Learning Societies unConference

What happens when two hundred people of varying ages, nationalities, languages, perspectives, questions and ultimately, life-stories, gather together to share and celebrate their individual as well as collective quest for walking out of the System and ‘taking the road less travelled’ of learning and living?
Courage, contemplation, creativity and compassion were the themes around which the unConference was ‘un’structured. But how did these four abstract words seep into conversations, into new ideas and inspirations and into the hearts of the people who held the space of this unConference? And did they, even? Sometimes it felt like the unConference was more about confusion, chaos, celebration and cookies!
Each day saw new questions, ideas, insights being put on the Open Space idea-board that was the only planner for the five-day gathering. Throughout the day and night, groups would be engaged in conversations, creation with their hands or bodies, or just contemplations while looking at the clouds descending upon the peaks of the Himalayas.
Among the two-hundred people were members of organizations working on self-directed learning, healthy food, sustainable design, organic farming, non-violent communication, zero-waste, self-healing, community media, and more. There were families from the diverse regions of India engaged in unschooling. There were confused young people, disheartened with institutionalized education and corporate systems, trying to break free and exploring alternatives. Adding to this amalgamation were the free-spirited minds of children who were also engaged in exploring the world in their own ways and bringing positive energy to the group.
The flow of conversation ranged from sharing personal stories and dreams to deepening perspectives about alternative education, community living, co-learning and more. Apart from verbal discourses, there were spaces for creating music, art, jewelry, pottery, theatre, organic farming, co-operative games and clowning.
Some highlights of the unConference were a visit to a Monastery to watch close to seven hundred monks engaged in an ancient Tibetan form of debate, a talk with the ex-Prime Minister-in-exile of Tibet, Venerable Professor Samdhong Rimpoche who spoke about Buddhism and integrating the four practices of courage, creativity, contemplation and compassion in our lives and a langhar (or a form of community kitchen practiced in Gurudwaras in India) where some members from the Learning Societies community took the initiative to cook for the 200 people present and served them with their hands and hearts.
The unConference was an intergenerational space for dialogue, reflection, co-creation and sharing of stories. For the many people present, what it left us with most deeply was a sense of security, that we weren’t alone in our quest to challenge the system, that there were many individuals all over the world who were thinking or doing similarly, and that all of us together were a large and growing community that we all felt belonged to.
This feeling of community, and of belongingness, is the sweet aftertaste that remains within me as I peer into the hazy, colourful memories that comprise the unConference…

2 thoughts on “Learning Societies unConference

  1. do you guys talk only? or some sort of clowning around… only?? the projects you claim to be undertaking like organic farming, eco-building… why don’t you show them on such gatherings..? instead of looking so much confused (in most of pictures, people are just sitting and thinking.) i think you should better ponder upon integrating each other strengths into one web.. so that people who are Not UN conferencing will also find them meaningful … don’t just talk.. DO SOMETHING ! farmers are dying at the rate of 4 or 5 daily in INDIA.. for them there is no conference, i see some hope in you.. just Utilise it in Better way ! Good luck!

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  2. Sakhi, I am most interested by what you say at the end here about the conference offering you a sense of security. This word has been abuzz in my head for the past two weeks, since I attended a round table discussion here in Oaxaca about Narcotrafficking and other similarly complex issues. Mostly I am still in this questioning, thinking, wondering mode. A lot of the time the justification for killing, fear mongering and threats is that they are done in the interest of creating “national security” – there is so much use of this word. But we live in an uncertain world, during uncertain times and I sometimes think that security is just a smoke screen, an unfulfillable promise.

    Now, maybe that’s not the kind of security you refer to here, which I think has much more to do with solidarity, with belonging, with all of those sensations and reminders that we are not alone in the world. But what’s the difference between these two kinds of security? and how can we tell which one we’re talking about?

    Pondering on … aerin.

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