Tuesday, March 12, 2019

Asset-Based Community Development (ABCD)

Source: Nurture Development

Asset Based Community Development (ABCD) is an approach to sustainable community-driven development. Beyond the mobilisation of a particular community, it is concerned with how to link micro-assets to the macro-environment. Asset Based Community Development’s premise is that communities can drive the development process themselves by identifying and mobilizing existing, but often unrecognised assets. Thereby responding to challenges and creating local social improvement and economic development.

This page will describe ABCD through five key aspects.

Asset Based Approach
Deficit Based vs Asset Based Comparison
Power of Associations
Principles for facilitating Asset Based Community Development
Asset Based Community Development in Practice

Asset Based Approach
Asset Based Community Development builds on the assets that are found in the community and mobilizes individuals, associations, and institutions to come together to realise and develop their strengths. This makes it different to a Deficit Based approach that focuses on identifying and servicing needs. From the start an Asset Based approach spends time identifying the assets of individuals, associations and institutions that form the community. The identified assets from an individual are matched with people or groups who have an interest in or need for those strengths. The key is beginning to use what is already in the community. Then to work together to build on the identified assets of all involved.

The first key method of the ABCD approach is that development begins with the recognition of asset categories that can be uncovered in any community and place. When applying ABCD principles communities are not thought of as complex masses of needs and problems, but rather diverse and capable webs of gifts and assets. Each community has a unique set of skills and capacities it can channel for community development.
Asset Based Community Development categorizes asset inventories into five groups, Individuals, Associations, Institutions, Place Based and Connections.

At the centre are residents of the community who all have gifts and skills. Individual gifts and assets need to be recognized and identified. In community development you cannot do anything with people’s needs, only their assets. Deficits or needs are only useful to institutions.

Small informal groups of people, such as clubs, working with a common interest as volunteers are called associations in ABCD, and are critical to community mobilization. They don’t control anything; they are just coming together around a common interest by their individual choice.

Paid groups of people that generally are professionals who are structurally organized are called institutions. They include government agencies and private business, as well as schools, etc. They can all be valuable resources. The assets of these institutions help the community capture valuable resources and establish a sense of civic responsibility.

Land, buildings, heritage, public and green spaces are all examples of assets for the community. Every place where people choose to be was chosen for good reasons, and whilst people remain those reasons remain. A place might be a centre of natural resources, a hub of activity, living skills, transit connection or marketplace. Whatever the strengths of a place are, the people of the community will be the closest to understanding it.

Asset Based Community Development recognises that the exchange between people sharing their gifts and assets creates connections, and these connections are a vital asset to the community. People whose gift is to find and create these connections are called connectors. It takes time to find out about individuals; this is normally done through building relationships, person by person. The social relationships, networks and trust form the social capital of a community. ABCD recognises the value of these assets, and is a practical application of building relationships to increase social capital.

Wednesday, February 20, 2019

A Visual Summary: 32 Learning Theories Every Teacher Should Know

by Terry Heick

Learning theory–and the research that goes into it–is a topic seen frequently in universities and teaching programs, then less frequently after once teachers begin practicing in the classroom.
Why this is true is complicated. (If you’re teaching, you may have more pressing concerns than being able to define obscure learning theories which don’t seem to have a place or role in what you’re teaching tomorrow.) I thought it might be useful to have a brief overview of many of the most important learning theories teachers should know in a single graphic, which is why I was excited to find Richard Millwood‘s excellent graphic.
Millwood is Visiting Research Fellow at Trinity College Dublin, Director of Core Education UK. (You can read his blog here.) While the graphic is necessarily brief (and has a few typos), I found it did a great job of bringing together a lot of the most critical–and common–learning theories in one place.
If you get nothing else from a post like this, perhaps the most critical takeaway is that there are dozens of theories that underpin what and how you teach already, and that the better you understand them, the better chance you’ll have to master your current approach and begin to bring new possibilities into your classroom as your ‘teaching brain’ makes room for this kind of thinking.
Some definitions were a bit too brief, so I added language for clarity or depth (though a few I need to go back and further deepen and explain, like ‘Interpersonal Relations.) Let me know in the comments if you have any suggested citations or ideas that could improve the resource. I’ll continue to add resource, links, and citations as relevant.
For related reading, see our Dictionary for 21st-Century Teachers.
A Visual Summary: 32 Learning Theories Every Teacher Should Know
The premise behind ‘Instructivism’ is that teachers take on a central role in the learning process and transfer that knowledge directly to the students.
See also Transfer and Direct Instruction.
2. Multiple Intelligences
We have several different ways of learning and processing information, but these methods are relatively independent of one another: leading multiple intelligences as opposed to a (single) ‘general intelligence) factor among correlated abilities.
3. Experiential Learning
Knowledge is continuously gained through both personal and environmental experiences. The learner must be able to reflect on the experience, use analytical skills to conceptualize the experience, and make decisions and solve problems to use the ideas gained from the experience.
4. Learning Styles
Optimal learning demands that students receive instruction tailored to their learning styles. (And stop learning styles don’t work.)
5. De-schooling Society
School is damaging to education: “The pupil is thereby ‘schooled’ to confuse teaching with learning, grade advancement with education, a diploma with competence, and fluency with the ability to say something (well) or new.”
6. Homeschooling
Homeschooling: Characterized primarily by the family being responsible for the child’s ‘education.’ There’s a spectrum of approaches available from reproducing school at home, to project-based learning in authentic and self-actuated and organized learning environments, to complete ‘unschooling.’
7. Unschooling

