Journey with the Indigenous of Brazil

Our Online Learning Journey for Earth in Solidarity with Indigenous

Screenshot taken during our second session:

This document is an artifact, harvested from the digital learning journey that ran in sync with the Cobra Canoa learning journey in Brazil (New application are now open for 2020 journey), where 15 expeditioners traveled through Brazil for 10 days to learn with indigenous communities. 

 Our harvesting session was facilitated by Fyodor Ovchinnikov of Institute for Evolutionary Leadership, and Naomi Joy Smith, designer of the Digital Hikoi and coordinator of the Beyond Us community engagement.

Also participating in this harvest, was:

Screenshot of the ‘Wedding Table’ data visualization model developed by Lauren Moore Nignon — eventually each participant will be able to connect all the conversations they’ve taken part in, track notes, follow up on action items, side discussions, missed connections and context from conversations that they missed.

Indigenous leaders, Educators and Storytellers
Starting the Learning Journey

We would like the world to know that the Cobra Canoa is the beginning: it’s the beginning and it’s happening. It’s happening during a time when humanity is talking about the sixth mass extinction, when nature is actually in an evolution of falling apart due to the popular term called “climate change”.

It’s a shared story that was co-created during a learning journey initiated from Rio de Janiero to São Paulo, and it was given the name Cobra Canoa as a symbol of regeneration of a cosmology that connects humans back to nature and back to the we-ness or belonging to a community — a community of happiness, joy, and companionship, not only between humans but between all life that is part of the bigger cosmology of being human.

This new story happened when a group of people from different places on the planet, disconnected from each other, started using technology to have live interactive learning journey and actively co-creating new stories and new patterns for understanding life better. Life in itself was a classroom, nature was a classroom. The purpose of this in terms of our mission is to inspire people to create more learner centered schools, to empower students.

The Global School for Social Leaders is a multi-awarded NGO specialized in holistic & disruptive education, Join us! https://TheGlobal.School/Programs

In co-creating a new story, the networks are like a forest. The power of a story is really telling a story that is beyond us, where we are enmeshed with one another again — collective humanity rediscovering our belonging in the web of life, reawakening to our tribe activated and alive.

This united narrative was stated by traveling teachers, travelling storytellers who are connecting languages and people coming from different parts of life, learning as much as we possibly can from every encounter and accelerating this educational shift as a radical emergency call by people who are connected to nature — not only indigenous people, but people from all cultures of the world that are really feeling compassion and love for all life on the planet.

It was fascinating to discover many intersections: perpetual learning, learning journeys, indigenous wisdom, connective storytelling, networked movements, collective leadership. Some of us have been working in these and other related intersections in theoretical, practical, and creative community contexts for the last decade and it was nice to find others — not as isolating.

Reconnecting to indigenous leadership on climate change at CCC19 — a catalyst for Beyond Us

Decolonizing, Grieving, Healing, and Reconciling

One of the words that kept coming up as a pattern was “decolonization”. We talked about what that process really entails, how specifically the Xucuru people are experiencing this, and that even these calls that we are doing are a part of that decolonization for them and a service to them as well as ourselves.

They spoke a lot from a spiritual aspect where pretty much everything that they do is rooted in their spirituality and the wisdom of their ancestors. This is definitely something that we have lost in the Western culture and forget about a lot. It was a great reminder. It felt like something that was being remembered or gained is lost and forgotten in a lot of the ways that we work in Western culture.

How are we going to get back in touch with that even if our science these days is almost catching up with this mystery of what we are all doing here and what we need to do in the future?

There is a healing, there is grief, there is a reconciliation process that really has to tap our emotions into grief, sadness, even madness for the chaos we have created on the planet. Above us, the stimuli of the environment moves us like starlings in murmuration; as we connect to the dark parts of ourselves, our shadows, our grief, and our trauma, our collective patterns move us like the mycelium under the earth connects the roots of the trees.

Photo taken by Inger-Mette Stenseth from the Norway hub gathering on Oct 8th

Sharing Adaptive and Regenerative Stories Through Various Media

Something that kept coming up was the challenge of communicating with each other, with other cultures when we don’t speak the same language. How do we really do that? It felt very important and crucial to continue and have more conversations like we had with this overlapping of the cultures.

