Eybar Insuasty Alvarado

Eybar Insuasty Alvarado describes a Colombian educational programme with a particular approach. This is a vision of another world which people can create together: a world where it is not only economics that matters but where people can realize their cultural and social ideas and dreams in an unspoilt environment. The author is on the staff of the IIZ/DVV Colombian partner organization “Asociación para el Desarrollo Campesino” and Area Coordinator Organization and Management Good Local Living.

The Aims of the School “Disoñadores for Good Local Living”

 “Unless we know one another we cannot love or protect one another.”

In order to describe the School and its role in the community development of the south-west of Colombia, we need to explain that a “disoñador” is a person who dares in his or her everyday life to look for the creative possibilities of life and the world. A disoñador is a realizer of dreams, that is to say, someone who uses his or her abilities to bring about what we dream of. We disoñadores are all convinced, wherever we live, that other worlds are possible, and we are committed to building them together.

Good local living is the utopia that can be created, the place that we are building day by day where our dreams can come true, where we are together making it possible to satisfy all our basic needs – where food can be cultivated for both body and mind, where we raise typical native animals such as chickens, pigs and cattle, and where we conserve the countryside so that it grows green again and provides us with potatoes, onions, yuccas and mulberries. In short, it is our larder, but it is also a place where we see the growth of affection, tenderness, solidarity, friendship, and where we seek to be happy with our own especial way of living and doing, in harmony with what we have wherever we may be.

The School: An Achievement Created by Many Hands

It was an obvious, palpable challenge to create the School for Disoñadores for Good Local Living. Not only have we become disoñadores, turning into makers of our own local good living, but it also gives us the opportunity to develop further. An alternative view of education provides us with our framework, or rather our liberation, in the sense that it offers us new choices, so that we can face life with new tools of reflection and forward-looking visions of society, politics and education itself. Leisure is given its appropriate place, in which to glimpse the best ideas. The School is a place to itself, which acknowledges former ancestral knowledge, combining it with what is told by others to create a new discourse, leading ultimately towards coherence and commitment. This process has become a major project, aiming ever higher in its achievements, learning, experience and encounters and leading to continual revision through periodic meetings of all those who are part of it, meetings that open up new directions in which ideas and encounters govern what emerges.

The School for Disoñadores, which is associated with the purpose, utopianism and principles of the Association for Rural Development (ADC), makes space for what is possible, where we begin the creation process with what is uncertain, absurd and risky, and it also encourages us to listen to the silence so that we take in what no one has yet said and start from what we feel.

The School’s Antecedents

The area of work of ADC concerned with “Management for Good Local Living” aims at involving the grassroots in the administration, planning, organization, monitoring and evaluation of activities. Training has been given in social rights, political education and civic participation in the communities of La Cocha, Yacuanquer, Chachagüí, Buesaco and Pasto.

Education is needed if the community is to be able to go on creating Good Local Living freely, a concept which places the emphasis on the continuous construction of life rather than accumulation: education understood as the “Ascent of Humanity” and the enrichment of the critical, creative mind. The keynote is the finding that the formal education offered in official schools demonstrates various shortcomings. The dream of an education with autonomous learners and communities capable of creating human destinies through learning, which interprets and enriches events with the aid of local histories, has remained the constant challenge. This means that having learnt by going back over the past and noting the gaps in normal provision, it becomes necessary to resort to the imagination to strengthen the “School for Disoñadores for Good Local Living”.

Our criteria for learning at the School are:

