The role of education and learning in sustainability

Progress Namibia - The role of education and learning in sustainability
01 October 2018

[Vala Ragnarsdottir, Emelia Arthur, Maja Göpel and Justine Braby at the Balaton Meeting 2018. Source: via Vala Ragnarsdottir]

Coming back from my yearly meeting with the amazing and inspiring people from the Balaton Group, I am still trying to sort through all the new information, potential for collaboration, and general feelings of warmth and motivation that were conjured up in me. Every year, up to 50 members from a pool of about 500 come together at Lake Balaton for a meeting where we discuss topics that fall under the arena of global change. Last year the topic was the Rise of Authoritarianism (Causes, drivers, and responses), the year before that it was Migration (Root causes, dynamics and response). This year, we spoke about how we, as members, engage in education and learning for sustainability. Not only was this topic a very dear topic to myself and many others in the group (because we are involved directly in learning for sustainability), I was given the opportunity to lead the programme committee on developing the content of our morning programme.

We were immensely lucky to have some top speakers, including one of my heroes David Orr, participating in our dialogues. Poonam Batra, Keri Facer, Heila Lotz-Sisitka, Karim Yassin-Gössinger, Virag Suhajda, among others presented on their topics, ranging from the dynamics of learning to decolonial pedagogies. The role of systems dynamics in learning of course was an important contribution, and founder Dennis Meadows and new member Daniel Lang shared with us the leverage points and systems thinking exercises that are helpful to understand structures and archetypes. David Orr spoke about politics in a sustainable world and the role of learning, and Bernd Siebenhüner gave his presentation about economics for a sustainable world - the need for a paradigm shift and the role education plays in this. Discussions were rich during the morning sessions, and we brought in the importance of transdisciplinarity, but most of all the need for a foundation of love and empathy, first and foremost. Something that is increasingly missing in our world.

Afternoons were in the form of open space, where members could take slots to hold further dialogue, get inputs on projects and programmes they are working on back home (two of our members from the Stockholm Resilience Institute were working on the SDGs in Africa with regard to agricultural transformation and wanted inputs, for instance). Some of us cooked together, walked and swam in the lake together, enjoyed wine and had deep conversation late into the night. One thing is for sure, much was learned that can be taken back home, and for some of us, collaborations on projects got kick-started.

Coming back the most important take home is the power of a strong network, and within this, how much more you can achieve when your are brought together, regularly, with people who have a variety of skills, way of thinking, and experience that can vastly improve yours.