The underlying assumption of Unschooling is that children will learn naturally if given the freedom to follow own interests and a rich assortment of resources.
An educational movement guided by passion and principle to help students develop consciousness of freedom, recognize authoritarian tendencies, and connect knowledge to power and the ability to take constructive action.

9. Interpersonal Relations
Teacher types: lion-tamer, entertainer and new romantic–the problem of self-judgment in assessment
10. Montessori Education
Montessori Principles:
  1. Mixed-age classrooms, with classrooms for children aged 2.5 or 3-years-old to 6-years-old.
  2. Student choice of activity within a prescribed-range of options
  3. Uninterrupted blocks of work time
  4. A ‘Constructivist’ or ‘discovery’ model where students learn concepts from working with materials rather than by direct instruction
11. Scientific Pedagogy
Education-based on science that modifies and improves the individual
12. Experiential Education
The process that occurs between the teacher and student that infuses direct experience with the learning environment and content.
13. Constructionism
The underlying principle of Constructionism as a learning theory is that the learner is not a passive ‘vessel,’ but must actively participate in their own learning. It requires learners to build on existing knowledge when acquiring new knowledge.
14. Social Constructivism
A learning theory founded on the idea that meaning is both built and socially-negotiated through interactions with others.
15. Constructivism: Radical Constructivism
Knowledge as mental representation:
1a. Knowledge is not passively received  either through the senses or by way of communication;
1b. Knowledge is actively built up by the cognizing subject;
2a. The function of cognition is adaptive, in the biological sense of the term, tending towards fit or viability;
2b. Cognition serves the subject’s organization of the experiential world, not the discovery of an objective ontological reality.
A framework for unifying otherwise disparate ‘strands’ of teaching and learning. In ‘PBL,’ students learn through the design, completion (and often ongoing iteration) of ‘projects.’ One way to think of PBL is in contrast to traditional ‘units’ of ‘instruction.’
17. Genetic Epistemology
A human being develops cognitively from birth throughout his or her life through four primary stages of development; sensorimotor (0-2), preoperational (2-7), concrete operational (7-11), and formal operational (11+). Assimilation (occurs through the) incorporation of new experiences into existing mental schema; accommodation changes mental schema.
18. Zone of Proximal Development
The area of capabilities that learners can exhibit with the support from a teacher.
19. Scaffolding
Scaffolding is the support given during the learning process which is tailored to the needs of the student with the intention of helping the student achieve his/her learning goals.
20. Discovery Learning
Learners obtain knowledge by forming and testing hypotheses.
21. Meaningful Learning
New knowledge to acquire is related with/to previous knowledge.
22. Mastery Learning
In Mastery Learning, ‘the students are helped to master each learning unit before proceeding to a more advanced learning task.”
23. Educational Objectives
Taxonomy of learning objectives that educators set for students in three ‘domains’: Cognitive, Affective, and Psychomotor. Learning at the higher levels is dependent on achieving lower levels (first). Designed to motivate educators to focus on all three domains, creating a more holistic form of education.
24. Radical Behaviorism
Learning as a process of forming associations between stimuli in the environment and the corresponding responses of the individual. Reinforcement strengthens responses and increases the likelihood of another occurrence when the stimulus is present again.
25. Communities of Practice
Groups of people who share a concern of a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.
26. Situated Learning
According to Northern Illinois University, Situated Learning is “an instructional approach developed by Jean Lave and Etienne Wenger in the early 1990s, and follows the work of Dewey, Vygotsky, and others (Clancey, 1995) who claim that students are more inclined to learn by actively participating in the learning experience. Situated learning essentially is a matter of creating meaning from the real activities of daily living (Stein, 1998, para. 2) where learning occurs relative to the teaching environment.”
27. Conversation Theory
A cybernetic and dialectic framework that offers a scientific theory to explain how interactions lead to ‘knowing.’
28. Competency-Based Learning
Competency-Based Learning is an approach to learning that focuses on actual, observable skills (or ‘competencies’) rather than grasp of concepts as measured by traditional academic assessments. Though mastering competencies obviously requires understanding of concepts, it is not driven towards that end.
29. Problem-Based Learning
An approach to learning where the solving or important ‘problems,’ often through inquiry and Project-Based Learning catalyzes the learning experience.
30. Place-Based Education
The emphasis of a meaningful ‘place’ (that is, one meaningful to the learner) in the circumstance of learning.
31. Question-Based Learning
A formal process of inquiry where questions are formed, then improved based on the revelation of relevant, significant, and accurate data.
32. Learning Blends/Combination Learning
An alternative to traditional academic ‘lessons,’ combination learning blends are combinations of learning ingredients (e.g., topic, audience, outcome, apps,
A Visual Summary: 32 Learning Theories Every Teacher Should Know

