Guiding Principle 2) Focusing Energy: Creative Synchronicities – The Flower of Life/Mandala/Lotus Flower Metaphor

Following prior projects undertaken, we have found that it is critical to have a strong conceptual, or theoretical, framework for projects. Derived from work with the Vice President for Research at Texas A&M University, Diagram 3 highlights the necessity for creating a focal point for a regional empowerment model. This diagram creates a conceptual foundation of our JRLU/RRES effort, highlighting the importance of education for improving people’s lives.

The JRLU will not ignore traditional educational settings such as classrooms, workshops, seminars and short courses, but will utilize a dynamic combination of learning environments with an emphasis on experiential, learning, “conversations”, and real-world learning. The aim and underlying purposes of the JRLU strategy is to infuse the educational experience for Jamaican´s with an understanding of the truly spectacular planet where we live and our own inherent magnificence, and then to empower individuals and organizations to ignite the dreams and aspirations in their hearts.

To move from the theoretical to application this proposal develops specific “action centers” to adapt the JRLU (in combination with the RRES) to any context. Diagram 1 is a metaphorical representation of a nuclear reaction. The key to getting an explosion is to focus a considerable amount of energy into the core of the reaction. However, after the critical mass of energy has been reached, the expulsion of energy is instantaneous and far reaching. We thank Dr. Ewing for sharing this vision with us before he passed in 2007. Below is a brief discussion of how we see this image providing another way of depicting our approach. We will re-present diagram 1 for further discussion.

Diagram 11: The Nuclear Reaction – or The Mandala (Lotus Flower): “When a critical mass of knowledge and energy is reached, the results can touch the world!”

The Center of Diagram 1 represents the core “nucleus” of the JRLU which will be represented most significantly by the JRLU/RRES Institute and the Idea and Product Visioning & Creation Center (IPVCC). The five “green” circles represent the “context” in which the project works in a community / region / country. We recognize 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,

overlapping, inner circles in Diagram 3 will allow us to re-cognize the integral relationship of these disciplinary domains, providing a new context for re-aligning our efforts for a successful rural economic empowerment strategy.

The JRLU, as it develops its 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 established by historical and contemporary authorities. 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 the JRLU. 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’s2  critique of the limitations of the Land-grant system as it has matured, mainly that the “Outreach” not been properly  expanded and utilized.

Diagram 1 is a symbolic metaphor of a “nuclear reaction”, (or a more spiritual view is of the lotus flower) which is our vision to powerfully extend the learning and research of JRLU/RRES to re-connect education to the world, which is depicted in the outer ring of Diagram 3.

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 JRLU/RRES 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 Diagram 1 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 the Jamaica Reverence for Life University and Rural Revitalization & Empowerment Strategy (JRLU/RRES) is to stimulate creative innovation in the economy through the creation of an experiential learning institution (see Diagram 1). We will begin with a core educational program derived from a set of holistic, sustainable experiential education resources. Delivery will be supported by state-of-the-art hardware and software infrastructure, in addition to “train the trainer” community outreach. It is critical that both the technology and human elements be supported in a complimentary fashion.

As previously discussed, Systems Thinking aims to “contextualize” things and endeavors to steer clear of simple multi-disciplinary models. No project, including an educational initiative, can be properly developed without carefully considering the context and repercussions of the proposed effort or change. This fact has been recognized for some time in the United States for governmental projects. All federally authorized projects require that environmental impact assessments (EIA) be conducted. EIA are a derivative of Systems Theory. Traditionally associated with large engineering or infrastructural projects, the EIA process has been developed because many human endeavors have resulted in tremendous human, environmental and societal impacts.

As we consider this idea, I would suggest that no other single social investment has a more important impact on the development of a society than education. This idea can easily be supported by Abraham Lincoln´s signing of the Land-grant Morrill Act into law during the Civil War.

As an educational component, as part of a larger society, JRLU, must be fully aware of the macro-scale impacts since education is paramount in its influences shaping future societies. However, as discussed previously we reiterate the human and spiritual components associated with individuals. These are key foundations of our efforts to stimulate individual, personal empowerment, awakening and transformation.

Our strategy, discussed in greater detail below, is derived from the basic understanding that strategies aimed towards successful community empowerment require that we also comprehend the “opportunity space” objectively and comprehensively, and the ensuing impacts of our actions.

