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Upskilling for Post Growth Futures, Together

by Donnie Maclurcan on 3rd December 2013

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screenshot of dungeons and dragons computer game

When I was seven, I was given an Apple Macintosh in the hope that Mavis Beacon would teach me how to touch type. It was an unreasonable expectation, for I was actually more interested in escaping to the fantasy lands of computer games such as Dungeons and Dragons, and Lode Runner. Yet, these games had a lasting, unexpected impact on my thirst for learning. In playing Dungeons and Dragons, I remember being particularly excited each time my archetypal characters would gain ‘experience points’ that enabled them to upgrade their abilities.

I still feel that childlike thrill each time I learn something new. It’s the giddy rush that comes from the outcome of a simple transaction: effort goes in, new skill comes out. And as the acquisition of knowledge or skills opens new doors of possibility, the world around me continuously changes; like reaching the next level on a computer game. What’s more, I’ve discovered I get the same rush watching others learn, and that my experiences are enriched when I participate in learning alongside others.

As my work has expanded to explore how humans can flourish within the planet’s biophysical limits, I’ve also become painfully aware that in some aspects of my life, I’m not very well-equipped to flourish in futures beyond economic growth. In retrospect, my formal schooling gave me a good base in certain skills such as public speaking, writing and analysis, but did nothing to prepare me in other areas of life, such as growing food, relating to animals and building things. I was being prepared for labor specialization, often at the expense of learning practical skills that will matter for us all in years to come. We are now heading into a time when generalists – people who can see the big picture and connect seemingly disparate skills and fields of knowledge – are needed just as much as specialists.

But the rising value of the generalist does not mean we each need to know how to do everything ourselves. Voids in our individual skill-sets are actually critical to building harmonious communities. As Bill Kauth and Zoe Alawan say, “We need each other, and we need to need each other”. Caroline Woolard of the New York City barter platform OurGoods elucidates this concept in sharing that, “When you take a class in a barter system you know the teacher needs you too”.

Thus, I recently found myself wondering, what range of skills might we collectively need in order to thrive in post growth futures? Or, if the Post Growth Institute were to develop a platform for ‘resilience training’, what existing efforts should we be promoting? What would we include were we to extend beyond traditional areas of sustainability reskilling such as growing food, building energy systems and learning techniques to effectively bring communities together?

Loosely sorted into nine categories, the list below contains areas of knowledge and skills I consider most important for collective thriving in a range of possible post growth futures. I’ve hyperlinked to explanations and guides for things that may be unfamiliar, and I acknowledge that certain skills, such as hunting, are justifiably not seen by everyone as necessary for human flourishing. In this sense, what would you add, change or remove?

Means of Learning and the Self

Community, Family and Leadership

  • Key lessons from human history
  • Asset-based community development
  • Running an ‘offers and needs market’
  • Relationship skills
  • Non-violent communication and conflict resolution
  • Diversity sensitivities (including GLBTQI, cultural, religious, disability, age, indigenous/First Nation)
  • Parenting and family dynamics
  • Dynamic teaching and group facilitation
  • Circle work and other decision-making techniques
  • Confident public speaking
  • Singing in harmony and dancing together
  • How to read and play music
  • Holding and participating in sacred rituals
  • Improvisation theatre
  • Storytelling
  • Restorative justice
  • Fun cooperative games for children and communities (including outdoor and card games)
  • Sharing law
  • Effective campaigning and lobbying
  • Child honouring and protection (including an introduction to ADHD, child trauma and special needs)
  • Graphic facilitation
  • Conversational French/Spanish/Mandarin/Arabic
  • Archiving (sound, video, images, stories, items, documents)

Health

Food and Nature

Bushcraft

Building, Equipment and Vehicles

Urban-oriented Skills

Crafts and Making

Business

The above ‘kitchen sink’ list appears, at times, focused on individualistic approaches to self-sufficiency that are more about surviving than thriving. Yet resilient leadership has little to do with creating bullet-proof, invincible fortresses of individuals. It’s more about engaging with others in vulnerable ways that drive human connection. By sharing personal experiences we open up to greater sharing of passions, knowledge, skills and resources, as well as discovering more clearly what work remains to be done, both together and alone. What makes the entire system strong is in understanding that everyone has something to offer; that, as in nature, complimentary diversity within a community’s skill sets creates greater resilience.