We learn again how to make meaning through the stories of common ground between each of us. What we are sharing is going beyond the logical and back into the biological. The story is coming through all of us, it’s coming as a calling that each of us is responding to in our own way as we connect again to nature.

Separation has been an illusion that has kept us apart from the web of life for so long. But as we learn to respond in love, not in fear, we can let go and find that at the end of our grasp we have woven around a web that protects us, that even if not directly receiving for what we have given, it comes around back to restore, just like the sun is always giving more.

So the cosmology of the indigenous, the Cobra Canoa, is the beginning and it’s happening, and as we were talking about communicating this message to the world, we spoke a lot about stories and how there is a lot of stories that need to be told, but also we need to be careful and cognizant, aware of really asking more questions than telling. We need to tell stories that are adaptive and regenerative. We need to tell a more compelling story of what it means to be human and connect all of the dots so that the story becomes for everyone. Healing needs to be a part of the story.

The key to all that is that we are going to produce a film, but we also mentioned that in order to really get these communications across on a wider scale overlapping various kinds of media, we need to explore many outlets. We need to bring more imagery and also more in-person gatherings. As a lot of loss is happening in this digital media, so along with the digital we need to have the in-person, to figure out how to bring people together, maybe regionally.

Naiara Yusió and Philippe Greier in design planning with Naomi Joy Smith prior to the synchronized journeys

Modeling Healing and Decolonization through Hosting

Hosting this whole process was a challenge. Patterns that were mentioned included the difficulty of co-creating this process as the hosts wish it would happen because there was a lot of tension, a lot of stress, a lot of things moving very quickly and just so many things happening at the same time between making this and the documentary and moving that there were moments where the hosts were not able to recognize each other in ways that were warm and felt good. They had to accept a lot of the limitations of time, to accept just how many things were happening at the same time when they merely wanted to be exploring the potentials that we could discover through these interactions during the learning journey.

The journey started out with Philippe leading the process, but then later on as things got going Bishop, Naiara, Silvinha, Eduardo, and the Cobra Canoa crew were able to take more ownership, responsibility, and commitment to the whole process that was going on. This moment too was a part of the decolonization that was even occurring on a small scale. This is something that happened on the back end that is very important to mention.

We did not invite indigenous to give speeches or present them as wisdom keepers but to meet each other on the same level and involve everyone in the creation process. Respecting different rhythms and approaches.

It was not a project for indigenous but with indigenous.
-Philippe Greier

One thing that was very helpful that we can explore further is how we can celebrate more what we are doing. We are adapting together, it’s an amazing thing, and we should be celebrating this and bringing more life, energy, music, dance, and just enjoyment to the process, because that’s what we are about and that’s what we are doing here. How can we do that more? Maybe getting each other and organizing ways to get into festivals, music festivals or creating small ones.

Screenshot from the launch party at Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janiero:

Where Will We Go from Here?

The experience as a whole was a very nourishing one: we had nourishing conversations to really reconnect with the wisdom of the indigenous. How we understand the human brain and how digital networks are connecting each of us together in a virtual realm of learning and education for wisdom and prosperity and regeneration of wisdom from nature? Right now, all of us are connecting faster than light particles through our digital camera screens. Where will we go from here? What questions will take us onto the next step?

That is the story of the Cobra Canoa connecting different educational stories from all parts of the globe. We have a crowdfunding campaign going on to help fund the Cobra Canoa efforts and the documentary. At the moment we have raised almost €1,000, but we need €10,000 as a minimum.
So please, please help share that as much as you can wide and far.

Naomi Joy Smith
Naomi Joy Smith

The battle against inequality starts in Mexico

Last month 195 world leaders once again met in New York for big speeches and grand events. But on inequality, when all is said and done, more has been said than done.

Four years after governments across the world committed to fighting inequality as part of the UN Sustainable Development Goals, far too little has been seen in the way of government action. That’s not the verdict of critical NGOs – that’s the official assessment of UN Secretary-General António Guterres himself.

