For The Love OF Learning #59 – The Ecoversities Network – 31 May 2016

This text and video comes from For the Love of Learning. Voices of the Alternative Education Movement. It is an interview made in 2016 about Ecoversities. We invite you to listen to this memory of this beautiful journey together. 


What are ecoversitities? Ecoversitities are a diverse network that both critiques existing education systems that are broken and cultivates new practices to regenerate ecological and cultural ecosystems. This is a movement, slowly building all over the world. They are self described as a network of ‘eco-versities’—people, organizations and communities who are reclaiming their knowledge systems and cultural imaginations to restore and re-envision learning processes that are meaningful and relevant to the needs of their times.

Then the question must be asked, what does this mean in practice? With the focus on transforming learning into a process through liberation, a group of like minded educators, activists, artists, cultural collaborators and walk outs came together for a 6 day unconference in Portugal last year to answer this question.

The ecoversisities gathering kicked off through a series of self-organized workshops, sessions and collaborations, which avoided reproducing a typical academic gathering. According to one participant, “What happened in these spaces wasn’t always easy or comfortable since learning often comes through ruptures or being faced with the unknown and unfamiliar. But it was definitely transformative by enlivening our ways of thinking, feeling and relating.”

Tonight we speak with a wonderful and inspiring panel of these collaborators. Together we will examine what ecoversities are, and how ecoversities can touch all of our lives.

For more, please read:

Are eco-versities the future for higher education?

Manish Jain

Manish Jain is deeply committed to regenerating our diverse knowledge systems and cultural imaginations. He has served for the past 17 years as Coordinator and Co-Founder of Shikshantar: The Peoples’ Institute for Rethinking Education and Development based in Udaipur, India and is co-founder of the Swaraj University, Creativity Adda, Learning Societies Unconference, Walkouts-Walkon network, and Udaipur as a Learning City in India. He is a featured speaker/advisory member of the Economics of Happiness network for localization. He recently helped to launch the Ecoversities Network. He has edited several books on Vimukt Shiksha (liberating learning) on themes such as learning societies, unlearning, gift culture, community media, and tools for deep dialogue.

Prior to this, Manish worked as one of the principal team members of the UNESCO Learning Without Frontiers global initiative. He has also been a consultant to UNICEF, World Bank, USAID in Africa, South Asia and former Soviet Union. Manish also worked as an investment banker with Morgan Stanley. He has been trying to unlearn his Master’s degree in Education from Harvard University and a B.A. in Economics, International Development and Political Philosophy from Brown University. He and his wife Vidhi have been unschooling themselves with their 13 year old daughter, Kanku. Manish is passionate about urban organic farming, filmmaking, simulation gaming, bicycling, group facilitation and slow food cooking.

Udi Mandel

Udi is the Professor of Communication at EARTH University in Costa Rica for first and second-year students and mentors third years in their Communication projects. Udi’s background is in Social Anthropology (PhD Goldsmiths College, London), International Development (MSc University of Bristol) and Fine Art (MA Edinburgh University). Over the last 12 years, he taught in a number of universities, mainly in the UK. His interests are in the area of transformative and experiential learning in higher education and the role of the university in engaging with the serious problems we face in the world today. To this end he is the co-creator of the Enlivened Learning project – an initiative to learn from and connect higher education places around the world grounded in transformative learning based on indigenous knowledges, social and ecological movements. For Udi learning/teaching are not only ways of knowing more about ourselves, each other and the world we live in, but they are also transformative practices that encourage more caring ways of being and relating. Udi is also a documentary filmmaker and teaches a range of communication tools and approaches that strengthens students’ skills and confidence in bringing about a more sustainable future.

Traian Brumă

Traian is a Learning Architect, on a mission to create a new kind of university. He values freedom, courage, kindness and ice cream.

Traian co-founded The Alternative University – a small (150 students) freedom-centered university in Bucharest, Romania. A british friend had this to say about it:  “A university RUN by students and ex students. Where there are no qualifications. People direct their own learning. Everyone’s a student and everyone’s a teacher. A place built from the love of learning. A place exuding hope that we — the people — can take control of our destiny.”

In 2015, before leaving Romania in August, Traian coordinated the joining of forces for starting Entrepreneurship Academy – a formal university focused on entrepreneurship.

After 12 years,Traian decided to take a break from (social) entrepreneurship. At the moment, he is traveling the world in search of inspiration, wisdom and allies to get his work to the next level. Traian will write a book called Break Free From University.

Genaro Vásquez

Genaro Vasquez is a agroecologist, small-scale farmer, supermodel, and co-founder of the Ayuuk Institute of the Intercultural Higher Education.Originating from the indigenous community of Santa Maria Tlahuitoltepec Mixe, Oaxaca. Agroecology engineer by Chapingo and Master of Agroecology at the University of Cordoba, Spain. He developed an academic stay at the Pontificia Universidad Javeriana in Colombia and is a teacher in Research and Development of Education at the Universidad Iberoamericana, Mexico City. He received the National UVM Award for Social Development for their outstanding work on sustainability. Co-founder of the Intercultural Indigenous University Ayuuk, Oaxaca.Currently he is working with the organization Integral Innovation Center for Rural Development Kukoj in the development of agro-ecological processes of community projects with farmers and authorities.

Victoria Haro

Bachelor’s Degree in law at the University of the ITAM and holds a Doctorate Degree in Economics from the University of Columbia in New York, specializing in Economic Analysis. She was a full time professor at the ITAM from 1996 to 2004.
From 2004 to 2006 she served as a consultant for the Municipal Government in Valle de Bravo, where she coordinated the formation of the Municipal Plan for Urban Development and promoted, in 2006, the declaration of a Natural Protected Area that includes the majority of of Valle de Bravo and 7 other Municipalities. In 2004 she was a founding partner of Corteza, negotiating the creation of the Trust Fund Valle de Bravo, that relies on Federal, State and private funds. In 2006 she enroles into the State of Mexico Government, where she heads, until 2008, the Coordination of Special Projects of the Lake Commission  Valle de Bravo Amanalco, whose objective is to promote and manage the environmental policies of the lake in Valle de Bravo. She has been the Academic Director of the CIAMA/UMA project since 2008.


Lainie Liberti

As always, you can find out more about your host, Lainie Liberti at her website and the alternative education & world schooling project she runs with her teenage son at:  ProjectWorldSchool.comYou can also connect with her on twitter @ilainie & facebook.

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