Learning is for life, says new alternative education project

Greta Rossi

Greta Rossi left her career in mainstream higher education to start Akasha Innovation, where a new venture aims to help young people build a better future for themselves and generations to come

“The future belongs to those who can see it.” (Sir Joseph Rotblat)

The future is becoming harder to see for the young people it should belong to. The paradigm we live in today is collapsing and creating unpredictable challenges that life on this planet will face tomorrow. My generation must prepare for uncertain times ahead.

I have always believed in the potential for education to transform lives. However, I am growing sceptical that modern higher education can guide young people along a path towards a better future. Unaffordable tuition and rising debt are just the tip of the iceberg we seem to be heading towards. We must reinvent higher education to avoid this crash and help young people navigate the difficult straits that await them.

I left my work in mainstream higher education after discovering inspiring alternatives. These initiatives gave me the courage to set up Akasha Innovation and reclaim a transformative role for young people. After two years dedicated to researching and piloting different approaches to training young changemakers, we realised that the best way to prepare them for the future is found in reviving the idea of “learning for life”.

“We must reinvent higher education to avoid this crash and help young people navigate the difficult straits that await them.”

Although the concept has established traditions within universities, our approach to learning for life might seem revolutionary in a world now dominated by a consumer-model of higher education.

First, learning for life focuses on the life of young people: they deserve learning that helps them discover their unique purpose and is fuelled by their passion. We can offer relevant learning that inspires them to find new meaning to the life they lead and learn to enjoy it to the fullest. Second, learning for life does not stop at graduation. The only constant in life in change, so we need to provide young people with support that continues beyond the first steps of their lifelong journey. Third, learning for life is in service of people and planet. Life on Earth has learned to survive and thrive over 3.8 billion years. We risk losing invaluable wisdom if we do not pass these lessons on to young people and empower them to create a world for all life to flourish in.

This concept of learning for life lies at the heart of our new Akasha Akademy. We offer transformative courses training young people for each stage of their lifelong journey as a changemaker. This is a new home for them to discover their unique purpose. A new generation of young changemakers are learning to see the world anew and envision futures that belong to them and generations to come.

Akasha Innovation is currently recruiting young people aged 18-30 to enrol in the foundation course of the Akasha Akademy.

Akasha Innovation is a partner of Positive News.

Photo title: Akasha Akademy founders Greta Rossi and Mark Spokes

Photo credit: © Akasha Innovation

  • sherry walters

    Finding out any actual information about what these courses are is proving difficult. There are lots of promotional video with music that tell you very little and the web site is unobtainable – access denied.
    As a shareholder of Positive News with a real desire to see the paper flourish, I think the standard of journalism needs to be more rigorous before printing these types of stories which basically are adverts for the companies . Irritating to say the least.

  • Greta Rossi

    Hi Sherry,

    Thank you for your message. Unfortunately our website was hacked three days ago, just in time for the article on Positive News to be published. We have been working hard to fix it and get it back up online as soon as possible. We understand you have found it difficult to get more info about our courses.

    Our website actually includes lots of information about our courses, including a comprehensive brochure. If you send email me at [email protected] I will forward you our e-brochure as I cannot attach anything to this comment. We will also notify everyone as soon as our website is back up online.

    We apologise for any inconvenience created.

    Thank you for your understanding!

    Greta Rossi

  • Greta Rossi

    Dear Sherry,

    You probably read the message I wrote yesterday. I am very pleased to inform you and all other Positive News’ readers that our website is back up online. It took us five days to clean it from the hacker attack but it seems all fine now.

    So, if you wish to have more information about the Akasha Akademy, you can visit our website: http://akashainnovation.org and download our e-brochure: http://akashainnovation.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/08/Akasha-Akademy-Brochure-2015-2016.pdf.

    Many thanks for your patience.

    Greta Rossi

  • Ken Timms

    Whilst sharing the view that it might be in the interests of young people and future generations to step out of consumerist and exploitative frameworks for living, life on Earth surviving and thriving over 3.8 billion years happened with out ‘lessons’ being ‘passed on’. Attempting to mine ‘invaluable wisdom’, or ’empowering’ already powerful young people begs the question: can new approaches come out of old principles of ‘education’, where a necessarily narrow set of ‘knowledge’ is packaged and ‘applied’. The alternatives are already there, arising naturally. The choice of illiteracy, available in UK schools, as opposed to being imposed by ruling regimes, for example, may already be an opt-out and search for something else, but in prevailing perspectives, constitutes ‘Failure’. The future may well be in such ‘Failure’.