Saturday, February 9, 2019

Dancing with Systems

By Donella Meadows

The Dance
1. Get the beat.
2. Listen to the wisdom of the system.
3. Expose your mental models to the open air.
4. Stay humble. Stay a learner.
5. Honor and protect information.
6. Locate responsibility in the system.
7. Make feedback policies for feedback systems.
8. Pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable.
9. Go for the good of the whole.
10. Expand time horizons.
11. Expand thought horizons.
12. Expand the boundary of caring.
13. Celebrate complexity.
14. Hold fast to the goal of goodness.

People who are raised in the industrial world and who get enthused about systems thinking are likely to make a terrible mistake. They are likely to assume that here, in systems analysis, in interconnection and complication, in the power of the computer, here at last, is the key to prediction and control. This mistake is likely because the mindset of the industrial world assumes that there is a key to prediction and control.

I assumed that at first too. We all assumed it, as eager systems students at the great institution called MIT. More or less innocently, enchanted by what we could see through our new lens, we did what many discoverers do. We exaggerated our own ability to change the world. We did so not with any intent to deceive others, but in the expression of our own expectations and hopes. Systems thinking for us was more than subtle, complicated mindplay. It was going to Make Systems Work.

But self-organizing, nonlinear, feedback systems are inherently unpredictable. They are not controllable. They are understandable only in the most general way. The goal of foreseeing the future exactly and preparing for it perfectly is unrealizable. The idea of making a complex system do just what you want it to do can be achieved only temporarily, at best. We can never fully understand our world, not in the way our reductionistic science has led us to expect. Our science itself, from quantum theory to the mathematics of chaos, leads us into irreducible uncertainty. For any objective other than the most trivial, we can’t optimize; we don’t even know what to optimize. We can’t keep track of everything. We can’t find a proper, sustainable relationship to nature, each other, or the institutions we create, if we try to do it from the role of omniscient conqueror.

For those who stake their identity on the role of omniscient conqueror, the uncertainty exposed by systems thinking is hard to take. If you can’t understand, predict, and control, what is there to do?

Systems thinking leads to another conclusion–however, waiting, shining, obvious as soon as we stop being blinded by the illusion of control. It says that there is plenty to do, of a different sort of “doing.” The future can’t be predicted, but it can be envisioned and brought lovingly into being. Systems can’t be controlled, but they can be designed and redesigned. We can’t surge forward with certainty into a world of no surprises, but we can expect surprises and learn from them and even profit from them. We can’t impose our will upon a system. We can listen to what the system tells us, and discover how its properties and our values can work together to bring forth something much better than could ever be produced by our will alone.

We can’t control systems or figure them out. But we can dance with them!

I already knew that, in a way before I began to study systems. I had learned about dancing with great powers from whitewater kayaking, from gardening, from playing music, from skiing. All those endeavors require one to stay wide-awake, pay close attention, participate flat out, and respond to feedback. It had never occurred to me that those same requirements might apply to intellectual work, to management, to government, to getting along with people.

But there it was, the message emerging from every computer model we made. Living successfully in a world of systems requires more of us than our ability to calculate. It requires our full humanity–our rationality, our ability to sort out truth from falsehood, our intuition, our compassion, our vision, and our morality.

I will summarize the most general “systems wisdom” I have absorbed from modeling complex systems and from hanging out with modelers. These are the take-home lessons, the concepts and practices that penetrate the discipline of systems so deeply that one begins, however imperfectly, to practice them not just in one’s profession, but in all of life.

