Design Process As Youth Empowerment
programme seeks to weave together the strands of basic design,
self knowledge, environmental awareness, conflict resolution
skills, community building skills, intercultural
communications and the most positive, powerful, basic and
lasting of any motivational factors: spirituality.””"
to Amazonia Alliance, a global NGO focused upon cultural and
biological diversity issues, is building a new programme to train
youth in intercultural communications skills and sustainable design.
Design skills are being taught not only as an end in
themselves, but as a means of building self-knowledge and self
respect. Now in its
third year of development, the new EarthRoots Programme has
attracted significant interest
from a number of indigenous nations, from members of the European
Community, and nations within Africa and
. The first partner
sites are planned for
and the states of
. At this time, the
is seeking local commitments to build a working group to move
towards establishment of a series of training sites within
Bill Roper, I am also from the People's Republic of
would like to thank Terry and Philomena and the Landscape Alliance
for making it possible for me to come and speak to you all about
this project, which is very exciting to me.
It's also very exciting
to me to have the opportunity to stand again on the soil of my
This is another one of
those papers which is going to use that word 'sustainable', so in
your mind you can translate to whatever definition makes you feel
direct a small international NGO which was originally established to
help build links among the indigenous nations of the world and also
to help link indigenous nations and their organisations with those
environmental NGOs which are supposed to be there to protect the
may or may not come as a surprise to you that for most of our
is regarded as an indigenous nation.
the ‘Earthroots’ Programme which I will be discussing, developed
from a desire from our indigenous membership to have more contacts
with the Celtic community. In
fact it is becoming very commonplace for native Americans to come
over to Ireland and for one reason or another to come back speaking
about Irish Indians because they see so many parallels, as victims
of colonisation and all of the different subterfuges that go along
to keep a people down.
am also a landscape designer by trade and I have worked since 1983
to use landscape restoration as a means not only to help damaged
eco-systems, but to help heal that rift between people and their
time I have become increasingly aware of the magic which happens
when restoration projects are linked with youth, both within a
school setting and outside.
years ago I began an open-ended conversation with a number of my
indigenous colleagues, with environmentalists, landscape designers
and architects and educators regarding the power of using design to
empower individuals and communities working for social change.
At the same time I became aware that the efforts being made
by all of us in the areas addressing environmental problems and
cultural diversity, intercultural understanding and troubled youth
were very much inter-related, but we were all treating them as if
they were completely independent of one another.
I began to look for ways to teach others the value and the necessity
of dealing with these areas as parts of a greater whole.
eventually came to the idea of creating a series of locally defined
training centres where the principles of inter-relatedness could be
researched, demonstrated, taught and applied.
seeking viable alternatives to the destructive patterns of industry
and development which plague us all we tend towards the so-called
sustainable or maybe biocentric technologies, and it's within the
thinking of sustainability that we are most likely to find an
understanding that environmental stewardship and cultural integrity
are mutually supporting.
for others interested in, or already working along the same lines, I
circulated a series of rough proposals a few years ago for the
establishment of a centre for sustainable technology, based upon the
principles which I have just outlined of inter-relatedness between
these topic areas.
that proposal circulated around the world and what was interesting
was that by far the greatest number of interested replies were
I eventually had to come and see for myself the people who I had
been corresponding with and I put about 1,500 miles on my rental car
in three weeks going between meetings.
I saw just about everything except the very centre of the
of these meetings the ideas were continually refined, tossed out,
restated, refined again to the point where they now stand as a
tools for design, I believe, are some of the most powerful tools to
change a person's life. It
certainly has been so for me, in fact when I graduated from my
master's programme in Landscape Design several years ago, the
overwhelming emotion I had was anger and what I was angry about was
that nobody had provided those tools to me as a child because had
that been the case I would have designed my way through school, I
would have designed my way through life and it seemed really unfair
that I had to wait until I was in my thirties to get that.
I now find myself using design as a way of viewing life itself as
well as a tool for dealing with challenges.
