The Language of Human Thriving

In a TEDx talk, the late Peter Benson, a leader in the positive youth development movement, once said,

I like to ask adults: “What is your highest aspiration for our young?” 

Some interesting things happen.

No one has ever said, “This child of mine, my fondest wish is that they will ace statewide benchmark math and science test when they’re 16.”

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I’ve never heard anybody say, “Oh, my fondest wish is that this young person will help make America more competitive in the global economy.”

No, when you actually listen to people’s statements about their dreams for our kids, you hear a very different language. 

“Kids who experience joy, kids who are connected and engaged. Kids who fall in love with their life and all of life, kids with kindness, and generosity. Kids who are happy, kids who contribute.”

That is the language of human thriving.

The best, deepest learning facilitates personal and societal transformation.

We proposed a model to help young people to thrive by finding stepping stones from curiosity to career, building on Peter Benson’s work, as part of our work in Leadership Maine in 2012.

Gideon Rosenblatt: The engagement pyramid – connecting people and social change

From Gideon Rosenblatt – via Idealware and Groundwire:

Civic engagement can mean a lot of different things  – from the casual forwarding of a friend’s email to deep involvement on a board of directors. Some engagement is lightweight and some is deep, and that’s OK – we can’t expect everyone to have the same degree of interest in our mission.

In fact, having a mix of people with varying levels of interest and engagement is actually a good thing. Why? Because being effective at social change means being able to choose from a portfolio of strategies and tactics in a way that best maps to the specific conditions we’re facing at any given moment. Sometimes that’s lightweight communications from lots of people; sometimes is a well-timed phone call from a carefully cultivated relationship with a community leader.

The most effective social change organizations understand how to wield their portfolio of engagement tactics in Zen-like fashion; knowing just what kind of touch is called for to influence the outcomes of a particular decision. They also know how to meet people where they are at, and craft their calls to action appropriately so as to match the specific level of interest and commitment from each person they ask. These organizations also tend to have good processes for stewarding people toward ever higher levels of engagement in their mission.

Zoe Weil: The world becomes what we teach

From Zoe Weil:

At the end of this school year approximately three million students will graduate from U.S. high schools. They will not be ready for what awaits them. These are the students who have passed their No Child Left Behind tests year after year. They are verbally, mathematically, and technologically literate. They have been successful at meeting the requirements of our educational system. Yet, for the most part, even our highest performing graduates are unprepared for the important roles they must play in today’s world…

We must embrace a new and bigger purpose for education: to provide students with what they need to be solutionaries for a better world through whatever careers they choose…

Rather than offer unconnected academic disciplines, imagine if each year of high school covered a single overarching issue, such as Sustenance, Energy, Production, or Protection. Teachers with expertise in different subjects could provide students with the skills to conduct research into current systems and articulate new viewpoints, understand and use scientific and mathematical equations and methods to solve systemic problems, and draw upon history, politics, economics, psychology, sociology, and geography to analyze, assess, propose and create new or improved systems. And the arts, relegated to the chopping block because of budget cuts, could find new life as vehicles for expression of visionary ideas…

If solutionary education became commonplace, students everywhere might revamp their school buildings for renewable energy sources. Or transform their food service systems and cafeterias so that they received healthy, sustainably and humanely produced lunches. Think what the students would learn about chemistry, ecology, biology, physics, business, farming, architecture, and construction from just these two projects alone. Imagine how fully the teachers could contribute their knowledge and passion for the subjects they know best. There are already teachers who do such projects with their students within the constraints of the current public school system, but they face perpetual hurdles. When we hear about them, we laud them in the news. But their work shouldn’t be newsworthy; it should be the norm.

Investigating crowd-driven, symbiotic innovation

“The internet has caused an economic shift every bit as important as the Industrial or Agricultural Revolutions. Thousands of bottom-up solutions are leveraging mobile and social media, open-source values, collective intelligence and other emerging patterns.

“These crowd-driven innovations are combining – symbiotically — into a truly novel way of living and doing business.

“Symbionomics is part online media project, and part feature length documentary film. We intend to highlight the emerging patterns, cultural trends and business models that will take us into a deeper relationship with wealth.”

What college students want from websites

“Teenagers prefer websites that have dynamic and engaging interactive activities, such as quizzes and games….

However, “college students are much more goal-oriented. They like interactivity only when it serves a purpose and supports their current tasks. At the college level, users make a separation between play and work and don’t require websites to entertain them at all times. Instead, students consider websites as tools. A good site is one that helps them quickly accomplish their goals….

Students often judge sites on how they look. But they usually prefer sites that look clean and simple rather than flashy and busy. One user said that websites should ‘stick to simplicity in design, but not be old-fashioned. Clear menus, not too many flashy or moving things because it can be quite confusing.’…

“Students don’t like to learn new user interface styles. They prefer websites that employ well-known interaction patterns. If a site doesn’t work in the expected manner, most students lose patience and leave rather than try to decode a difficult design….

“Students associate Facebook and similar sites with private discussions, not with corporate marketing. When students want to learn about a company, university, government agency, or non-profit organization they turn to search engines to find that organization’s official website. They don’t look for the organization’s Facebook page…”

Video mashup: The Great Turning

“Our global society faces the challenge of moving from an industrial-growth society to a life-sustaining society. This shift is often referred to as ‘The Great Turning.'”

  • Video from Blip.tv
  • Source materials from WGBH Lab Sandbox, CC Mixter, Flickr Creative Commons, and Shift in Action

Beautifully-animated dance: “Thought of you”

From Open Culture

“Ryan Woodward has worked on the art direction of many big name Hollywood films – Ironman 2, Spiderman 2 & 3, The Iron Giant, the list goes on. But he had an idea for a short animated film, a love story expressed through dance, and it led to a fruitful collaboration with dance choreographer Kori Wakamatsu.”

  • “Thought of You” video from Vimeo

There is nothing on the Internet that is not in your heart

“I want to denounce the notion that Social Networks are a Petri dish of perversion, danger, and now as paths to suicide. Yes it is true that there are perverted and dangerous elements on the web, but this is because there are elements of danger and perversion within the human psyche. We are what is damaged not the tool that merely reflects our most base illnesses….

“I am connected to a fluid diverse cyberworld of knowledge. Never before have we had the ability to be in so many places at once. Never before have we been allowed to share and communicate so easily. Never before have we had so much contact with so many people in so many places. We are truly moving toward a global community based on shared interests and a need to learn and grow….

“I will leave you with this:

“‘Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to 
them,’ A fight is going on inside me… it is a terrible fight and it is 
between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, 
regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority,
… lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.

“‘The other stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other person, too,’ he added. The Grandchildren thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, ‘Which wolf will win?’ The old Cherokee simply replied… ‘The one you feed.'”