The list probably isn’t complete, because I am still a student in the school of systems. And it isn’t unique to systems thinking. There are many ways to learn to dance. But here, as a start-off dancing lesson, are the practices I see my colleagues adopting, consciously or unconsciously, as they encounter systems.

1. Get the beat.
Before you disturb the system in any way, watch how it behaves. If it’s a piece of music or a whitewater rapid or a fluctuation in a commodity price, study its beat. If it’s a social system, watch it work. Learn its history. Ask people who’ve been around a long time to tell you what has happened. If possible, find or make a time graph of actual data from the system. Peoples’ memories are not always reliable when it comes to timing.

Starting with the behavior of the system forces you to focus on facts, not theories. It keeps you from falling too quickly into your own beliefs or misconceptions, or those of others. It’s amazing how many misconceptions there can be. People will swear that rainfall is decreasing, say, but when you look at the data, you find that what is really happening is that variability is increasing–the droughts are deeper, but the floods are greater too. I have been told with great authority that milk price was going up when it was going down, that real interest rates were falling when they were rising, that the deficit was a higher fraction of the GNP than ever before when it wasn’t.

Starting with the behavior of the system directs one’s thoughts to dynamic, not static analysis–not only to “what’s wrong?” but also to “how did we get there?” and “what behavior modes are possible?” and “if we don’t change direction, where are we going to end up?”

And finally, starting with history discourages the common and distracting tendency we all have to define a problem not by the system’s actual behavior, but by the lack of our favorite solution. (The problem is, we need to find more oil. The problem is, we need to ban abortion. The problem is, how can we attract more growth to this town?)

2. Listen to the wisdom of the system.
Aid and encourage the forces and structures that help the system run itself. Don’t be an unthinking intervener and destroy the system’s own self-maintenance capacities. Before you charge in to make things better, pay attention to the value of what’s already there.

A friend of mine, Nathan Gray, was once an aid worker in Guatemala. He told me of his frustration with agencies that would arrive with the intention of “creating jobs” and “increasing entrepreneurial abilities” and “attracting outside investors”. They would walk right past the thriving local market, where small-scale business people of all kinds, from basket-makers to vegetable growers to butchers to candy-sellers, were displaying their entrepreneurial abilities in jobs they had created for themselves. Nathan spent his time talking to the people in the market, asking about their lives and businesses, learning what was in the way of those businesses expanding and incomes rising. He concluded that what was needed was not outside investors, but inside ones. Small loans available at reasonable interest rates, and classes in literacy and accounting, would produce much more long-term good for the community than bringing in a factory or assembly plant from outside.

3. Expose your mental models to the open air.
Remember, always, that everything you know, and everything everyone knows, is only a model. Get your model out there where it can be shot at. Invite others to challenge your assumptions and add their own. Instead of becoming a champion for one possible explanation or hypothesis or model, collect as many as possible. Consider all of them plausible until you find some evidence that causes you to rule one out. That way you will be emotionally able to see the evidence that rules out an assumption with which you might have confused your own identity.

You don’t have to put forth your mental model with diagrams and equations, though that’s a good discipline. You can do it with words or lists or pictures or arrows showing what you think is connected to what. The more you do that, in any form, the clearer your thinking will become, the faster you will admit your uncertainties and correct your mistakes, and the more flexible you will learn to be. Mental flexibility–the willingness to redraw boundaries, to notice that a system has shifted into a new mode, to see how to redesign structure — is a necessity when you live in a world of flexible systems.

4. Stay humble. Stay a learner.
Systems thinking has taught me to trust my intuition more and my figuring-out rationality less, to lean on both as much as I can, but still to be prepared for surprises. Working with systems, on the computer, in nature, among people, in organizations, constantly reminds me of how incomplete my mental models are, how complex the world is, and how much I don’t know.

The thing to do, when you don’t know, is not to bluff and not to freeze, but to learn. The way you learn is by experiment–or, as Buckminster Fuller put it, by trial and error, error, error. In a world of complex systems it is not appropriate to charge forward with rigid, undeviating directives. “Stay the course” is only a good idea if you’re sure you’re on course. Pretending you’re in control even when you aren’t is a recipe not only for mistakes, but for not learning from mistakes. What’s appropriate when you’re learning is small steps, constant monitoring, and a willingness to change course as you find out more about where it’s leading.

That’s hard. It means making mistakes and, worse, admitting them. It means what psychologist Don Michael calls “error-embracing.” It takes a lot of courage to embrace your errors.