It doesn't really matter to me, whether I am designing
gardens, habitats, campaigns or programmes, the approach is the
same. It is posing
helpful questions, it is learning how to see the world in a new way.
The details, which do vary, happen to be on a second level
after you have engaged in the design process.
experience of working with people of all ages is that once they have
experienced success in designing and implementing any project
- they no longer
look at the world quite as blindly as they did previously.
And if that project happens to involve improving their own
situation or addressing some sort of pressing community problem they
become an overnight activist.
then move on to organise others into confronting and dealing with
any number of issues, which happen to be plaguing them.
value in this for a young person struggling to understand themselves
and their relation to the world is, I think, incalculable.
I have literally seen it lift people out of the depths of
depression and become self-aware, personally motivated and valued
contributors to the entire community, and I have seen this a lot, in
learning to see through the lines of design is an immediate
advantage in being able to solve problems, but I think it's less
obvious that it can also increase self knowledge and it is
self-knowledge which in many ways characterises the quest we all
make, but particularly that of youth.
the other side of the design/self knowledge equation stands another
issue which is too frequently ignored and that is that the more a
designer understands herself and himself it is easier to get out of
your own way, I think and not muddle up the design with your
prejudices and the things you want to see happening, especially when
that design is supposed to be for the benefit of somebody else or
something else. I think
this is very important.
also increases self knowledge for a person which comes about through
entering the design thinking. There
is a flip side of that which is that you can then open yourself up
to the intuition which is coming through.
So when you know yourself well enough to know your
prejudices, as they slip into your design you can say 'wait a
minute, this is telling me something I haven't thought about -
this is coming from a deeper level and I should look at this
because it's probably telling me something about this project that I
forgot to include' and
so it's very valuable.
people today are growing up in, and desperately trying to make sense
of a world which is literally falling to pieces
The speed with which news from around the world comes is very
rapid and we can and do hear about critical events and issues
literally within hours of their occurrence.
Since much of the news deals with the unravelling of the
economy and environment, it's hard to look forward to the coming of
adulthood with anything but despair and cynicism.
myself and I believe it's true for many with whom I work, the world
situation is far more bearable if we feel that we are contributing
in some way to correcting the ills which surround us.
Although it has so far escaped serious interest on the part
of government, sustainable technology or whatever else we wind up
calling it, which does sustain sustainable (or whatever else we
might call it) design offers the most credible way back towards a
healthy planet and healthy societies, cultures and persons.
Industry has not ignored the growing public interest in
sustainability even though at this point they are dragging their
heels and posturing without any sincerity, you can believe that even
now there is quite a lot of research focused upon renewables and
other approaches to sustainability which is still behind the scenes.
Only when the old way becomes totally bankrupt will we see
them moving out into the light.
if this is going to happen; maybe we should push it, I don't know.
it does mean is that there will be jobs in these areas and this is
important again for young people.
The more that we, the public, educate ourselves and each
other and our governments, then the faster that these alternative
ways of doing things are going to come on line.
by learning design thinking and building self knowledge and applying
that awareness to researching and promoting alternatives young
people will not only create for themselves a job but they will be
creating for themselves a more secure future.
ultimate intention of the ‘Earthroots’ programme is to give
tools to and to empower young people to become healthy healers,
happy, responsible global citizens.
In order to do this the programme seeks to weave together the
strands of basic design, self knowledge, environmental awareness,
conflict resolution skills, community building skills, intercultural
communications and the most positive, powerful, basic and lasting of
any motivational factors: spirituality.
am not talking about religion and I'm not talking about church.
I am talking about the intensely personal and individual
relationship each being has with his or her spiritual self.
That to me is sacred in the highest sense of that word.
