Wednesday, August 5, 2009
Empowerment Concept - The Mandala
The "Mandala" or "Lotus Flower - The Nuclear Reaction: “when a critical mass of knowledge and energy is reached, the results can touch the world”. The concept is adaptable and each of the various parts can, and should, be customized based on the specific goals of each endeavor.
Following prior projects undertaken, Solomon Source, recognizes that it is critical to have a strong theoretical/conceptual framework for its projects. Derived from work with the Vice President for Research at Texas A&M University Dr. Richard Ewing, This Diagram highlights the necessity for creating a focal point for a regional development model. This diagram creates the foundation of our efforts highlighting the importance of education for improving people’s lives.
The Center of this image represents the core “nucleus” of a regional initiative which will be represented most significantly by an educational/extension institute. The five “green” circles represent the “context” in which the project works in a community / region / country. Solomon Source recognizes that the world has been cut up into pieces by our scientific and human-oriented (separatist) perspectives. Depicting the general categories of disciplines (environmental, social, cultural/historical, political, economics) in the five inner circles in the Mandala* allows us to re-cognize the integral relationship of these pedagogical domains, providing a new context for re-aligning our efforts for a successful rural economic development strategy. Regional initiatives, as they develop their programs, will take into account each of these areas. Yet we recognize that the lines drawn between these “disciplines” are only a functional or organizational delineation. In fact, as stipulated in Systems Thinking, there is a desperate need to re-examine and recombine these perspectives into a comprehensive whole after study or examination.
The “petals of the flower” in Diagram 3 depict the “outreach-service” delivery mechanism of regional initiatives. Our emphasis on Outreach-Service (extension) is developed from the Land Grant University System that was so powerfully transformative in the United States. However, we agree with John Campbell’s critique* of the limitations of the Land-grant system as it has matured, mainly that the “Outreach” not been properly expanded and utilized. The Mandala is a symbolic metaphor of a “nuclear reaction”, which is our vision to powerfully extend the learning and research of the regional "institute" to re-connect education to the world, which is depicted in the outer ring.
It is beyond the scope of this document to discuss all of the benefits of utilizing/revitalizing the land-grant model while empowering it with information communication technologies (ICT), however, in brief, this approach will re-vitalize the educational experience for students. It will also connect regional initiatives to the mainstream of society, delivering a multitude of benefits: essentially creating a recursive flow of ideas, information, people and business to a world that is clamoring for these outputs of our educational system. The outer ring of the Mandala shows the original vision of the Land- grant model which framed the educational system on three legs (Education, Research, Outreach). We add to the model the ultimate outputs of this inspired model – Learning, Development, and Service.
The purpose of regional initiatives is to stimulate creative innovation in the economy through the creation of an experiential learning institution. We will begin with a core educational program derived from our team’s broad based experience. Delivery will be supported by state-of-the-art hardware and software infrastructure. Our “faculty” is strongly connected to excellent colleagues, experts and practitioners around the world. Working together, they can produce a unique experiential, multidisciplinary, international institution that will excel in education, research and outreach. Portuguese students will be able to expand their horizons enormously in this virtual and on-site learning environment.
* We memorialize the inspiration for our “Mandala” (or Lotus Flower) to Dr. Richard Ewing. Dr. Ewing was the Vice President for Research at Texas A&M University until Dec. 5, 2007. Thank You Dr. Ewing
* John Campbell is President Emeritus of Oklahoma State University and wrote a very important book entitled "Reclaiming a Lost Heritage: Land-grant and Higher Education Initiatives for the 21st Century.