  • Thinking outside models and paradigms
    Here the emphasis is on creative potential and the fertility of the imagination for forward thinking. Knowledge is also developed and acquired in a cultural context, differently in each and every region and situation.
  • Backing life
    This means developing the capacity to create utopias. Backing life consists of acquiring concepts, tools and skills to fit our aims to social processes and to our surroundings, taking a local stance in dealing with global concerns.
  • Appropriate science and technology
    Science and technology happen in society, and the forces driving them are imposed by those with power and by the market. The School promotes the acquisition of a critical view which allows for the humanitarian learning of concepts and theories, rather than adopting a developmentalist, instrumental approach, so that new meanings are derived from what is local.
  • Adopting an attitude towards events
    It is not possible to look around today without looking at ourselves, which means learning through enquiry and curiosity. Science, practical knowledge and memory are means of investigation, which means that research is the key to life’s project, having in mind what we are and do, and what we have wherever we find ourselves.
  • Building memory
    Memory imposes limitations, and it is therefore a useful companion in interpreting, understanding and approaching spheres of life: memory not as repetition, but as the moisture that fertilizes what is human in life. Memory does not exclude what is forgotten, but keeps it for later deciphering: memory does not dig out the secrets of the world but finds them in ourselves through the stories that may be told. Anyone having no story to tell, and no one to tell it to – a form of learning – fails to respond to the way the world works.

The School sets out to provide a place where we can find the basic knowledge and skills to become the builders of our own worlds.

The School therefore supports the Disoñadores for Good Local Living with the aim of:

  • Bringing dreams to fruition
  • Thinking and acting beyond immediate goals
  • Promoting discussion and affirmation
  • Creating participation in collective projects
  • Contributing wider memory – (transcendency)
  • Building a place for what is possible
  • Handing on generous testimony from generation to generation
  • Encouraging good local living especially for families
  • Working according to the principles of the prime importance of food, the preservation of biodiversity and the primacy of life
  • Building solidarity amid discord
  • Protecting autonomy and independent thinking
  • Using science and technology according to the criterion of constant self-reinterpretation

General Aims

Creating an educational process that uses reflection on issues affecting our lives to enable rural cooperative groupings (“mingas” ) and their associated families to act to build their own realities and dreams, enhancing present and future Good Local Living that is based on rural identity, solidarity, autonomy and respect for diversity.

Specific Objectives of the School

  • To create the skills and abilities to understand and critically interpret the economic, political, social and cultural issues and changes affecting rural families within the fields of action of every minga
  • To promote a knowledge dialogue between rural and urban populations with different forms of knowledge and experience as a basis for developing ways of recognising, protecting and validating rural identity, the prime importance of food, and the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity
  • To create a dialogue about the various political processes that take place in the different contexts in which we act, and the ways in which these relate to our work, our territory, and our organization and history
  • To strengthen the capacity of rural minga associations to find joint solutions and to use tools to participate in and influence local and regional planning and action, in order to protect the rights of rural families

Methodology

The methodology results from the fact that the School is not a formal educational institution. In the School for Disoñadores, freedom is the watchword: there is no place for dogmatism, and teaching is an exercise which gives up its power but gains in effectiveness. Priority is given to enquiry in the learning process, and recognition is given to the worth of learners’ own thinking and their responsibility for their commitment; we are supported by the local research group, which enables us to revisit and to encounter new knowledge and to test it creatively in our daily lives.

Encouraging Disoñadores therefore involves:

  • The absence of dogmatism, so that teaching and learning become increasingly affective experiences and decreasingly concerned with power
  • Collective construction through dialogue, in which the virtues of
  • conversation are used, and in which we all learn and teach, from
  • our own knowledge and experience
  • The suggestion that relevant teaching materials known as “Memory Notebooks” are written as input. These should record the practical and theoretical knowledge built up, using questions as the stimuli for creativity and motivation. The Memory Notebooks record stories, reports, drawings, maps, photographs, theories and preliminary ideas

As topics are explored, a workshop methodology makes it possible:

  • To draw up texts that expand conceptually and contextually on the subject content, and are used to write up the Memory Notebooks
  • To identify the knowledge and preliminary ideas brought by those present (What do we know?) and their expectations of the topics and concepts suggested (What do we want to learn?), which are contrasted with what has already been assimilated through the process of educational interaction (What have I learnt?)
  • To develop teaching and learning skills using learning exercises (e.g. self-directed reading, that is to say, using a method of recognition and comprehension)
  • To take up structural issues in the community and to be aware of ways of dealing with them using the thematic perspectives analysed, deciding on what should be done and who is responsible. It is important to follow up these activities.

“More important than the journey are the footsteps which make the journey.

A fuerza de Huella”