Our systems approach will utilize the “Structure, Function and Process Iterative Model” (see Diagram 3). In general, historically and traditionally, human endeavors and scientific research (under the rubric of education) have tended to focus on independent multi-disciplinary pieces in which the whole is the sum of its associative parts.  In our systems approach, we intend to look at the “big-picture”, identify and examine the various pieces, reassemble the “puzzle,” and then study it as an interactive system—a synthesis of processes (e.g. adoption diffusion), people, and subsystems which are the key to successful education. Again evaluation, which becomes the basis for accountability, or better—responsibility, is a critical element which is inherent throughout the process and is built into the flow of “Structure, Function and Process Iterative Model” (See Diagram 3).

For now we will describe the flow process of the “Structure, Function and Process iterative model”. The flow, as depicted in Diagram 3 moves from left to right, initially. However, the model really is cyclical and contains a sub-cyclical process inside of the “Systems Thinking” box in the center (Structure, Function and Process).

As can be seen in Diagram 3, the flow process starts in the left with inputs coming together derived from internal and external sources of the JRLU. Internal includes the faculty, staff, and organizational resources contained within the University (depicted in the top arrowed box in the upper left). The expertise and capabilities of the JRLU are combined with, and potential derived from, resources from various outside sources. This is depicted in the arrowed box entitled “Jamaica Agencies, Organizations and Citizens”. Even though this box is identified with Jamaica, potential resources can and will be derived from sources from around the globe. There are immense possible sources of various educational programs that can be adapted. The list in the lower left hand corner of Diagram 3 are some of the preliminary programs.

These resources then move into the “black box” depicted in the large center box entitled “Systems Thinking”. The top half of the box shows the “Structure, Function and Process” iterative approach as defined by Gharajedaghi. This process combines with the partial list of various resources, products and services in the bottom half of the center box. It is important to note that this process is not at all static. It is dynamic and organic. In fact, the list provided in this document are only conceptual based on preliminary ideas, but the real programs will be derived from the “real process” evaluated from needs assessments and after the organizational partners and input resources have been identified. Essentially, this schematic identifies a sort of “nested” “Structure, Function and Process iterative model” that allows for constant evaluation and adaptation of what is produced so as to most adequately meet the needs of clients, constituents (students, public) which is depicted on the far right of the diagram.

Key to success of this endeavor is the creation of programs, applications, etc. that fulfill the needs of those populations of people we are serving. At this point we see that it is important to develop more practical and pragmatic solutions because so many peoples are suffering at the most basic levels. However, it is also important to note that these conditions will ultimately be addressed by a wholesale shift in people´s thinking, living, and perceptions which can only really be addressed by Spirit. As the model is instituted it is perpetually self-creating and expanding. This means that as the programs begin to help people grow and evolve, the programs will evolve to fulfill those needs. It is critical nonetheless that there are always methods in place to evaluate the effectiveness of programs to satisfy the needs of students and various beneficiaries. This idea of evaluation is both implicit and explicit as shown in the diagram below. The “feedback arrows” shown identify places of emphasis, but the “Structure, Function and Process iterative model” requires another level of evaluation and adaptation. 

Finally, as what is learned is fed back into the system (depicted by the larger arrows from right to left), there is emphasis on the creation of a “business model”. This is critical to the overall success of the JRLU. Once established the viability and continuance will be dependent upon the ability to generate the financial resources necessary to support and expand. This is as long as the current economic paradigm exists. Most programs, courses and curriculums will be additionally evaluated based upon their ability to have the students pay. Of course there will be exceptions to this rule when the need for programs justify it, but in the main it is in the best interest of the JRLU to be fully self supporting not requiring inputs from outside sources.

This does not exclude the possibility for outside donations, grants and investment but they will only be accepted when they adequately align with the greater mission of the JLRU. We expect that through a creative business model and the use of Internet technologies and other possibilities for income generation that money will not be an issue. The diagram does indicate that income will need to be channeled to the various areas of need appropriately.

Diagram 3: JRLU systems approach using the Structure, Function and Process Iterative Model: Moving from knowledge and information to practical outputs.

2. President Emeritus, Oklahoma State University – author “Reclaiming a Lost Heritage: Land-grant and Other Higher Education Initiatives of the 21st Century

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