Starting your co-creative learning group
Groupthink abounds in the current political economy, often polarised between two opposing ideologies. Our current political economy is founded on competition and, in academia, on competing ideas. Issues are “argued” between two polarised standpoints: true/false, right/left, right/wrong etc.- binary thinking. This is why political discourse is often a dialogue of the deaf and debate deteriorates into name calling.
But life is infinitely nuanced and often ambiguous, yet there is limited time or room for subtlety or ambiguity in academia and, as a result, even less in the political economy. Glaringly obvious contradictions and lies are hidden within this cage of binary groupthink; most are unaware of irreconcilable differences and “ominous continuities” in official narratives but many succumb to wilfully blind hypocrisy in promoting them.
So we need to move out of the comfort of our social circle to explore other perspectives. We are like the blind men of Indostan trying to describe an elephant but each “sees” (by touch) a different part of the beast.(video). We’re not listening to the “other” to understand the nature and effect of the political economy from their perspective before deciding we know how the world works. Once we’ve made up our minds, we brook no argument.
Another reason our perspectives are so narrow is that we can only absorb so much information, particularly if we attempt look beyond “authorised” sources. No one mind can absorb, sift, analyse and synthesise sufficient information to get a grasp of part of the system, let alone the whole because there are numerous hidden influences and connections at work. To “see” the political economy, we need multiple perspectives to understand the nature and workings of the political economy. The only way to cover sufficient ground to gain these perspectives is through self-organised, co-creative learning.
In order to understand the world we need to listen to and share information with the “other”, those whom we’ve been trained to hate or distrust. Diversity is key in CoCreative Learning – diversity of voices/worldviews and diversity of sources of information.
Your core, starting group is the first level “filter” for co-creative learning. It is this group which will be reviewing, discussing and analysing information, checking with independent sources, filtering, synthesising and then re-sharing with your wider co-creative learning community via your group blog, email and social media.
The two main obstacles to CoCreative Learning are ideology and ego. What we don’t need in our group are “teachers” (this is not to exclude the teaching profession, some of whom already facilitate co-creative learning within the confines of a dirigiste education system); what we need are learners, ie. people who put their beliefs, preconceptions, assumptions and biases aside to consider and compare new information impartially. The problem with “teachers” is that they already “know” and want to tell everyone what they know.
In Zen Flesh, Zen Bones (by Paul Rep) there is a section entitled 101 Zen Stories. Here a tale is told of a University professor who visits Nan-in, a Japanese Zen master. The professor says he wants to learn about Zen, but is filled with his own knowledge and opinions. Nan-in pours tea into his cup and does not stop so that it begins to overflow.
“What are you doing? It is overfull. No more will go in!” yells the Professor. “Like this cup,” Nan-in said, “you are full of your own opinions and speculations. How can I show you Zen unless you first empty your cup?”
Humility accelerates learning
Ideally, a Co-Creative Learning group should comprise 6 to 12 open-minded people who share an interest in trying to understand the world but have different interests and experiences to draw on for their contribution to discussions. Once established, as your co-creative learning community grows, others will likely want to join your weekly discussions. Co-creative learning can start with two people in regular dialogue; as interactions develop with other groups and individuals, in face to face contact and via digital communication, others will come along.
Once you’ve got an initial core CoCreative Learning group, you need to agree a group Identity to be able to communicate with others via your group blog and, possibly in the future, social media. Your group blog can be hosted on a free blogging platform but if you want your own group website with its own web address (URL), it is worth registering an appropriate internet domain name for when you set up a website to share information and analysis.
What resources do we need for CoCreative Learning?
In so far as CoCreative Learning is facilitated by the Internet, the ability to access and share information online is essential. Beyond that, you need somewhere to meet weekly (for 40 weeks a year) for a 2 hour discussion. While it’s fine to meet in someone’s home, office or workplace, a “neutral” venue is better: a private room in a pub, community or public space.
Privacy isn’t essential. The Critical Thinking group has conducted most of its meetings in public spaces but recently has been provided with a permanent “slot” at the London School of Mosaic. Having a quiet space means conversations can be recorded and shared with your wider community as a podcast. You’ll be surprised at how regularly some people will listen to your conversations and feed back information.
There is very little outlay needed to start a CoCreative Learning group. There are free blog posting platforms available which avoids the cost and hassle of your setting up your own website. Your own group website domain is useful in terms of flexibility and differentiation. Buying a website domain name for a year is typically around £10 and webhosting in the order of £5 per month. Do some research and comparison to shop around. Pay particular attention to reviews – support, when you start or in the event of technical problems, is vital. CoCreative Learning is hosted by Birch Hosting using one of their Linux (free, open source software) hosting packages.