An image of the future

It is easy to feel overwhelmed right now. There is so much we seem to face that we do not understand on so many fronts. Conventional approaches don’t provide a way that feels right, and there are no experts in the complexity we are walking into. I’ve written before about the sense of “quickening” I detect in organisations and individuals – increasing energy levels looking for ways of expression. 

Several separate conversations I had yesterday combined in the way they sometimes do to offer insight. The first was with a group discussing how best to assist their clients find meaningful ways of adapting to climate change issues. The second was with someone deeply concerned about climate change but felt they could not do enough individually. Finally, with someone looking for ways of encouraging new entrants to an organisation, find their “voice” and engage confidently in discussions.

It was this last conversation that was the key.

Reggio Emelia, an inspirational early years pedagogy, has at its heart an image of the child as a fully capable learner in their own right, rather than some empty vessel to be filled. That the child is someone to be supported in learning for themselves, more than instructed. The same is true of us as adults.

We are brought up to respect and aspire to be experts. Expertise defines boundaries, commands respect and generally yields higher incomes. And yet, there are no experts in the future. So for all of us, our expertise ends in what we learned a moment ago.

Teachers at Reggio have a simple, compelling approach. Understand what the child is trying to learn, without judgement. Accompany them, metaphorically walk alongside them on that journey and learn with them. Along the way, talk with them about what they are noticing and use questions to help them discover for themselves, and only lastly, provide resources. Ensure the child learns on their own terms, and in so doing, becomes a confident, capable learner. I have had more insights about the power of coaching from those at Reggio than from any other source (and I have spent years studying and practising as a coach)

I think this is where we find ourselves. When it comes to complex issues, like climate change, stop looking for experts, because we are the experts in what we do. We have all the data and are perfectly capable of making an increasing number of small choices. What we drive, how far we drive, when we fly, what we eat, where what we eat comes from, what we wear and how and where it was made. We have not lost the curiosity of a child discovering for itself; we have just buried it along the way as we have learned to comply with obsolescing business models.

We can make a start by changing our image of others and ourselves. We are all trying to learn how to deal with what we face. Be gentle with each other.

The very least we can do is walk together.

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