5. Honor and protect information.
A decision maker can’t respond to information he or she doesn’t have, can’t respond accurately to information that is inaccurate, can’t respond in a timely way to information that is late. I would guess that 99 percent of what goes wrong in systems goes wrong because of faulty or missing information.

If I could, I would add an Eleventh Commandment: Thou shalt not distort, delay, or sequester information. You can drive a system crazy by muddying its information streams. You can make a system work better with surprising ease if you can give it more timely, more accurate, more complete information.

For example, in 1986 new federal legislation required U.S. companies to report all chemical emissions from each of their plants. Through the Freedom of Information Act (from a systems point of view one of the most important laws in the nation), that information became a matter of public record. In July 1988 the first data on chemical emissions became available. The reported emissions were not illegal, but they didn’t look very good when they were published in local papers by enterprising reporters, who had a tendency to make lists of “the top ten local polluters.” That’s all that happened. There were no lawsuits, no required reductions, no fines, no penalties. But within two years chemical emissions nationwide (at least as reported, and presumably also in fact) had decreased by 40 percent. Some companies were launching policies to bring their emissions down by 90 percent, just because of the release of previously sequestered information.

6. Locate responsibility in the system.
Look for the ways the system creates its own behavior. Do pay attention to the triggering events, the outside influences that bring forth one kind of behavior from the system rather than another. Sometimes those outside events can be controlled (as in reducing the pathogens in drinking water to keep down incidences of infectious disease.) But sometimes they can’t. And sometimes blaming or trying to control the outside influence blinds one to the easier task of increasing responsibility within the system.

“Intrinsic responsibility” means that the system is designed to send feedback about the consequences of decision-making directly and quickly and compellingly to the decision-makers.

Dartmouth College reduced intrinsic responsibility when it took thermostats out of individual offices and classrooms and put temperature-control decisions under the guidance of a central computer. That was done as an energy-saving measure. My observation from a low level in the hierarchy is that the main consequence was greater oscillations in room temperature. When my office gets overheated now, instead of turning down the thermostat, I have to call an office across campus, which gets around to making corrections over a period of hours or days, and which often overcorrects, setting up the need for another phone call. One way of making that system more, rather than less responsible, might have been to let professors keep control of their own thermostats and charge them directly for the amount of energy they use. (Thereby privatizing a commons!).

Designing a system for intrinsic responsibility could mean, for example, requiring all towns or companies that emit wastewater into a stream to place their intake pipe downstream from their outflow pipe. It could mean that neither insurance companies nor public funds should pay for medical costs resulting from smoking or from accidents in which a motorcycle rider didn’t wear a helmet or a car rider didn’t fasten the seat belt. It could mean Congress would no longer be allowed to legislate rules from which it exempts itself.

7. Make feedback policies for feedback systems.
President Jimmy Carter had an unusual ability to think in feedback terms and to make feedback policies. Unfortunately he had a hard time explaining them to a press and public that didn’t understand feedback.

He suggested, at a time when oil imports were soaring, that there be a tax on gasoline proportional to the fraction of U.S. oil consumption that had to be imported. If imports continued to rise the tax would rise, until it suppressed demand and brought forth substitutes and reduced imports. If imports fell to zero, the tax would fall to zero.

The tax never got passed.

Carter was also trying to deal with a flood of illegal immigrants from Mexico. He suggested that nothing could be done about that immigration as long as there was a great gap in opportunity and living standards between the U.S. and Mexico. Rather than spending money on border guards and barriers, he said, we should spend money helping to build the Mexican economy, and we should continue to do so until the immigration stopped.

That never happened either.

You can imagine why a dynamic, self-adjusting system cannot be governed by a static, unbending policy. It’s easier, more effective, and usually much cheaper to design policies that change depending on the state of the system. Especially where there are great uncertainties, the best policies not only contain feedback loops, but meta-feedback loops–loops that alter, correct, and expand loops. These are policies that design learning into the management process.

8. Pay attention to what is important, not just what is quantifiable.
Our culture, obsessed with numbers, has given us the idea that what we can measure is more important than what we can’t measure. You can look around and make up your own mind about whether quantity or quality is the outstanding characteristic of the world in which you live.

If something is ugly, say so. If it is tacky, inappropriate, out of proportion, unsustainable, morally degrading, ecologically impoverishing, or humanly demeaning, don’t let it pass. Don’t be stopped by the “if you can’t define it and measure it, I don’t have to pay attention to it” ploy. No one can precisely define or measure justice, democracy, security, freedom, truth, or love. No one can precisely define or measure any value. But if no one speaks up for them, if systems aren’t designed to produce them, if we don’t speak about them and point toward their presence or absence, they will cease to exist.

9. Go for the good of the whole.
Don’t maximize parts of systems or subsystems while ignoring the whole. As Kenneth Boulding once said, Don’t go to great trouble to optimize something that never should be done at all. Aim to enhance total systems properties, such as creativity, stability, diversity, resilience, and sustainability–whether they are easily measured or not.

As you think about a system, spend part of your time from a vantage point that lets you see the whole system, not just the problem that may have drawn you to focus on the system to begin with. And realize, that, especially in the short term, changes for the good of the whole may sometimes seem to be counter to the interests of a part of the system. It helps to remember that the parts of a system cannot survive without the whole. The long term interests of your liver require the long term health of your body, and the long term interests of sawmills require the long-term health of forests.

10. Expand time horizons.
The official time horizon of industrial society doesn’t extend beyond what will happen after the next election or beyond the payback period of current investments. The time horizon of most families still extends farther than that–through the lifetimes of children or grandchildren. Many Native American cultures actively spoke of and considered in their decisions the effects upon the seventh generation to come. The longer the operant time horizon, the better the chances for survival.

In the strict systems sense there is no long-term/short-term distinction. Phenomena at different time-scales are nested within each other. Actions taken now have some immediate effects and some that radiate out for decades to come. We experience now the consequences of actions set in motion yesterday and decades ago and centuries ago.

When you’re walking along a tricky, curving, unknown, surprising, obstacle-strewn path, you’d be a fool to keep your head down and look just at the next step in front of you. You’d be equally a fool just to peer far ahead and never notice what’s immediately under your feet. You need to be watching both the short and the long term–the whole system.

11. Expand thought horizons.
Defy the disciplines. In spite of what you majored in, or what the textbooks say, or what you think you’re an expert at, follow a system wherever it leads. It will be sure to lead across traditional disciplinary lines. To understand that system, you will have to be able to learn from–while not being limited by–economists and chemists and psychologists and theologians. You will have to penetrate their jargons, integrate what they tell you, recognize what they can honestly see through their particular lenses, and discard the distortions that come from the narrowness and incompleteness of their lenses. They won’t make it easy for you.

Seeing systems whole requires more than being “interdisciplinary,” if that word means, as it usually does, putting together people from different disciplines and letting them talk past each other. Interdisciplinary communication works only if there is a real problem to be solved, and if the representatives from the various disciplines are more committed to solving the problem than to being academically correct. They will have to go into learning mode, to admit ignorance and be willing to be taught, by each other and by the system.

It can be done. It’s very exciting when it happens.

12. Expand the boundary of caring.
Living successfully in a world of complex systems means expanding not only time horizons and thought horizons; above all it means expanding the horizons of caring. There are moral reasons for doing that, of course. And if moral arguments are not sufficient, then systems thinking provides the practical reasons to back up the moral ones. The real system is interconnected. No part of the human race is separate either from other human beings or from the global ecosystem. It will not be possible in this integrated world for your heart to succeed if your lungs fail, or for your company to succeed if your workers fail, or for the rich in Los Angeles to succeed if the poor in Los Angeles fail, or for Europe to succeed if Africa fails, or for the global economy to succeed if the global environment fails.

As with everything else about systems, most people already know about the interconnections that make moral and practical rules turn out to be the same rules. They just have to bring themselves to believe that which they know.

13. Celebrate complexity.
Let’s face it, the universe is messy. It is nonlinear, turbulent and chaotic. It is dynamic. It spends its time in transient behavior on its way to somewhere else, not in mathematically neat equilibria. It self-organizes and evolves. It creates diversity, not uniformity. That’s what makes the world interesting, that’s what makes it beautiful, and that’s what makes it work.

There’s something within the human mind that is attracted to straight lines and not curves, to whole numbers and not fractions, to uniformity and not diversity, and to certainties and not mystery. But there is something else within us that has the opposite set of tendencies, since we ourselves evolved out of and are shaped by and structured as complex feedback systems. Only a part of us, a part that has emerged recently, designs buildings as boxes with uncompromising straight lines and flat surfaces. Another part of us recognizes instinctively that nature designs in fractals, with intriguing detail on every scale from the microscopic to the macroscopic. That part of us makes Gothic cathedrals and Persian carpets, symphonies and novels, Mardi Gras costumes and artificial intelligence programs, all with embellishments almost as complex as the ones we find in the world around us.

