Last night I had this intriguing dream about a school for changemakers:
In the dream I found myself somewhere in the mountains in a changemaker community, somewhere like Boulder, CO. It was kind of laid out like a festival with a bunch of people ‘selling their wares’. There was one woman who ran a school for changemakers which was some kind of cross between Ashoka, the School for Social Entrepreneurs and Outward Bound.
Students in the school would learn all about changemaking, ethics and how to do good most effectively. The process of this school was a series of ‘Outward Bound’-like expedition where changemakers would go on journeys to discover different dimensions of the problem and how to best make change.
There were about 7-9 different journeys that each changemaker would need to go through to master changemaking. These would need to occur over a period of years. The first one was simply about how to understand a problem. The second was about storymaking, and how to reframe stories from the negative to the positive. The final journey would be about how to enact the most effective and efficient change.
In the dream a number of people were lining up to participate and learn from the wisdom of the teacher. Many were not prepared to go through the preliminary journeys, but rather wanted to jump straight to the final journey. The final part of the journey was grueling, like Survivor. There was a very masculine energy amongst this group, and they felt that they already had what it took, and didn’t want to go through the previous expeditions. Many of these were young men who felt like they had to prove themselves, as if making the change was more about who they were in the world than actually making the change for others.
In the final part of the dream, I was sitting with the Teacher observing the students complete certain challenges. She told me that she knew who would make it within 45 minutes. If they weren’t able to complete this particular test within that time, they were unlikely to be able to do it at all.
The setting in the mountains away from the city showed me that much of the learning has to force the changemaker outside of their comfort zone into unfamiliar territory. The Outward Bound aspect wasn’t so much literal as it was a representation of the Hero’s Journey, or the need to go on an intense journey of self-discovery.
The fact that it was a journey to learn about how change occurs, shows that the goal for the changemaker is not necessarily to just set up a business, organisation or initiative. The process of changemaking is a long and arduous one of seeking to understand, rather than be understood. The fact that whole ‘expeditions’ were devoted to understanding the problem and being able to communicate it shows the balance of the work that needs to occur.
Those who wanted to skip to the final expedition without undertaking the preliminary journeys represents those who are unwilling or unprepared to take time to understand the process of change. For them the ego is too strong a force for them, and their motivation is more about proving themselves than it is about genuinely understanding change. Within the dream it felt like this was the modern-day equivalent of young men wanting to go to war – that it served as a means to prove one’s manhood and to honour their community.
I liked the fact that the Teacher was a woman. It didn’t necessarily represent that women are better changemakers, but that the feminine energy is critical to understanding change. Despite the strong ‘prove-it’ masculine energy, it was the wise and insightful teacher that actually had the strength to prevail in the end. The others dropped off and failed at the task, despite their outer bravado and strength.
Outward Bound Image from Teen Summer Camps