. Originally from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Udi) and Oregon, USA (Kelly), we both studied then worked in the university system for many years – Udi in social anthropology (and making films) and Kelly in education and international development.
In September 2012 we made left our academic jobs to head out on a self-funded learning journey visiting and documenting places of higher education in various parts of the world that are re-thinking and re-doing what ‘the university’ can be. These places are localized — grassroots – emerging through social or ecological movements and indigenous communities. Although vastly different in their ecology, history, culture and political landscape, they all overlap in many significant ways — rethinking values of knowledge, learning and leadership that nourishes and cultivates deep wisdom.
In each of these places knowledge and learning are not being pursued for profit or training for the market. Instead, they are nurturing wisdom for people’s potential to transform themselves, their communities and the places they live in. These places of higher education re-orientate us to transformational forms of holistic learning, encouraging us to connect with our deepest passions, to value and cultivate relationships with each other and the non-human environment through which we depend.
To say that our journey thus far has transformed us would be an understatement. All that we have encountered and learned along the way continues to impact us, challenging and enlivening us to be more connected to where we are, to those around us and to what life might become.
Alongside us, many others have been a core part of this journey – travelling with us along the way and/or co-creating/co-editing the materials that will make up the series of films of this journey. Some of these people include Marina Leitner, Ali Hodgson, Madhur Anand, Juan Anadon, Patrick Gibb, Alan Mandel and Manuela Pereira.
Up to this point (August 2014), we have edited good drafts of four short films (on Red Crow Community College, the Universidad de la Tierra, Gaia University and Swaraj University). We plan on finishing two more (Bija Vidyapeeth (Earth University) and the Escola Popular Comunicação Crítica (School of Critical Media) before editing our feature-length film with a narrative approach (from us) through visits to these six places. Our aim is to have all six shorts finished by the end of 2014 with the feature-length finished by Spring 2015.
Why is this topic important?
We like this quote as we feel it helps to summarise the importance of the topic: “It is difficult to imagine a future that is humane, decent, and sustainable without marked changes in the substance and process of education at all levels, beginning with the University.” David Orr, author of Earth in Mind (Oberlin College)
Through this journey, we have been learning about the silent revolution that is happening in higher education. This revolution is unseen in the media and almost entirely outside of the public eye.
As educational institutions around the world become increasingly profit-driven and bureaucratic, other, innovative places of learning are emerging outside traditional universities and colleges. These innovative places are challenging what it means to learn and how knowledge is created. Born from social/ecological movements and indigenous communities, they are creatively addressing the questions – what is a university for? and what knowledges are important for us to creatively address the challenges we face today?
The answers these places provide transforms people and communities through a process we are calling enlivened learning. These transformations of enlivened learning are the focus of our writing and the film we are making.
This is a time when we all face multiple crises in the environment, economy and in our communities. The traditional university system has not been able to adequately address these crises. If anything, they have helped to exacerbate these problems. We therefore need to rethink the values, forms of knowledge and ways of learning that underpins the education system. In response to this, the nourishing connections that enlivened learning encourage, are telling new stories of hope and imagination — offering creative and empowering ways to sidestep and resolve our crises of today.
How and Where – the journey, the Film and writing
Our journey takes us through the Americas, Australasia, South Asia and Europe, where we have met a number of inspiring individuals – teachers, learners, writers, artists, activists, involved in re-imagining higher education. In our writing and filmmaking we describe and reflect on our encounters with these individuals and what we have been learning. We also show the vision and day-to-day life of a number of these higher education initiatives, how they differ from conventional universities, the learning that takes place, and how this impacts individuals and communities.
The film we are making will be distributed (freely or by donation) online through a project multi-media website that we are in the process of co-creating. We also plan to screen the films across a number of international locations and festivals. We will translate the films into English, Spanish, Portuguese, Hindi and other languages, depending on request. Our intention is to encourage accessible and critical debate on education around the world and open up imaginative possibilities of what learning can become.
How you can support us
We are very keen to have people joining this inter-cultural conversation on what kind of education we, our communities and our planet needs. We have also been raising funds to finish the documentary we are making. We raised about a third of the funds required to finish our film through our indiegogo campaign and are hugely grateful for any further contributions.
You can also help us to get the message out about the film and our blog and get in touch with us if you want to help out in any way. We are always happy to meet more kindred and creative folk. We’d love to hear from you!