An introduction to transgressive learning in Colombia
We are at a historical turning point in time where as a human race we are burning the ecological bridges which connect us to the life sustaining veins of Mother Earth. With scientific consensus on the ‘facts’ of human-based actions exacerbating climate change, and the daily reminders of hurricanes, floods, drought and soaring temperatures – with much more to come – it is the question of our time as to why we cannot as a society break the status quo of business as usual.
At the heart of these tumultuous times is the role of learning in helping us address these challenges. In this project we understand learning to mean the the transformative process of taking in information that—when internalized and mixed with what we have experienced—changes what we know and builds on what we do. This project is especially interested in an emerging form of learning called transgressive learning, which is a form of transformative learning that seeks to disrupt hegemonic power structures which act as barriers to personal and collective transformation (See this paper for a more detailed definition and examples of transgressive learning in Colombia). Addressing this head on, the Colombian T-Learning study seeks to map, analyse and promote transgressive learning within and between initiatives which are part of the sustainability network CASA Colombia (Council of Sustainable Settlements of the Americas (CASA) (see previous blog for details of the case study).
El Llamado de la Montaña, Community Anacondo del Sur, Mocoa, Putumayo (7-15 July, 2016)
The Colombian T-Learning case study initially began with mapping initiatives participating in the CASA event El Llamado de la Montaña in the community of Anaconda del Sur, Putumayo, 2016. Through semi-structured interviews with participants, directed at the transformative learning potential of the gathering as well as the interviewee’s own initiative, results demonstrated how the intercultural El Llamado de la Montaña can act as a transformative catalyst in terms of challenging value and belief systems, as well as acting as spaces for building alliances. The extent to which these transformations affect structural barriers, however, was unclear, as well as the question as to how this transformation takes place in individual communities. What became clear was that to explore the ‘transgressive’ boundary pushing nature of these transformations in the network, it would be necessary to follow concrete ‘projects’ throughout the year. To this end, lead researcher Thomas Macintyre and coordinator Martha Chaves approached four initiatives who are part of the CASA network, and who participated in El Llamado de la Montaña of 2016, and asked if they would like to participate in more depth as co-researchers – investigating their own community processes (these initiatives are described on the Colombian page of the T-Learning website). All initiatives were enthusiastic about joining the project.
Setting up bioregional networks: Community Mahavan, Quindio, Calarca, Colombia (27-30 September, 2016)
A few months later the new Colombian T-Learning team met during the general assembly of CASA Colombia, and discussed how to organise the different initiatives in terms of location and organisation of the project. It was decided to work at regional levels, with each initiative representing a different bioregion. We discussed the different characteristics of the communities we were working in, and from a learning point of view, began to work together on the methodology based on co-production of knowledge – working as co-researchers – learning how we could share specific administrative tasks, organise ourselves from a governance system of sociocracy (based on a system of distributed authority, and inclusive decision-making) and an outline for carrying out research we were all interested in.
Working with four initiatives in different parts of Colombia necessitated setting up a virtual workspace through google drive, where reports, articles, and files could be shared. We also carry out virtual zoom meetings every few months to connect, provide updates, address concerns, and plan upcoming events. The first zoom meeting took place on the 13th of December, where the T-Lab workshop in the community of Atánquez was organised. This was an important meeting as it involved organizing the logistics of spending four days in the Indigenous community of Atánquez, and deciding together on the agenda with workshop objectives, and allocating facilitation roles.
From a learning interactions point of view, it is an interesting challenge to communicate and organise projects through virtual mediums. A pre-agenda is sent out to participants who give feedback. During meetings, roles are assigned such as scribe, facilitator, and time-keeper. Emphasis is placed on giving to time connect to other participants through a ‘check in’ where each participant shares how they are feeling, as well as a ‘check out’ where feelings of how the meeting went are shared. Despite the benefits of being able to communicate virtually, there are various drawbacks such as the practicalities of agreeing on a time when everyone can be present, the ubiquitous internet shortages which disrupts meetings, and the at times inefficient process of sociocracy where decisions must be taken through consensus.
While there is no good substitute for face-to-heart communication in vivo, virtual meetings provide a means of sharing experiences, organising tasks, and keeping notes on important decisions.
T-Lab Atánquez, 20-24 January, 2017