A Serious Possible-ist!

Hans RoslingRecently I came across several presentations by Hans Rosling, Professor of International Health at the Karolinska Institute in Sweden and Director of the Gapminder Foundation.

His analyses of global trends are based firmly on statistical data … and he demonstrates that, contrary to popular myth, the world is NOT going to hell in a handbasket! :)

Rosling says he is neither an optimist nor a pessimist – he’s a “very, very serious possible-ist.”

I really like that!

Watch the video below, visit the Gapminder website – or see links to more of his presentations in the recent December issue of our Starlink newsletter.


Holding the Centre

I’ve just finished reading Iran Awakening, by Shirin Ebadi, winner of the 2003 Nobel Peace Prize.

Subtitled A Memior of Revolution and Hope, it is an inspiring read!

Iran_Awakening_Shirin_EbadiAs I read, I was struck by the way in which Shirin Ebadi ‘holds the centre’ – that sometimes painful space where we stand in the centre of contradictions and paradox, yet resist the always present temptation to ‘take sides’ – to retreat to the more ‘comfortable’ space of certainty that one ‘side’ is more correct or more true.

As a lawyer and a speaker, she works tirelessly in the name of justice and she is certainly ‘on the side’ of justice and fairness in all respects – that much is evident.

But, although she abhors the injustices done to people by the various governments of Iran as well as those perpetrated by US intervention in her country, she nevertheless manages to remain ‘at the centre’.
[Read more…]


How Many Times

Through the work Chris and I do, we have the privilege of hearing the stories of people from all kinds of places, spaces and backgrounds.

So often I am humbled by their wisdom, resilience, humour and strength – often under circumstances that could leave them bitter, bowed or defeated. And I feel honoured they have felt able to open their hearts and share their stories with us.

It’s a reminder in this busy, media-saturated world of ours that the most powerful stories are not necessarily those of the rich and famous.

How often do we give our time, our spirits and our hearts to listen – really listen – to the stories of others? Ordinary people, with extraordinary stories.

Here is a song from one of my favourite Aussie singer-songwriters, Judy Small, which asks much the same question.


How many times do they tell their tales to strangers,

Who turn away in silence and pretend they didn’t hear.

How many times do we throw away such chances,

Never knowing what we might have learned with open ears.

(From How Many Times, by Judy Small)


A Passionate Plea

Imagine ….

KeysYou enter an organisation and sign in. You’re given keys to hang around your neck or clip to your belt. There’s A Block, B Block, perhaps even H Block. You unlock each door as you enter and lock it again as you leave. Any infractions of the rules by the inmates mean they ‘go on report’.

It’s a prison or a juvenile justice centre, right?


It’s a large, modern high school.

And in some of the classrooms in these modern schools, teaching and learning are still following models that were in place over thirty years ago.

Sure, there are whiteboards instead of blackboards – but students still copy reams of notes from the board. The textbooks may now be in full glossy colour with new information – but many of them are being used in the same ways they were used all those years ago. All the students are doing the same thing at the same time from the same textbook.

Teacher-centred learning, policing of uniforms and ‘out of bounds’ areas, a focus on the rules and processes for detentions, suspensions and expulsions.

In these classrooms and schools, how are students engaged, connected and encouraged to experience a love of learning? How do teachers retain the ‘fire in the belly’ – the passion for their craft – and avoid falling victim to the ‘don’t smile till Easter’ brigade?

Where is the 21st Century learning? Where are multi-age classrooms, multi-ability learning, problem-solving, students being involved in decision-making about their own learning, self-reflection and self-assessment? Where are the creative uses of the wonderful new technology that’s available?

TeacherIt’s certainly out there! In many schools there are individual teachers who are inspiring their students. Who are reflecting, dreaming, collaborating, implementing fresh and exciting inititiatives. And there are students who are fully engaged and encouraged to become the best they can be.

And there are whole schools around the world doing things differently to make a very real difference for both students and teachers.

For example,  there’s Thembaletu Primary School in George, about 450 km from Cape Town in Africa, which has 25 teachers, 983 students –  and only 20 computers!  Here the Principal is leading the way in the use of technology, changing classroom practice and changing the face of learning for both teachers and students.

There are schools like Sherbrooke Community School, in Melbourne, Australia, where curriculum is negotiated with the students, there’s a whole-school meeting every morning that’s chaired and minuted by students, and student learning becomes increasingly self-directed as they go through the school.

Or  Heathside School in the UK, where the “Imagine Heathside” project involved all those in the school community in co-creating a better future.

So here’s my plea to all those teachers who are energizing our schools …

Wherever you are, shout out. Please tell your stories, and encourage your students to tell theirs. The world needs to hear your voices!

And please don’t let the pressures or constraints of ‘the system’ get you down or burn you out. Know that the work you are doing is appreciated and is making a difference.

Your experience, your skills and your wisdom are sorely needed today – perhaps more than ever.

We need you.

Our children and our young people need you.


Indra’s Net

Photo: Indra's Net. Copyright Doug Benner

Photo: Indra’s Net. Copyright Doug Benner (Click for larger image)

There’s a beautiful Hindu legend about the god Indra, who commissions an artisan to craft a vast net across the universe.

When the net is complete, at each junction Indra places a shining jewel – the facets of which reflect every other jewel in this cosmic network.

Each jewel represents a single atom, cell or life form in the Universe and all are intimately connected with one another. Any change in one jewel produces a change, however small, in all the others.

The legend also reminds me of a passage from Sinuhe the Egyptian, written by Mika Walthari in 1949:

For I, Sinuhe, am a human being. I have lived in everyone who existed before me and shall live in all who come after me. I shall live in human tears and laughter, in human sorrow and fear, in human goodness and wickedness, in justice and injustice, in weakness and strength. As a human being I shall live eternally in all mankind.

Both of these stories – a 3rd century metaphor and a post-WWII novel – resonate for me in relation to our modern, networked world.

As human beings we are all interconnected. Even a small change in one of us can ripple out through those connections to make changes in others.

Or, as Peter Block said more recently, we can “change the world, one conversation at a time”.


My thanks to Doug Benner for his kind permission to use the beautiful photograph above.