14. Hold fast to the goal of goodness.
Examples of bad human behavior are held up, magnified by the media, affirmed by the culture, as typical. Just what you would expect. After all, we’re only human. The far more numerous examples of human goodness are barely noticed. They are Not News. They are exceptions. Must have been a saint. Can’t expect everyone to behave like that.

And so expectations are lowered. The gap between desired behavior and actual behavior narrows. Fewer actions are taken to affirm and instill ideals. The public discourse is full of cynicism. Public leaders are visibly, unrepentantly, amoral or immoral and are not held to account. Idealism is ridiculed. Statements of moral belief are suspect. It is much easier to talk about hate in public than to talk about love.

We know what to do about eroding goals. Don’t weigh the bad news more heavily than the good. And keep standards absolute.


This is quite a list. Systems thinking can only tell us to do these things. It can’t do them for us.

And so we are brought to the gap between understanding and implementation. Systems thinking by itself cannot bridge that gap. But it can lead us to the edge of what analysis can do and then point beyond–to what can and must be done by the human spirit.

Source: http://donellameadows.org/archives/dancing-with-systems

Monday, January 14, 2019

Active learning approach

As the paradigm shifts towards learner-centered approaches to instruction, active learning has gained increased attention in higher education circles. You may have even seen images of classrooms that have undergone extensive renovation to become “active learning classrooms.” But what is active learning and how does it support student success?
Active learning, as the name suggests, is an instructional strategy where students take an active role their own learning, participating in activities and, reflecting on their learning.Students are fully engaged in the learning process rather than being passive participants. “Active Learning” is, in short, anything that students do in a classroom other than merely passively listening to an instructor’s lecture. This includes everything from listening practices which help the students to absorb what they hear, to short writing exercises in which students react to lecture material, to complex group exercises in which students apply course material to “real life” situations and/or to new problems. (Paulson and Faust)Active learning can take many forms but generally involves four basic elements which can take place individually, in pairs, or in small or collaborative groups. The inclusion of these four elements make active learning especially well suited to interdisciplinary studies. The four elements include:
  • talking and listening
  • writing
  • reading
  • and reflecting
Research indicates active learning works because it involves the active construction of knowledge by the learner. Additionally, learners are more likely to learn when they are with others rather than in isolation. There are a growing number of sites on the Internet with information on active learning strategies. However working in teams to solve a problem, or collaborating on a project, is not enough. What makes active learning more effective than traditional lecture-based instruction is not the activity alone, but how students engage in the task mentally. “Active learning is most effective when the experience supports students to interact with and reflect on the subject matter in substantive ways.”(Cerbin, 2009)
A popular misconception is that active learning can only occur in face-to-face learning environments. Active learning can also take place in large enrollment courses, hybrid courses, and with a little creativity, in online courses. The key takeaway is that in preparing instruction faculty should assess students’ prior knowledge and create learning tasks that engage students in the process of thinking. Read more about Active Learning here:

Global Platform


We support youth networks, movements, organisations and individuals who promote the agenda of progressive youth-led change.

Global Platforms is a worldwide network of training hubs for youth empowerment and activism. We train and inspire young people to be the creators of social and political change.

Global Platforms is ActionAid’s network for youth-led activism. We support movements, youth networks, organisations and individuals who promote progressive social, political and economic change around the world.

Through capacity building and support to various youth-led initiatives, we seek to promote young people as drivers of change towards a more just, sustainable and democratic world.

Link: https://www.globalplatforms.org/

Monday, December 17, 2018

Notes from Ms. Hai Yen

By Quach Thanh Thien

Thanks chi Hai Yen for inviting me and your awaking sharing sessons as well as our 2hrs deep talk in the bus. There are some Key Takeaway from today lesson:

The door of students have to be opened otherwise we can not go into them to teach, talk or change anything. To make it happens we have to have growth mindset, emotional approach and role model.

For different students with different learning style, we should figure out what works best for them or at least, try to diversify learning approaches in one lesson from media with the involement of 6 senses, movement, learn on context (storytelling, play a play,...) or ask to repeat...

Instead of focus too much on the weaknesses to change them, why dont we concentrate more on the strengths to develop it. Then somehow, the weaknesses will fade out and disappear.

Human behaviour is driven by emotions, so it is extremely important to understand and manage emotions.

Intrinsic motivation vs external motivation. Growth mindset vs Deficit mindset.

"We judge when we dont understand" You can not hate anyone after you know their whole story.

Our childhood and childhood trauma play crucial role on shaping who we are. Understand them help us understand our people more.

Monday, October 29, 2018

The Human Library


The Human Library™ is designed to build a positive framework for conversations that can challenge stereotypes and prejudices through dialogue.