Fortunately, it’s increasingly easy to locate places and means by which to seed and nurture new knowledge and skills. The Skillshare platform, for example, allows us to find ‘project-based classes anytime, anywhere’. Thousands of intensive, live-in programs, such as the one soon to be offered by the Gross National Happiness Centre in Bhutan, are springing up around the world. Other initiatives, such as the International Youth Initiative Program in Sweden and the Mycelium Learning Journey in the USA, seek to build skills alongside the incubation of a participant’s social innovation.

Sure, there are times when it’s important to learn things alone. It’s just that there is a great deal to be gained from more of our learning happening together, building shared resilience in the process. As Eric Brende, in his book documenting his time within Amish communities, notes, there is a powerful spin on an old proverb, rather than ‘many hands make light work’, it’s worth considering how ‘many hands make work light’.

This post was written by

avatar Donnie is a co-founder of the Post Growth Institute and an Affiliate Professor of Social Science at Southern Oregon University. He is presently writing two books: How on Earth? Flourishing in a Not-for-Profit World by 2050 and The Not-for-Profit Handbook.

Donnie has written 24 posts on Post Growth Institute. Contact Donnie

{ 30 comments }

avatar Anne-Marie Codur December 3, 2013 at 18:13

Thank you so much for this article Donnie! this is a GREAT list! I see some of the learning tools/skills as overlapping between categories… storytelling, music and dance are also in “Means of learning and the self”, and in health you have also all the holistic healing methods (Reiki for instance) and yoga is also a part of restorative health and health resilience…
as for organizational skills, I see cooperative organizations as empowering producers/users/consumers in all areas of businesses and services: users/citizens need to become stake holders in all decision-making processes, from businesses to politics – hyper-professionalized fields such as medicine, law, and education, will eventually open up to the cooperative model and let the users enter the decision-making scene – patients will be (are already to a large extent) co-healer of themselves along with the doctors/nurses/health practitioners, conflicts will be co-managed by citizens and legal practitioners (lawyers, judges,etc…) so that decision-making is not solely handled by a specialized corpus of “experts”, universities will disappear in their current form to be replaced by much more flexible structures – lectures will be taken online and students will meet in groups with or without instructors to co-learn through a Socratic approach, which is very much a “cooperative” of the thinking process… this transition towards a more “commonly-owned and managed” economy and society will require many of the skills that you have listed – negotiation skills and conflict resolution skills, as well as nonviolent communication skills, and team-building skills, which will have to be taught at an early age…anyway, I could go on and on… This is a great article! Thanks!

avatar Donnie Maclurcan December 11, 2013 at 13:54

Thanks Anne-Marie!

Yes, were these to be taught in an intensive course, for example, one might hope that the interconnection and overlap would be a characteristic noted throughout (especially after the training in systems thinking!).

In terms of participatory approaches to business, I think the sociocracy method listed above has incredible promise, especially via its ‘double-linking’ principle: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Double_linking.

Donnie

avatar Camille Duran December 4, 2013 at 12:20

Great post Donnie, it feels good to look at these items from this perspective and I shall brainstorm a few ideas. It is interesting to see how tribes get organized nowadays – in the digital space in particular – and how knowledge transfer is becoming the backbone of their interactions. Will follow!

avatar Donnie Maclurcan December 11, 2013 at 15:45

Thanks Camille!

