• “Living in a changing world” – a Crash Course in Risk Management for Collapse

    by  • August 25, 2011 • Everything Else • 4 Comments

    Seed of the idea came to me when I was teaching part of the Permaculture course at Cloughjordan yesterday. Made a couple of tweets.

    Right, who wants to help me figure out a Collapse Course where I take all this stuff and teach it? When? Where? Who? Need perspective.

    “Living in a changing world” type emphasis, economic geography roots, politics-on orientation, relentless adaptation for realistic hope.

    I’ve got the content, I can hold an audience, but I have no idea how to get bums on seats, logistics and legalities. Do you have that part?

    I realized yesterday that I enjoy teaching and I’m good at it. The organizations are moving too slowly. I have a good feeling about this.

    There are quite a few discussions about teaching some of my material as a part of other activities right now – @Dougald and I have ongoing discussions that, among others. I am definitely very open to teaching as a component of other courses and activities.

    What I realized yesterday is that the infrastructure-centric way of seeing the world, and seeing collapse risks, is actually much slower to acquire than I think of it as being. With a well-prepared group it still seems to take about an hour to see the first edge of “ohhh….” form, where the vision begins to shift. And then there’s threat modeling, and the social thermometer and half a dozen other fundamental models which I live inside, most of which actually take about half a day to really grok, if not longer.

    So what I’m thinking about is actually something like a one week residential intensive, probably at Cloughjordan, in which we actually deep dive on those models and seeing the world, and do the psychological work of adapting to the world which can be seen from this much clearer, much more physical perspective. I don’t expect this to be easy, but I think that for people who are already well-prepared by Transitions, Permaculture, risk management or serious politics, it could be a chance to rapidly sharpen their perspective in the areas which become critical in fast-adaptation times.

    And, let me stress, not instead of teaching in other places, but as a sort of “masterclass” where, by the end of the week, everybody involved ought to be able to practically apply the toolkit to solve their problems, and the problems of the people in their communities.

    Syllabus might look something like
    Day One
    AM serious, deep introductions, and an overview of the course
    PM the Social Thermometer – understanding how people change in tough times

    Day Two
    AM global economic geography – how the other half lives, what it’s like to be poor
    PM drivers of change – what’s broken in ways which directly affects us

    Day Three
    AM simple critical infrastructure maps – theory and threat modeling
    PM simple critical infrastructure maps – practice and running scenario

    Day Four
    AM individual, group, organization and state – where to fight your battles
    PM the psychology of fear – how to handle the pressure of knowing

    Day Five
    AM the hope response – how have humans survived this long? how do we continue to do so?
    PM wind-down

    Given the intensity of the material, I suspect the format would be something like:
    * two hours of actual tuition
    * one hour of discussion
    * one hour of reflection, write up, personal conversations between students, Q&A on technical points

    The goal would be to create a level of understanding of the material and the models which will allow people to apply them to mitigate risks in the real world using the Gupta State Failure Management Archive toolkit. There’s an enormous amount of other material which is directly relevant to this terrain – practical experience from people who have lived through these kinds of times in their own countries, specialist knowledge in areas like policing, technical know-how for matters like water filtration or first aid. All that material is outside the bounds of what I have in mind for this course, which is simply deep-dive to master my material and models. People doing that are going to do other kinds of thinking and training too.

    I think there’s an enormous amount of room for a much more general course which includes the whole spectrum of material at a more general level, and I hope very much to be included in teams doing that kind of education in the near future ;)

    I also suspect that a course like this is going to need at least one, and more likely two facilitators – one handling logistics and practicalities, the other handling the depth work as people’s understanding of themselves and their world shifts.

    So, anyway, that’s as good a representation as I have right now for what I had in mind. Thoughts?

    PS: compare resilience designer which is a more gradual, evolutionary path towards resilience, and assumes a much less deep-dive approach.

    flattr this!


    Vinay Gupta is a consultant on disaster relief and risk management.


    4 Responses to “Living in a changing world” – a Crash Course in Risk Management for Collapse

    1. August 25, 2011 at 10:41 am

      We ran a 5 day horticultural summer school in West Cork in June. We got 12 people to participate and it ran reallly well. Advertising was all through social networks and friends in the press. Teaching was at various farms and gardens. What about a ‘collpase’ summer school.

    2. August 26, 2011 at 3:45 pm

      First piece of feedback: DO IT! It sounds like the outline of a really interesting class.

      More detail: I’ve been trying to run a training program here in Seattle for almost two years, with mixed success. The successes are that we’ve had several really great workshops, very strong feedback, a small core of regulars who keep coming back, and my org has met some really important people as a result of doing the workshops. The failure is that it was supposed to pay my way, and it’s brought in little enough money that my effective pay rate has been around $1/hr. We’ve been getting attendances around 20, but with low headline prices and typically half of the people in the room on a free ride or heavily discounted place because they pleaded poverty.

      So… the lesson I would share from the negative part is that this is a great idea, as long as you don’t count on making much money off it. The more you make the materials reusable for the other venues you want to teach in the better, because then you won’t mind so much if you don’t earn enough to pay for the many hours of course development. The lower you can make your fixed costs the better, which it sounds like you have a good start with through Cloughjordan, but maybe it’s also worth trying to get everyone to chip in together for food and cook together – you can make the headline price cheaper that way and sharing the cooking can be a good group bonding activity as well as a way to force some changes of scene (may not be actual breaks, because I suspect a class like this will have participants talking about the subject matter from breakfast till late at night). Which reminds me: this should definitely be a residential class, and see if you can even encourage people who live nearby to stay with the group for the week. The most intense, transformative workshops I’ve been involved with have been so, and the people who went home each evening lost part of the experience.

      Then from the successes, I would say: the more interactivity you can build in the better. On that front, day 3 looks perfect, but it’s worth giving a lot of thought to how you can get exercises (ideal) or group input (also good) into the other days. I’ll see if I can think of anything more specific and add it to the google doc if I do.

      In terms of the timing, no course I’ve ever worked on has retained the neat division between lecture, discussion and Q&A that you’ve outlined (and most instructors do plan something similar), but that’s never been a problem so don’t let it worry you. The main thing is that you’re being wise to schedule 2 hours of tuition per 4 hour block, because if people engage with this material as I would hope they do, there will be a lot of discussion and it’s frustrating to have to cut that short.

      And finally, it definitely makes sense to have some division of labour. I’ve always played what I call the “Facilitator” role, and recruited “instructors”, by which I mean that I handle logistics, advertising and being a host on the day, while the instructor’s job is to actually have some expertise on something and present that. It really helps the instructor not to be burdened with the other stuff, all of which can be one person’s work or can be partitioned among a few if enough people are willing. It’s also well worth getting guest speakers. Judging by the videos I’ve seen you’re a pretty good public speaker, but only the very, very best I’ve worked with have managed to do a one-day class alone without at some point losing the audience’s attention, and I’ve never even tried a multi-day class with only one speaker. There’s something about the variety of voices that helps people keep focussed.

    3. September 1, 2011 at 3:52 am

      Not to replace the master class you have in mind, but as something else to consider I think that Howard Rheingold’s Rheingold U is worth a look as a model.

      I love how much Rheingold puts out on the Web. If I remember correctly he began his Rheingold U with a tweet: “I need some money.” :-)

      In addition to the advantage of having people from various places participate, it seems to me the timing of Rheingold’s courses are good at five weeks.

    4. Pingback: The Bucky-Gandhi Design Institution › The Open Workshop

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *