12 Global Education Spaces for Social Change (PART 2)

If you haven’t already, check out my first post on education spaces for social change.

Ready for more? Here are your next six education spaces for social change starting with a classic eco-village.

 Findhorn (Scotland)


Located on the northern tip of Scotland, Findhorn is primarily an eco-village where people live year-round. They host a variety of workshops, ranging from permaculture, sustainable living,  biomimicry, facilitation.  Much of their programming focuses on elements of spiritually and personal development.

Part of Findhorn Eco-Village http://www.findhorn.org/

Biomimicry workshop (http://ben.biomimicry.net)


United Nation’s University for Peace/ Earth Charter Initiative (Costa Rica)


The mission of UPEACE is to “to provide humanity with an international institution of higher education for peace”. Big ambitions! Check out some of their Masters-level programs.

It also hosts the Earth Charter Initiative, one of the leading centres and networks for education for sustainable development. It trains youth from around the world to learn about environmental education, leadership and the Earth Charter itself.

2013 UN University for Peace Model UN Conference. http://pacenycmundotorg.files.wordpress.com


Barefoot College (India)


Grandmothers teaching grandmothers to be solar power engineers! That’s Barefoot College.

Since 1972, they’ve trained women from from villages of India and Eastern Africa to be “midwives, handpump mechanics, solar engineers, artisans, weavers, balsevika (crèche teachers), parabolic solar cooker engineers, FM radio operators and fabricators, dentist, masons, and day and night school teachers”. 

If that doesn’t impress you, (and, seriously, how could that not impress you???), consider that most of the learning happens cooperatively at their campus without formal textbooks, and even without a common language.


Similar to the other education spaces mentioned, Barefoot College considers itself “a centre of learning and unlearning, where the teacher is the learner and the learner a teacher; where no certificates, degrees or diplomas are given“.


Community Development Resource Centre (South Africa)

Community Development Resource Centre (CDRA) office in Cape Town https://www.facebook.com/communitydevelopmentresourceassociation

Community Development Resource Centre (CDRA) office in Cape Town https://www.facebook.com/communitydevelopmentresourceassociation

The Community Development Resource Association (CDRA) has been offering organizational and community development workshops in Cape Town, South Africa since 1987.

Kayum Ahmed, CEO of the South African Human Rights Commission facilitates a session on Human Rights Education and How to Bridge the Values Gap — at Community Development Resource Association (CDRA). https://www.facebook.com/communitydevelopmentresourceassociation/

Kayum Ahmed, CEO of the South African Human Rights Commission facilitates a session on Human Rights Education and How to Bridge the Values Gap — at Community Development Resource Association (CDRA). https://www.facebook.com/communitydevelopmentresourceassociation/

CDRA is often called upon by international development agencies to consult and they also host regular workshops and seminars on community development, advanced facilitation and organization development.

I visited CDRA in 2006 and was impressed by their facilitation style, commitment to participation and their cozy house. There, in their community development library (yes, they even have a librarian), I discovered John Dewey’s philosophy on experiential learning. Doug Reeler (featured below) told me that Dewey’s book might change my life. Note to Doug: You were right!

Rochdale College (Toronto)

Rochdale College Building http://www.alexmorrison.org/

Although it no longer exists, Rochdale College is worth a quick mention. For a few years in the late 1960s, the University of Toronto opened a radical cooperative learning school.


The fact that Canada’s major University built an massive complex for students to live and learn cooperatively is a feat that should remind us of the potential for future learning spaces.

Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (India)

UNESCO MGIEP Distinguished Lecture, presented by UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova in New Delhi

UNESCO’s Mahatma Gandhi Institute for Education for Peace and Sustainable Development (MGIEP) is the latest education space for social change.

MGIEP hopes to become a research and education space for sustainable development, peace and global citizenship. They plan to embed these concepts in teaching curriculums, strengthen governmental educational policies, host youth programs, and develop innovative tools and methodologies for educators. Check out their upcoming work with game developers.

The new UNESCO MGIEP team http://mgiep.unesco.org/blog/lecture-irina-bokova-director-general-unesco/

Learning in Rural India and Ethiopia

Today I met up with an old colleague from my University of Toronto days, PhD candidate Fisseha Yacob (or Fish as he calls himself). He told me about the non-profit he was developing called Kuraz (Kuraz.org)

Kuraz is determined to make a difference in the lives of children, youth and their communities in Ethiopia. Using collaborative learning strategies, critical pedagogy and community integrated approach, we provide hands-on practical training and workshops for community members, educators and students. (Kuraz.org)

Kuraz made me think of a couple TED talks I had heard on self-directed learning and participatory education in rural India. Sugata Mitra, professor of educational technology at Newcastle University, has created a number of “hole in the wall” educational experiments. For his first experiment, he put a computer screen in the wall for children in a rural Indian village who had no experience or skill in computers whatsoever and very little formal education. He returned months later to find children using the computer and figuring out much more about it’s function without any teachers guiding them. He has since created more of these experiments testing the limits of self-directed learning. One experiment had British Grandmothers mentoring children in India via a web video link. The Grandmothers were instructed not to teach, but only to encourage.

I do not regularly champion computer technology as a form of international development. From my experience working in South Africa and Zambia, the initial gifts are often short-lived. In a rural community of South Africa, I visited a school that had been given a number of brand new computers to use by the students from an international development agency. Three years since they were delivered, the computers were broken and no one knew how to fix them or could pay to have them replaced. The one remaining computer was kept at the Principal’s office because he was afraid the students would steal it if they had a chance to use it.

Technology moves fast, especially mobile devices, desktops and laptops. In 5 years time, today’s laptops might not be able to properly watch videos, upload information or send data. However, Mitra’s work shows that infrastructure without teachers or gatekeepers can lead to some surprising results. I especially see the potential of the Grandmother experiment to connect the assets of some to the needs of others using web video. The simple experience of having a real person (video or live) to encourage you and someone that you can be accountable to makes a huge difference in the development of self-efficacy.

Although I have never lived in rural India or Ethiopia, I imagine that elements of Barefoot College could be replicated in rural Ethiopia. However I pause to say these inspirational centres take time (starting in 1989), require advocates and champions as well as a specific context to sustain it. And maybe a killer Ted Talk too:


Recently, Barefoot College has been receiving students from rural villages outside of India. See this short 5 minutes award winning documentary: