Certification Program for Compassionate Systems Master Practitioners
Class of 2021-2022
Facilitated by Peter Senge & Mette Boell
Starts June 28, 2021 and ends July 22, 2022
Blended course including one face-to-face workshop at The Garrison Institute, New York
We believe we are living in a time of profound change in education – a sort of renaissance – that is unfolding around the world. The deeper causes are the social and ecological imbalances that manifest in problems like climate change and global disparities between rich and poor. Recognizing the contemporary individualistic, materialistic industrial age education model itself as a prime cause of these problems has led education pioneers around the world to a remarkable array of innovations over the past decades focused on project-based learning, flipped classrooms, mindfulness, social and emotional learning, relational competencies, design thinking and systems thinking.
The global pandemic of 2020-21 has served to intensify awareness of these imbalances. It has made painfully evident our global inter-dependence, and it has pulled back the curtains to reveal long present problems like structural racism. The fragility of our prevailing concept of stability based on high levels of technological sophistication combined with low social and cultural sophistication is painfully evident. The latest smart phone is small compensation for not being able to trust each other and living in denial about problems that are self-evident to children and young people. Rather than being driven solely by the agendas of adults, it is their sensibilities, attuned by having one foot in the present and one in the future, that can now offer critical guidance. The global epidemic in anxiety, depression and suicide is no news story to them – it is the lived reality of friends and family. For educators, much of this has been masked by the immediate breakdowns and dislocations caused by the pandemic and the forced rush to distance learning. But, when seen in concert with the deep underlying problems, the short-term crises create a unique space for accelerating the renaissance.
A consensus is building among adults and students alike that the mainstream education model, which largely ignores our connection to one another and to the larger living systems of our planet in favor of developing technical skills, is woefully inadequate for today, let alone the future in which our students will live. Even governments are acknowledging publicly that it makes little sense to train people for jobs that may no longer exist by the time they enter the work force and that the mental health and well-being of teachers and students alike is now a priority.
We believe that facing today’s extraordinary social, ecological and economic imbalances requires an approach to teaching and learning based on the transcendent importance of interconnectedness and that cultivates humans’ innate systemic intelligence largely ignored by the industrial-age model of education. For the past several years, we have been working with a global network of education innovators to develop and test a new synthesis of head, heart and hand, the Compassionate Systems Framework, focused on “cultivating three interconnected facets of "systems awareness ” for adults and students alike:
- the mind-heart-body system: understanding and developing self,
- immediate social systems of relationships, families, teams and groups and social networks: understanding and caring for others, and
- the larger systems of society, economy and ecology: understanding and caring for our world.
Shifting the system of education requires much more than innovation in the “classroom.” It requires developing an organization climate and culture that
- fosters deep aspiration and ongoing reflection and learning,
- develops leaders at all levels (classroom, school, school system, community) adept at integrating the inner and outer dimensions of systems awareness, and
- engages diverse stakeholders in building shared visions and shared responsibility for change.
This is true for schools, larger administrative structures like school districts and education departments or ministries, and for community-based organizations working with students and young people outside of school.
This initiative has now reached a point where its continued expansion depends on developing master practitioners – teachers, administrators, students, local stakeholders – who can shepherd its continued growth locally and globally, as well as better understand how this capacity building can become coherent and self-sustaining in diverse cultural and organizational contexts. This is the purpose of our certification program.
 The term systems awareness refers to the orientation which combines systems thinking and systems sensing. Whereas “systems thinking” points to a set of skills associated with analytical and conceptual capacities for using specific tools and practices to understand complex interdependent phenomena, “system sensing” is about our intuitive understanding of these complex interdependencies.