avatar Mike McCosker December 4, 2013 at 15:07

Hi Donnie,
Great to see your thoughful input again. I really enjoyed the article. The list is comprehensive and will take some thoughful digestion to add to. One early suggestion; while you have a comprehensive list for food and nature and for health, there is a very important link that would benefit from special attention. My suggestion is a topic for “The link between Vitality in Health and Vitality in nature”. This should join up some of this knowledge.
I also see a larger underlying issue of personal (and larger humanity) connection with and place on earth. It is a personal underlying belief system that we are somehow disconnected from our natural environment that has allowed us to practice modern medicine and chemical agriculture. To somehow believe that nature and our own natural health is somehow flawed, and we have to fix it, then leads to a practice of chemically suppressing parts of the system to get a “better outcome”. This is both eveident in farming and health.
If we start from a position of our connectedness to all, and realise that what we do to any part of the system we do to ourselves, then we are more careful in our approach. It is my personal belief that universal intelligence flows through all life. We do not have to “fix” anything. We can however study and learn how to interact with our natural environment in a way that builds vitality and health within the whole system. If our medical and agricultural research had been conducted from this basis over the last 200 years we would be in a very different world now.
Thank you for your ongoing contribution to a higher level of understanding.

avatar Donnie Maclurcan December 11, 2013 at 16:01

Hi Mike,

Your suggestion about adding something on “The link between Vitality in Health and Vitality in nature” is a good one. In fact, a friend, Robin Clark, recently published a wonderful book on this topic, called ‘The Tree of Life‘.

Thanks!

Donnie

avatar Ethan Gans-Morse December 4, 2013 at 15:59

Brilliant work as always, Donnie!

avatar Donnie Maclurcan December 11, 2013 at 16:02

Thanks Ethan!

Donnie

avatar Andrew Cowan December 5, 2013 at 03:24

Really enjoyed the article and now plan to go back and follow the links. My comment is simply a practical / technical one. It would be really good if the valuable links included within the article opened in a new window, so it was possible to keep the original article active on the computer, while the reader takes a side journey through the links that inevitably multiply by following those within the article itself.

Thank you also for introducing me to the idea of Post Growth Futures. This makes entire sense to me and reflects my own journey in which my family and I are moving to Bulgaria to set up a small organic farm where we can be self sufficient : follow our experiences at https://www.facebook.com/ecolivingbulgaria I am also planning to share more on a blog which can be found at http://www.ecolivingbulgaria.com

avatar Donnie Maclurcan December 11, 2013 at 16:10

Thanks Andrew,

Best wishes for the establishment of your farm in Bulgaria. Do please keep the Post Growth Institute updated of your journeys. Perhaps a guest post on this blog some time?

Donnie

avatar Joshua Nelson December 5, 2013 at 09:32

Andrew,

Thanks for the input, however it’s considered bad practice to force a new window on links for a few reasons. First, most users don’t want that option forced on them. Second, in the new window the history is cleared and the user can’t hit the back button to get back to our site.

Luckily, 99.9% of browsers have a built-in function for you to do this – for PC users you hold CTRL button and click the link, for MAC you hold the Command button and click. Thus, by not defaulting to a new window on our links we give the option to the reader.

Hope that helps!
Joshua

avatar katharine December 6, 2013 at 02:39

Thanks for a great to-do list for the new year- both as individuals and communities. I too will be following the links, and sharing with our transition community in Norway.

avatar Donnie Maclurcan December 11, 2013 at 16:12

Thanks for your ongoing support Katharine!

Donnie

avatar greg gerritt December 6, 2013 at 02:48

I would remove ploughing from the list as it just turns soil upside down.

avatar Donnie Maclurcan December 11, 2013 at 16:40

Hi Greg,

Point noted. I’ve since found this article that highlights both the advantages and considerations (read: disadvantages) of ploughing. Perhaps ‘soil conditioning’ is more appropriate, e.g., Mollison’s suggested approach.

Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

Donnie

avatar Erik Assadourian December 6, 2013 at 07:17

While it doesn’t come across as much in early video game versions of D&D, another key lesson from this classic role-playing game is that no single adventurer can survive without the complementary skills of others in their group: a fighter needs a healer and wizard to help with the challenges ahead. The same goes with our degrowth future–no single individual will be able to learn all of these skills but networked groups of individuals may be able to–in resilient enough combinations to help their communities survive even as economic and ecological systems change rapidly around them. Thanks for creating such a long list of potential skills one can devote their time to learning and spend their experience points on!

avatar Donnie Maclurcan December 11, 2013 at 16:58

Eric,

Thanks so much for your comments. What a great reminder about our interdependence! Look forward to connecting more with the Club for Degrowth, in the months to come.

Donnie

avatar redhead juli December 6, 2013 at 15:02

Donnie, great stimulus for all. Especially for those of us involved in a formal teaching situation. Particularly especially for those of us involved with children. For they are the ones who tend to have least say in what , when, how, with whom, where and why they are learning. In communities such as ours at Kinma School in Sydney, Australia, this list adds to the beautiful broth bubbling on the side of what ought to be learnt for a community’s healthy functioning. It serves us all to pay heed to that other equally vital broth- the broth that is unique in each individual …. which you touch on in your first category including ‘self’: namely valuing the uniqueness and originality that comes with freedom to choose your learning. How to balance an individual’s freedom to learn with the community’s need for learnings makes for juicy dialogue.

avatar Donnie Maclurcan December 11, 2013 at 17:11

Thanks Juli!

Keep up the incredibly important and powerful work you are all doing at Kinma School. You’re a shining example to us all.

Donnie

avatar Yann Cramer December 8, 2013 at 09:48

Interesting skillset for increased self-reliance, but what exactly is post-growth specific in this?

avatar Donnie Maclurcan December 11, 2013 at 17:31

Hi Yann,

Perhaps it’s not so much a question of whether this list is post growth specific, as compared to what skills we will collectively need in the imminent post growth futures ahead.

That said, I believe that the development of these skills go hand-in-hand with a) a level of consciousness resulting in an understanding of the need to develop thriving futures beyond economic growth; and b) efforts to re-localise economies.

Donnie

avatar Sharon December 13, 2013 at 04:11

Great list. It was good for me to see so many I’ve identified over the last decade to work on. I would add two under crafts 1) spinning, and 2) basketry.

Your item of singing in harmony brought a smile. My ancestors on my Mom’s side were really into Sacred Harp singing, an almost dying art. My Mom can still pitch the family for a sing and one of my priced items is a tape of the family singing not long before my maternal grandfather died. Singing together works on so many levels!

avatar Donnie Maclurcan December 13, 2013 at 08:07

Thanks Sharon for sharing your story, and your suggestions.

Donnie

avatar katharine December 13, 2013 at 11:02

As a teacher and curriculum coordinator, I am mulling over the role of education in the development of post growth skills, knowledge, and understandings. Children today are not being prepared for a post growth future through the schools we have- I would be very interested in working with others toward a post growth curriculum, starting with primary age children ( I hesitate to even use the word ‘school’), and to take part in a discussion of the systems, methods, and mind-sets that need to change in education as well.

avatar Caleb December 16, 2013 at 13:18

It is important that in no matter what industry or profession that we never stop learning and growing.

avatar katharine February 2, 2014 at 06:51

I thought of this blog when I saw this:
http://valhallamovement.com/Back-to-Basics
Valhalla is an earthship greenhouse building community in Canada. They have started this crowdfunding for sustainability projects. cool.

avatar Donnie Maclurcan February 2, 2014 at 10:16

Thanks so much for the lead Katherine – will drop them a line immediately :-)

avatar katharine March 22, 2014 at 23:18

Donnie, have you seen this? I am still looking for, and at, models for post growth schools- let me know if you see anything! This is a ‘A pattern language for living communities’, out of Evergreen State College.

http://www.scn.org/sphere/patterns/pdc-02.html

Katharine

avatar Donnie Maclurcan March 23, 2014 at 14:01

I hadn’t, thanks Katharine. In this light, you might be interested in connect with Tim Winton of Pattern Dynamics?

avatar katharine March 23, 2014 at 14:22

thanks, I’ll look that up

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