GESA 2018 participants Wangui, Irina and Rickie
Thanks in part to your generous support*, this summer the Global Environments Network (GEN) hosted its sixth Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) at the University of Oxford and beautiful locales in the surrounding countryside. We delivered this year's GESA in collaboration with the University of Oxford’s Environmental Change Institute (ECI) and Interdisciplinary Centre for Conservation Science (ICCS).
GESA 2018 took place between 25 July and 12 August, bringing together twenty inspiring environmental changemakers from eighteen different countries, each with diverse and fascinating backgrounds. Through their time at GESA, we set out to provide them with new tools, skills, knowledge and a supportive network as they tackle some of the most challenging socioenvironmental issues of our age.
With a program comprised of three parts, participants were taken on a journey. We moved from deep personal inquiry and immersive nature connection, to learning how to build a communications campaign and hold courageous conversations, on into development of new projects and initiatives.
Here, through a collection of photos, we share elements of participants' journeys and stories.
1. The Opening Retreat
Image 1: The first part of this retreat was based on the transformative teachings of Joanna Macy’s The Work that Reconnects, a powerful set of tools for acknowledging one’s pain and sadness for the state of the earth, whilst simultaneously taking responsibility for one’s personal and collective agency for positive and socio-political and environmental change.
Image 2: The second part of the retreat involved Theatre of Transformation, a pioneering methodology of human development, education and training. Combining art with politics, participants learnt to weave poetry and theatre into their stories to bring vividly to life the challenges of global peace and security, and to activate diverse audiences around the world to become co-creators of positive change.
2. Oxford University Academy
Image 3: Whilst the Opening Retreat focused more on inner work and personal development, this 9-day intensive academy focused instead on critical evaluation. Participants delved deeply into key issues underpinning our current planetary crisis. Joined by resource people from multiple fields, this portion involved inspiriting plenaries, group discussions, practical workshops and trainings, field trips, and one-on-one mentoring sessions. Here, participants take part in the session ‘Spiritual Activism’.
Image 4: One practical workshop focused on video making. Following a foundational theoretical component on the technical and ethical basis of filmmaking, participants spent an enjoyable day putting their new skills into practice. They experimented with the equipment to conduct video interviews, and produced creative short videos in small groups, which were later screened at a movie night.
Image 5: Each morning began with a ‘creative prelude’ led by one of our brilliant participants. Here, Emma, trained in circus arts, gives the group a lesson in acrobatics.
Image 6: Replacing conventional coffee breaks were the much-loved and legendary ethnobotany breaks, which have been a feature of GESA since our first academy in 2011. Every day, each participant shared a slice of their culture and home country by bringing samples of food and/or beverage for everyone to taste. The tasting was preceded by a short introduction or story to provide context and history to the food being shared. Here, Elif invited us to sample some sweet delicacies she has helped a Cappadochian Turkish organization to brand and market.
3. Practical (closing) Retreat
Image 7: The final phase was designed to create a space for participants to put their learning into practice. With that in mind, external communications experts joined us for a one-day session on ‘How to build a communications campaign’, around issues participants are passionate about. Finally, two full days were dedicated to project presentations. Each participant, either individually or as a group, was given the opportunity to share their future project ideas and collaborations.
With our 6th GESA successfully completed, we are excited that another twenty alumni, plus new inspiring and dynamic resource people, will now join the Global Environments Network (GEN). They add to its diversity and power, as well as its capacity to catalyse transformative social and environmental change in the world. Thank you for your part in sustaining this network!
*NOTE: Many kind donors contributed via this project in July 2018 to our new GEN initiative to enable Amazonian Indigenous communities to address malaria. All your July donations were successfully directed to that specific initiative. Your generosity triggered significant matching donations of essential supplies and medications in Venezuela: thank you! We will shortly post an update at the project’s own dedicated GlobalGiving page.