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TitleWalk out, walk on : a learning journey into communities daring to live the future now
File Size5.3 MB
Total Pages284
Table of Contents
                            Cover Page
Title Page
Copyright Page
Our Invitation For How To Read This Book
Part I: Leaving Home
	Walk Outs Who Walk On
	Why We Visit These Communities
	Your Hosts (The Authors)
	Seven Healthy and Resilient Communities
	The Role Walk Outs Play in Creating Change
	Preparing to Leave Home
	The Courage to Quest
	Packing for the Journey
Part II: Journeying
	Mexico: From Scaling Up to Scaling Across
	Brazil: From Power to Play
	South Africa: From Problem to Place
	Zimbabwe: From Efficiency to Resilience
	India: From Transacting to Gifting
	Greece: From Intervention to Friendship
	United States: From Hero to Host
Part III: Returning Home
	The Patterns That Connect
	Will You Walk On?
	Stepping Onto the Invisible Path
Part IV: Reflections
	Choosing to Act
	We Never Know Who We Are
Credits and Sources
About the Authors
About Berkana
Document Text Contents
Page 2

If this world does not have a place for us,
then another world must be made.

—Zapatista saying

This book is dedicated to
the people of the Berkana Exchange,
who are making another world.

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mixie. It is the place where kabaad se jugaad (the upcycling practice that you
first encountered in Mexico) has transcended practice and become a philosophy
—a spirituality even—for transmuting garbage into grace through hardy
ingenuity. Shikshantar is steeped in philosophy, brewed from a rich mix of
poets, sages, scholars, grandmothers, dreamers, writers, storytellers, and artists.
Gandhi’s concept of swaraj is its primary ingredient, the black tea into which all
the other spices are infused—Tagore, Krishnamurti, Sri Aurobindo, Vinoba
Bhave,61 as well as the wisdom of common people, everyday life, elders, and
dalits (untouchables). This is your invitation to taste swaraj, to roll the
complexity of India around on your tongue. You don’t have to understand it—
just put a few of these sentences from Shikshantar in your pocket, carry them
around with you, pull them out occasionally for refreshment.

The call for swaraj represents a genuine attempt to regain control of the “self”—our self-
respect, self-responsibility, and capacities for self-realization—from institutionalization; that is, the
submission of the human spirit to the will of institutions. As Gandhi states, “It is swaraj when we
learn to rule ourselves.”

Swaraj requires that we regain our faith in the capacity of human beings and restore agency,
the locus of power, back to individual and local communities.

The process of swaraj seeks to create a reflective and participatory context for people to ask
who we have been, who we are, and who we want to become.

This feels like heady stuff, doesn’t it? What are you expecting to find when
you walk into the Shikshantar learning space in Udaipur, the City of Lakes in the
state of Rajasthan? What images of India are you carrying around with you? Are
they images of poverty—beggar children tugging at you for change,
overcrowded streets, rivers polluted with plastic debris? Are they images of
technology—call centers and tech support and professional outsourcing? Are
they images of Bollywood, Hindu gods and goddesses, men playing sitars and
women in saris dancing?
Here is another image of India—one in which people are practicing swaraj by

rejecting today’s ready-made world, a world in which everything we consume
has been processed and prepackaged by someone else: ready-made clothes,
ready-made food, ready-made homes, ready-made education, ready-made
medicine, ready-made entertainment. Here, instead, is an image of Shikshantar, a
place whose purpose is to provoke new thinking about education.

I had heard about Shikshantar for years before I made my first visit in 2005.
Through our work together at Berkana, Manish Jain, one of Shikshantar’s co-
founders, had become a colleague and close friend. But no matter how many

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long and late-night conversations we would have about Shikshantar’s approach
to rethinking education, I couldn’t wrap my mind around what they actually did.
Manish talked repeatedly about swaraj, Gandhi’s invitation to take responsibility
for ourselves. He would patiently explain how Shikshantar’s work was to
experiment with creating our own learning, weaning ourselves from the ready-
made world where all that’s expected of us is to be good consumers.
When I arrived at Shikshantar, I observed a hive in action—people

everywhere discovering and inventing their own unique ways to grow and
prepare food, maintain health, construct household goods, tell stories, create art.
At first, there didn’t seem to be any rhyme or reason to their activities. Everyone
carried on with his or her own vision, forming partnerships and teams as needed.
It was only after a full week immersed in this lively environment that I began to
see what held the whole together. Shikshantar’s coherence is derived from its
shared values and beliefs that serve as an underground aquifer nourishing all the
activity above the surface. That aquifer runs deep, saturated with India’s three-
thousand-year-old philosophical and spiritual heritage—which is why it matters
to listen to the voices of the wise men and women who have come before. And
which is why we began our journey to India the only way we could have—with
the insights of the wisdom-keepers who have shaped everything Shikshantar is

It is 9 A.M. It is 3 P.M. It is 8 P.M. It doesn’t matter: The scene is the same. At
every time of day, people come and go, following their own personal rhythm of
work, play, rest, and surprise. On the left as you walk in, Guddi is sitting at the
charka, spinning cotton into string which can be made into clothes or bags.
Through the doorway, Vishal is practicing kabaad se jugaad by rolling old
newspapers into long, thin tubes that will be woven into baskets and bowls. A
pile of CDs awaits his attention for becoming a lampshade. Nirmal is sawing
away at a piece of coconut shell out of which he will make earrings and
necklaces to display at next week’s Hamo Desi Mela, the monthly festival where
community members exchange locally grown organic food, herbal medicine, and
handicrafts. Pannalal wanders in, returning from Sandeep’s urban garden
carrying a cabbage covered with a fine dust of ash, which has served as a natural
insect repellant. He delivers the cabbage to Sunny, a sixteen-year-old who has
devoted himself to experiments in oil-free food and healthy cooking. He is

Page 283

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