  • Raphaële

    Ok…iam an english teacher in higher éducation …helping young and older adults ( often unemployed)in training to get à new Job……..blablabla….we learn and have fun…. And i ve realised recently that all our informal gatherings have helped so much…. In other words… Not what was taught but what bécame of it…. The way people now share and how we bénef it from it all….. And that’s completely free of charge…..free of charge…… Could éducation become free of charge???this would be positive news..

  • Greta Rossi

    Dear Ken,

    Thank you for your comment.

    There is certainly lots to think about here and you raised some interesting points about ‘failure’ in the current paradigm that should be looked into further. We have come across many young people who have already ‘opted-out’ and we are focusing on those needing some support in taking their first small steps in searching for something else and finding new perspectives.

    Greta Rossi

  • Greta Rossi

    Dear Raphaële,

    Many thanks for your comment.

    We definitely find informal learning to be an important part of education. Education that is completely free of charge is also our dream. We successfully managed to offer completely free training to our previous cohort and we are always actively fundraising to provide scholarships.

    Greta Rossi

  • ben arnold

    Ignore that long message up above, it copy & pasted wrong, and there’s no way to delete it. Anyhow, here’s the correct version:

    Dear Gretta, I love it and wanted to give you a few of my thoughts, hopefully they’re thought provoking rather than condescending, I want you to realize that I truly love your ideas and support you, this is just brain storming and critical thinking rather than criticism. Constructive, and I’m mostly venting the same frustrations that you feel about our world’s failing education system. As a corporate marketing analyst I can tell you that the Akasha Innovation and Akasha Akademy sounds grand but what everybody keeps asking is, and will want to see first is what’s the curriculum? Usually at any place of learning, even in a spiritualist, hippies, or Buddhist colony there’s an outline of what subjects will be taught. Ironically most of today’s Ivy league colleges have had on their staff, leadership boards, and faculties many of these hippies in later years. And you mention a lot about coaching and mentoring, but who are these coaches and mentors and what future greatness can a student expect if their coach and mentor isn’t any different or any better or any more brilliant than the well experienced geniuses at Harvard and Yale? Perhaps Akasha mentors are highly qualified and defy the norm. Say that. Until your philosophies and dreams have a solid outline that you can show to people, for example give the student a better picture of specifically what future you’re actually preparing them for, for example a job, or homelessness, and until you can give specifics it’ll seem to everyone that what you’re selling is a vacation in the clouds much like what “spiritualists” offer to replace the Bible. Most of the English language for example didn’t come from Shakespeare, he got it from the Bible. Which is a very huge library of books by men who memorized entire books, show me a student today who has entire books memorized. Such wisdom didn’t fall from the sky. Not from puffing on mushrooms. Akasha I’m certain has a great curriculum, great faculty, and specific future in mind. Show it. Spiritualists say, don’t read books, come with us and meditate. That’s great but I see so many holes in Buddhism and other such religions as I watch monks contemplate whether or not to enter a car, or train to travel to temples that are too far away to walk to, and whether or not to use a watch or cell phone etc. They themselves are so lost and hypocritical I’m wondering where do humans finally touch the ground and live in reality? You are right that the system is broken but what is the solution, life on a fluffy soft cloud? Akasha needs to highlight specifics, not just a philosophical mission statement. Unless that’s what Akasha is, a spiritualist camp, for philosophers to meditate, etc. My favorite author who’s books I’ve not read more than a few, because they give the whole world nightmares, catches my interest because of his genius, he said it best, and I’m paraphrasing, “during the years of enlightenment everybody was so high on being in another existence of higher origin that they’d spout out poetry that made absolutely no sense and poorly created which is fine but the real problem was when everybody around them applauded it and published it and held it up as if it was what everybody should mirror and base their lives on, and many ended up dead in far off nations where they failed to spread peace and nobody would give them food to save their lives.” Maybe what the young people need is to be kicked into the street, live homeless for awhile, and then immigrate to a strange new land where they must fight, dig, and sacrifice to create a better life and world for their children. Of course, many generations later here we are, we are those children of brave immigrants who forged a better world for us, and we’re still slaves to the factories, the corporations, governments, and impending doom that our forefathers faced. When does the great cycle of humanity from riches to rags to riches to rags, and from peace to war to peace to war ever end? Your idea is great, and I agree, alternatives or improvements or fixes or a solution is definitely needed! Akasha sounds like a dream come true. People just want to make sure that it’s not a dream. Please show us more concrete evidence, at least a curriculum and some idea of this future you have in store for the children of the world, the rising generations. Even if Akasha is intended to be a small school, few students, and a truly unorthodox way of doing things, that’s fine, everybody needs a hobby and there are always a handful of students looking for absolutely anything you can come up with. But just let us know, which is it, what is it. Your main theme seems to be… well, here’s something I thought of when listening to your words, a great mentor to the entire world once said at an internationally broadcast event, at that time in his 80’s I knew him up thru his 90’s, he’d traveled the entire war, buried a brother in the WW1 cemetery in Europe and the WW2 cemetery in America and lived through every war of the 21st Century and was an advisory to and/or met with the most famous and influential leaders of the 21st Century, and I’m paraphrasing what he said, “when I was young there were no such thing as professional sports, if you wanted to play a game of ball the only organizer was you and a handful of other kids from the neighborhood, you’d create some rules, everybody shared in that leadership responsibility and we had fun, got some exercise, a little bruising, and made our parents upset that we’d gotten our clothes a little dirty”. He went on to talk about the importance of hard work, doing things ourselves, making decisions, being able to go it alone, and above all else expanding the mind by taking steps out into the darkness to do what needs to be done. Too much is handed to us on a plate, our minds are getting soft, unlike back in the old days when doctors taught themselves by looking through a magnifying glass and doing the research for themselves. Today doctors are spoon fed everything they know, and they never question where it came from, if it’s right, if it’s true, and if it can be improved, furthered, or replaced. These days many of our professionals, our leaders, even everybody around us and the so-called experts have done very little on their own, they’ve followed a well paved path, with very little hardship, and never making decisions for themselves, they’re robots. I can see a great need for alternative education or rather a change to orthodox education. Advances in science, understanding nature, and the human mind, has empowered us to do some great things, but we’re too scared to change the way things are and the outdated archaic systems that keeps us right where we are. Your school might change the world, and save our children, and be exactly what humanity has been waiting for, or it might just save a handful who will become the leaders of tomorrow in whatever field it is that they’re seeking, thank you for adding whatever it is you have to give. Everybody has something to give. And if it’s positive then why not? I’m happy, you’re happy, that’s great! Write me anytime, I will keep my eye on your school and curriculum with great hope! -James Wilson (AnaEzine)

