Center for Spiritual Inquiry and Integral Education

R. Michael Fisher
Transformative Partnerships In Tumultuous Times
by R. Michael Fisher - Friday, August 12, 2011, 05:10 AM

For anyone who is paying attention to the rebellions on the streets of various interest groups from so-called "thugs" in Britain, to the actions against governments (and corporatism) in the Middle East, to the protests coming to the USA in October at the Peace Plaza, Washington, DC, we seem heading as a planet into some tumultous times. Not the first time. Yet, there is a global sense of unrest as people in the margins are feeling more and more disabled and controlled by the wealthy and powerful. The 'gap' is growing. And yet, there also is a professional and middle class revolt in these rebellions as well, as the Left and Right politics battle and the injustices, such as lack of good health care and good jobs, etc. are pressing hard on quality of life. I would say a vast percentage of global citizens are feeling the drop in quality of life, especially in the last decade. Of course, then there are the more severe cases of disorder due to drought and political uprising (e.g., terrorism), and one could go on and on, as we all watch the economic global instability waver and wobble. Crashes, of one kind or another, disasters of one kind or another--and who isn't feeling a bit shaken at the foundations?

All this shaking the foundations leads to educators, like us at CSIIE, to ask what is really important in our work. This forum post is an invitation to potential CSIIE partners that exist out there. If you are interested in truly making adult and higher education relevant to the tumult of the ages, and a shaky future ahead for most, then we want to talk with you. How can our organizations mutually support each other in tough times? How can we bring our research, teaching, and community service works together in new synergy? I'm convinced this relevant coalition of "alternative" and or "complementary" forms of education providers is essential to help the world. Our students deserve the best of what such partnerships can bring to their education. I'm thinking of all the agencies that are working on global problems. I'm thinking how easy it is for all of them to compete with each other as well. This can happen so easily with shortage of funds in tough times. And how easy, and unfortunate it is as well for higher educational establishments to defend their traditional territories, and dismiss or attempt to undermine the alternatives.

CSIIE has a politics. It isn't easy to put into a box. Not all faculty are aligned politically in total, nor is that necessary for them to deliver important and high quality educational experiences, or produce top quality research. My own politics is a mixture of Left and Right, mostly Left. I am an "integralist" more than a "liberal" or "conservative." And that very defining of what an "integralist" is is complex to explain and beyond the scope of this invitation to partnerships. However, I'd gladly discuss that with potential partners. Of course, other already identified "Integral" organizations and funders are more easily brought into a dialogue with me and CSIIE, at least one would expect that. However, CSIIE is not only interested in partnering with "integralists" already self-identified. What is at issue is the integral attitude and politics of change, restoration, reform and transformation. If your organization really wants to change the world significantly, beyond fear-motivations, and beyond the "status quo" then you will likely find a resonance with CSIIE politics. I believe we are living in a world where a lot of the big changes we needed to make as a society are "caught behind the 8 ball." In otherwords, we should have made the big changes 50 years ago. Now, because of our inability or unwillingness to make major changes in how we design and run societies, the consequences of a watershed of crises is unfolding and often overwhelming.

Our educational institutions are critical in addressing these crises effectively and innovatively. CSIIE is interest in creative imaginations and new ways, and old ways, and the synthesis of the two. Compassion and wisdom, and a lot of intergenerational solution-making is right up there in highest values for me. Diversity of views yes, however, we also have to have frameworks we can agree on to pick-n-choose the best views for the specific problems and situations at hand. In that sense, an integralist is a pluralist, but more than a pluralist. Diversity is not enough to solve the world's problems. We need critical discernment and social and individual critical practices to critique ourselves and our favorite ideologies and values, etc. CSIIE is willing to put itself through the filters of critique from all corners of the political spectrum, the spiritual spectrum, and whatever else we need to face. We want to work with other organizations similarly open to critique of themselves. We can be mirrors for each other, not to tear down, but to deconstruct easily held assumptions and comfortable values--and from the "ruins" or from the "harvest" we can re-build to make our organizations stronger and healthier. We can push ourselves over that fear-based inertia to "stay as usual."

Of course, such a challenge is not everyone's cup of tea. CSIIE is at least making itself vulnerable and transparent, as best I can in this forum as a start. If that appeals to you, we hope you'll contact us and let us know.