Archive for January, 2013

Amazon U-School on Global Well-being

Monday, January 28th, 2013 | Uncategorized | 7 Comments

I am writing this on my return trip from launching the Global Well-being and Gross National Happiness (GNH) Lab with a journey to urban favelas in Brazil and to communities in the Amazon rainforest region near Belem and Santarem.

It was fascinating to hear each Lab participant reflect on these community experiences from a different angle. Where some of us (mostly participants from North America and Europe) saw a real sense of community, others, mostly from the Global South (who often have experiences of much deeper community), saw a lack thereof. Where some of us (from the Global North) saw unacceptable poverty, others, particularly from the Asian Global South, saw quite advanced conditions of material livelihood. Where some of us (from the corporate sector) saw good sustainability and community partnership practices (like revenue-sharing), others, from the global civil society movement, saw just another capitalist trick to manipulate and disenfranchise marginalized communities. Where some of us, particularly North America–based grassroots activists, thought that the positive contribution of government equals zero, others, particularly from East Asia, Latin America, and Europe, saw the government in a much more mission-critical role.

In short: the Lab is a bit like a microcosm of our global community, a diverse group that spans all continents and sectors and many systems and ideologies. Listening to the conversations in the early part of the week I wondered: did these people really visit the same community I did? We talked as if we had had immersion experiences in very different worlds—and I guess, we did.

That being said, one thing that everyone was deeply impressed and moved by was the power of the social entrepreneurs that we have met in the favelas and communities. Amazing individuals that effect incredible changes under the most challenging conditions. It makes you feel really really humble. In many ways, what we intend to do with the Lab is to help to unleash the power of social entrepreneurship from often local or project bounded impact to transforming and shifting the whole system.

In the second part of the week we went to the Amazon rainforest area. We will never forget the last 3-4 days that we spent on a regional boat that we boarded in Santarem and that took us via the Amazon, Tapajos, and Arapiuns Rivers to the Atodi community. The boat had three levels. The first level was for food and eating. The next level had 35 hammocks hung in two dense rows that allowed us to sleep— the whole group in a single space (picture).


The third level was the Global Well-being University deck on which we conducted our discussions under the open sky (the picture below shows a Lab participant from SEWA, the Self-Employed Women’s Association in India, presenting the work they do with their 1.6 million members).

Sitting in the circle of our open-sky Global Well-being School made me really happy. It’s what I dreamed the could bring into being. (I first experienced a similar feeling in 1988 when I teamed up with a dozen of European students and faculty to take the trans-Siberian train from Budapest to Beijing, where we joined a World Future Studies Federation conference.)

On the second last day we took a six hour silent hike into the rainforest under the guidance of the Atodi community. The experience was beyond words. We felt embraced by nature’s essence in our whole being. It was a deeply regenerative experience. It reconnected me and us with our source. (picture: a rainforest tree shot from the roots upwards)

Coming back from the Amazon, our group was no longer the same as when we arrived. Each of us had changed. We feel more open on more levels, in more profound ways. We could feel the collective body of our heart to heart connections. As a group we also realized that GNH and the Global Well-being Indicators — beyond GDP — are just a very small aspect of the profound changes that are necessary today.

As I write these final lines, I am sitting in my office back in Boston and watching the snowflakes fall. I feel blessed by the wonderful things that I have always taken for granted: access to clean water; access to food and shelter; access to quality space; access to energy and transportation, access to community.

I also feel that a part of the Amazon and of the whole Global Wellbeing Lab community is still with me, in my heart. Quite amazing change makers from Bhutan, India, Brazil, China, Europe, Sri Lanka, North America. I know that something will grow out of these seeds that this past week were planted in our hearts. But at this point, no one can say what it will look like. So let me end with a nice shot of our Amazon boat at night…

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2012-2013 PI Community letter

Monday, January 14th, 2013 | Uncategorized | No Comments

2012 was a year full of endings and beginnings. At the Presencing Institute (PI) we tried to contribute to the latter by supporting small “seed initiatives” including, over the past few months, the delivery or completion of:
–the 1st Presencing Master Class, with 72 participants from many cultures (2 year advanced program)
–the launch of our new Global Well-being and GNH Lab-Innovating Beyond GDP (co-created with the German Ministry for Development Cooperation/GIZ)
–the 3rd MIT IDEAS Indonesia Program, a nine-month U journey for senior leaders from government, business, and civil society on transforming business and society for sustainability
–the 1st MIT IDEAS China Program, to train senior leaders from the Chinese government and SOEs (State-Owned Enterprises) how to lead transformative change for sustainability
–Katrin and I completed the manuscript for our forthcoming book, Leading from the Emerging Future: From Ego-System to Eco-System Economies.
We also regionalized the delivery of our four-day Presencing Foundation Program, which is now offered in Brazil (November 12, 2012), and in 2013 in Africa (March), Asia (June), Europe (July) and Boston (October).
Also in 2013 we intend to hold:
a small Global Well-being and GNH Forum in Berlin (July 5) and
the 3rd Global Forum in Boston (Oct. 24-25) which will showcase transformative change towards Society 4.0. In 2014 the Global Forum will move to Asia.
Our intention is to create a method and platform that integrates science (the third-person view), social transformation (the second-person view), and the evolution of the self (the first-person view) into a coherent framework of consciousness-based action research that inspires and scales the transformation of our economy from ego-system to eco-system awareness. We call the platform for this intention the “”

If you are interested in joining this effort or the conversation, check out our redeveloped website featuring projects, programs, groups, and people working with this intention. There you will have access to a newly integrated 10,000-person online community.

We hope to meet you in one of these activities, initiatives, or community conversations this year as we collaboratively lay the foundations for the great call of our time-the transformation of capitalism, consciousness, and self.

Otto S.