  • Dr. Mark Spokes

    Thank you for this very thoughtful and comprehensive response, James. There are a lot of insightful points worth discussion here and perhaps we can find some time in the near future to continue this conversation. In the meanwhile, you can find more details about the curriculum in the brochure that is available on our website. The program has been developed around the principles of transformative learning. This has its own foundations in the pedagogical works from John Dewey to Paulo Freire. You might want to take a look at the Harvard developmental psychologist and Professor in Adult Learning, Robert Kegan or the late Columbia Professor of Education, Jack Mezirow for more contemporary writing in this field.

    I have been working with transformative learning in higher education over the past decade in disciplines ranging from human rights to history. The focus is on perspective transformation as the fundamental step towards creating positive change and ultimately a paradigm shift in the world. The meta-learning is epistemological and designed to expand critical consciousness through changes in worldview and awareness of the self. This is largely achieved through developing cognitive, affective and functional competences that are essential for changemakers and are transferable across sectors. We work on five conceptual areas related to new scientific breakthroughs in the likes of complexity theory and systems thinking. Learners also develop five mindsets, from mindfulness to appreciation, which will possibly be even more important in their growth as changemakers. The final focus is on building five skillsets that are needed for work and life as a changemaker, which range from impact mapping to creative storytelling.

    You offer an interesting point on the alternative learning opportunities that young people might benefit from today. A disorienting experience is often the trigger for transformational change within an individual learner. The Akasha Akademy facilitates this transformation with a process that supports learners in making sense of their unique experiences. We offer three courses that are carefully designed to guide learners through established stages of development. The foundation course, Basecamp, prepares, inspires and empowers learners to take their first steps as changemakers. The Quest is our intermediate course and will focus on the learners’ own projects or enterprises. The Journey is the advanced course that is learner-led, in order to meet their unique needs in a lifelong commitment to create positive change. There are no shortcuts to this kind of inner work and change out in the world, so learners must ultimately train, but the Akasha Akademy is designed to make each step of that journey easier and more enjoyable. Learning for life means a new generation of young people can start to thrive as changemakers and build a better world for all life to flourish in.

    Many thanks,

    Dr. Mark Spokes.
    Akademic Director, Akasha Akademy.

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