Positive Impact Blog

Thought provoking insights for change makers


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Planetary resilience. What is it and why does it matter?

When it comes to resilience, what good does it do a single business or industry to prevail if it does so at the expense of other sub-systems or even the bigger system itself? I’ve shared my views in Planetary Resilience on PwC’s Resilience site: http://pwc.to/12PscYV

What are your thoughts on that?

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Trans-disciplinary learning

The common thread among all of these learning environments is the way a subject is approached and therefore what skills are being developed. The innovative thought lies in fundamentally transforming single discipline teaching into trans-disciplinary learning. Rather than teaching marketing, finance, strategy, human resources separately, students will be looking at finding solutions to existing and emerging environmental, societal and economic challenges. Such dilemmas include water scarcity, pandemics, hunger, migration, social support for the elders, climate change, ocean acidification, CO2 emission control, etc.

This approach is fundamentally different than adding a bit of ethics and sustainability into an existing curriculum. Such approaches merely bolt-on responsible and sustainable considerations to a single discipline foundation; what we need is a full transformation of the curriculum to build-in these notions, turning around education by 180 degrees. As a consequence, subject knowledge is acquired predominantly in the context of a real problem, enabling students to anchor it in real stories.

Trans-disciplinary learning is based on the idea that critical competences such as holistic and divergent thinking, systemic understanding, consideration of multiple perspectives and integral decision-making, are critical for future leaders and need to be trained and developed above and beyond transmitting subject expertise. More explicitly, we believe that teaching disciplinary expertise in isolation may well have been the cause for numerous problems the economic system is currently facing. Developing an understanding for unintended side-effects and consequences in the larger system of any given decision in a specific domain requires fluency with systemic thinking and ability to dismantling complexity.

Rising to the challenge of effectively addressing and resolving global and societal challenges requires an understanding of human and societal developmental stages (i.e. from what perspective do stakeholders look at a problem?) and an ease to navigate between the most diverse fields of expertise (hi-tech, sociology, gen-tech, philosophy, psychology, neuro-science, medicine, architecture, engineering, bio-tech, etc.). Leaders for a sustainable future have learned to work with experts of these fields and are able to build bridges and lead a group of subject experts towards sustainable solutions for the world.

An important element of trans-disciplinary learning is the inclusion of relevant stakeholders in the class discussion and practical field work on global issues. This approach assumes that problems can no longer be resolved by applying single-disciplinary perspective. Such a collaborative approach ensures one of the most critical leadership skills for a sustainable future: fluency and ease in considering and shifting between multiple perspectives.


An in-society collaboratory in South Africa

(Real-time update from South Africa)

Dr. Arnold Smit (University of Stellenbosch) and I facilitated an in-society collaboratory with six representatives of the Kajamandi township here in Stellenbosch. Kajamandi is the poorest township in South Africa, in a very wealthy context of neighboring townships of Stellenbosch. Besides huge challenges in poverty and crime reduction and broadening access to education, Kajamandi faces the consequences of the fast spreading agricultural strikes and related violence that is currently keeping the entire country awake. The situation was important enough that it was considered unsafe for us to enter Kajamandi. As a result six representatives from Kajamandi came to see us at the Spier Winery for a three-hour world café and collaboratory session aimed to better understand key issues and challenges of that township. The sharing and storytelling were very profound and moving and allowed a deep immersion and understanding of very different perspectives of these highly complex challenges.

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