As Guterres told countries, adding only the thinnest diplomatic coating, “the shift in development pathways to generate the transformation required to meet the Sustainable Development Goals by 2030 is not yet advancing at the speed or scale required.”

Indeed, he noted, “the global landscape for Sustainable Development Goal implementation has generally deteriorated since 2015”. It is in this context that the UN has called for a “decade of delivery” following five years in which we the people have been able to feast on words whilst fasting on action.

For years, grassroots organisations have been sounding the alarm about the damage being caused by widening inequality. More recently, the formal debate on inequality shifted and the accepted mainstream normative position has become that inequality is dangerous and needs to be reduced.

The UN has also stepped up in providing coordination and advice. But governments have not shifted in recognition of the new consensus. Cynicism about whether anything will be done has taken root amongst even the most hopeful observers.

And the big headlines from this year’s UN General Assembly did very little to counter that cynicism, dominated as they were by the world’s loudest leaders, who seem to make up for an absence of substance with a surfeit of bombast.

Quietly, on the sidelines, however, another group met to plan not a communique on the stage but a series of actions at home. It was not a huge group of countries, just a dozen, but it included countries from every region of the world and every income level.

The Global School for Social Leaders is a multi-awarded NGO specialized in holistic & disruptive education, Join us! https://TheGlobal.School/Programs

They met not because they think they have the answers, but because they are keen to learn from each other and to act. From Indonesia to Sierra Leone to Sweden to Mexico, they and others gathered in the first heads of state and government meeting of the Grand Challenge on Inequality, a new multi-stakeholder initiative to support vanguard governments, committed to tackling inequality, in finding the path by walking it.

Then, even more crucially, these same leaders mandated senior leaders and officials – the doers – to gather just after the New York meetings in Mexico City, and then in a few months in Jakarta, and onwards, to plan the implementation of a series of practical country-specific policies to narrow the gap between the runaway few and the many pushed behind.

You haven’t heard about this meeting because the leaders don’t believe that they have yet earned the right to declare themselves the leaders. Saint Francis of Assisi said “Preach the Gospel, and if you must, use words.”

In a similar spirit, the country leaders in the Grand Challenge on Inequality recognized, in the New York and in Mexico City meetings, that the power of their commitment to tackling inequality will be shown not in what they say but in what they do.

They recognized that there is no single policy that on its own can beat inequality, and so a series of complementary policies year on year is needed. They recognized that tackling inequality means taking on vested interests: that it means progressive tax and universal public services, it means protected workers and regulated corporations, it means designing policy from the bottom-up not the top-down, and it means tackling the wealth and power of the very wealthy.

As part of that, they opened themselves up to forthright challenge from grassroots social movements and trade unions, and shared what they as leaders were finding most challenging and the lessons they had learnt from their mistakes. It was, I’ll confess, something of a shock to hear leaders start off not with justifications but with self-criticism.

It was a world away from the (in)famous “Big Men Who Strode New York”. In a world saturated by the fake, to witness sincerity was disorientating.

It is early days for the pioneer governments Grand Challenge on Inequality, but, as a witness and as someone who has spent years bluntly challenging governments for their failures, here’s why it matters: social transformation doesn’t happen when people recognize that ther society is unfair – it happens when people also recognize that it can be fairer.

And that depends on people witnessing change, somewhere. Cynicism and despair are ultimately tools of the status quo. There is nothing more dangerous to those who would keep things as they are than the threat of a good example.

And, quietly, this group of countries, of leaders who do not call themselves leaders, are starting to build that good example. Oxfam have started to call this group of governments the “axis of hope”. Perhaps these governments could be more prosaically named the “axis of action”.

Grassroots organising will remain essential to help foster leaders’ determination and to push back against the pressures that will continue to be exerted by economic elites. There is no certainty that change is coming. But there is no longer certainty that it isn’t. And the sound that accompanies this change is not the bang of fireworks. It is a quiet whirring of hard work.


Ben Phillips – @benphillips76 

Write on how to fight inequality (@politybooks 2020). Help vanguard governments deliver on it, with @NYUCIC. Serve on @UNDP  Advisory Ctte. Walk Rome’s BEST dog.