The Human Library is a place where real people are on loan to readers.

A place where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered.

The Human Library or “Menneskebiblioteket” as it is called in Danish, was developed in Copenhagen in the spring of 2000 as a project for Roskilde Festival by Ronni Abergel and his brother Dany and colleagues Asma Mouna and Christoffer Erichsen.

The original event was open eight hours a day for four days straight and featured over fifty different titles. The broad selection of books provided readers with ample choice to challenge their stereotypes and so they did. More than a thousand readers took advantage leaving books, librarians, organisers and readers stunned at the impact of the Human Library.

Once upon a time in Copenhagen, Denmark. There was a young and idealistic youth organisation called “Stop The Violence”.

This non-governmental youth movement was self initiated by the youngsters Dany Abergel, Asma Mouna, Christoffer Erichsen and Ronni Abergel from Copenhagen after a mutual friend was stabbed in the nightlife (1993). The brutal attack on their friend, who luckily survived, made the group decide to try and do something about the problem. To raise awareness and use peer group education to mobilize danish youngsters against violence. In a few years time the organization had 30.000 members all over the country.

In 2000 Stop The Violence was encouraged by then festival director, Mr. Leif Skov, to develop some activities for Roskilde Festival. Events that would put focus on anti-violence, encourage dialogue and help to build positive relations among the festival visitors. The Human Library was born, as a challenge to the crowds of Northern Europes biggest summer festival.

One of the main concerns of the creators inventors was what would happen if people would not get the point? Or if the audience just simply did not want to be challenged on their prejudices? Well given that there was a total of 75 books available, the conclusion was that with so many different people together in a rather small space for a long time, then they are bound to start reading each other if no readers come. And so it was to become. Before the first reader could take out a book, the talks where already going on extensively and the feeling of something very special was in the air. The policeman sitting there speaking with the graffiti writer. The politician in discussions with the youth activist and the football fan in a deep chat with the feminist. It was a win-win situation and has been ever since.

One of the creators, Ronni Abergel, realising the potential of the idea, decided after the first event, to begin to work to promote the idea to potential new organizers. Since then he has founded the Human Library Organization, produced a guide to new organizers with the Nordic Council of Ministers and the Council of Europe. Travelled to many countries to help train new local organizers, plan launch events and present the idea to interested organizations and public authorities. Today it is estimated that the Human Library has been presented in more than 7o countries around the world, most of them in partnership with local organizers.

Further to having good partners to realize the project. The Human Library has another advantage to organizers around the world. Its not very expensive and can be organized no matter how big or small your budget is. The biggest ressource needed to facilitate a Human Library is time and idle hands to do the tasks. And due to this great quality it has been possible to stage events in a wide range of countries and with very little funding. This feature has made it possible to present Human Libraries in Romania, Iceland, Finland, Norway, Italy, Holland, Slovenia, Belgium, Portugal and Australia – to mention a few.

Theory of Change

Setting up a Theory of Change is like making a roadmap that outlines the steps by which you plan to achieve your goal. It helps you define whether your work is contributing towards achieving the impact you envision, and if there is another way that you need to consider as well.

The Theory of Change tool not only helps to clearly articulate and connect your work to your bigger goal, it also allows you to spot potential risks in your plan by sharing the underlying assumptions in each step. In large organisations, when there may be several projects running simultaneously, the Theory of Change helps to map these different projects first and then consider how they link and relate to each other.

This tool can also aid in aligning team members to the larger end goal, and help them understand their role in achieving it.

Theory of Changeb

Start by noting down the main problem you want to solve, and also your long term vision on the change you want to accomplish. Then complete the other boxes, such as your key audience and your entry point to reach that audience. Try to be as specific as possible because it will help you to come up with more effective actions that you can take.

Work outwards from your defining problem, and towards your long-term impact. Write down the people that are most affected by the issue that you’ve identified and who you hope to help with your work – this could be a small community group or a large organisation. Then think about where to start your work, you may need to find a place, a person or a thing that will be your first port of call. Try to think of some practical steps that you can take to make changes – like creating partnerships, or making tweaks to existing processes. Try to keep these as action-oriented as possible.

And finally, what would the immediate results or outcomes be? These could be tangible results that you can show to other people to clarify how your work is making a difference. List the key outcomes that your activity would lead to: these are the preconditions that you need to realise your vision.

As you fill each of the boxes in the worksheet, it is critical to also reflect on the key assumptions that underpin these steps in your work. This may help you to spot potential risks or connections between the different projects.