That's the voice from within which gives meaning and drive to
those who speak from the heart and inspire those around them.
the indigenous cultures who still live and act with a respect and an
awareness once common to all of us, it's that personal connection to
spirituality which provides the strongest guidance, something we all
hunger for, it's something we all recognise when we see it and it's
something we all need in order to be whole.
including it intentionally, as part of the balance we seek in
healing landscapes and persons, we strengthen the rest of our work.
the ‘Earthroots’ project seeks to develop serious
inter-communicating learning sites where those principles I just
mentioned through weaving together can be developed by focusing upon
learning to design and to promote biocentric alternatives.
there are several overlays in this programme.
I know it was quite a laundry list that I just delivered.
if you see them as transparencies or overlays which are happening at
different levels at the same time, it is really not that much to
ask, in fact we are all very practised in doing a number of things
at the same time. In
this case we are talking about working to become self knowledgeable
and to open communications with one's personal spirituality - that's
an ongoing process. Teaching
of conflict resolution and inter-cultural translation skills become
essential tools for international activity.
The appreciation that culture and environmental attitudes are
part of a single whole allows far more clarity and understanding in
addressing many issues, which will come along in designing
environmental cultural and economic repair strategies.
design thinking is a prerequisite for any specific focus, while also
developing critical thinking skills and a sense of personal
capability. All these
are needed to effectively engage in posing alternatives to the way
we are now draining and pulling at our habitat.
of leadership and entrepreneurial skills will allow students to
create jobs and markets for those skills.
Community organising skills and public education venues
provide means to bring the public along in demanding faster
conversions to sustainables from industry and government.
the creation of such centres for research and demonstration of
sustainables, flips the educational paradigm on its head by turning
the students into the teachers.
The young will be educating their elders even as they
continue to learn. As
the inheritors of all our folly it seems appropriate to give young
people the leadership in creating a saner, healthier world.
this time we have small working groups developing in the
. Many others have
expressed strong interest in bringing this sort of programme to
their own nations, especially here in
. What's needed most at
this time to move the project out of the discussion circle and into
a more concrete form, is the establishment of a working group here
capable of committing time and energy to the project.
I invite any of you who are interested to speak with me about
helping in forming a nucleus which can attract more support and
start some sort of pilot programme.
Q & A Session
One theme that has been going through this morning's session
and now this one -
talking about regulation, EIAs and traffic laws were
mentioned at one stage. It's
this public ownership which is being examined and even implemented
in some places in landscape design, the public ownership, the fact
that you actually take control of the laws and the rules and the
actual landscapes, this can involve either signing up physically or
in some other way if not to
actual ownership of what's happening around you and the developments
around you, you integrate and get involved in this kind of a way and
I can't think of a better way for starting with young people than
from this point.
Dom Hegarty, DOE and
My question is to Joyce McCormick, I would like to compliment her
and the planning service in
for the work they have done in carrying out this series of landscape
character surveys, and I wonder, having regard to that work, whether
Joyce sees any relevance now for a regional landscape policy.
I know there have been many calls here for a national
landscape policy, are you satisfied that what you have done is
sufficient for the local development plan mechanism to achieve
whatever needs to be done.
What we need now is what we call a planning policy paper on
landscape, though it will to a certain extent be covered in the
regional strategy and so on, but we need a policy paper that brings
all the different elements of landscape
together in the one framework.
We have it on planning and nature conservation, but we need a
planning and landscape type of policy statement.
John Haughton: I
would like to congratulate the last speaker on his presentation
because it brought in an element, which the conference needed and
that was diversity of culture. Biodiversity
we were talking about a lot today and it's really cultural diversity
that we need to talk about in addition and the point made in
relation to Belfast, the cultural diversity of a local landscape for
example in a deprived area.
the destruction of culture (and the American Indian is probably the
best example, the devastation of seventy million people, in
and elsewhere) is the greatest tragedy.
But that tragedy is happening today in places like Sudan etc.
I was reading recently about the Cherokee removal to a
and it is very sad reading indeed, but the same thing is happening
– with the famine in
. So I think we should
see things in perspective and looking at diversity as the key to the
whole thing, not just biological diversity but the richness of
cultural diversity, of the inner city community or what have you.
would like to congratulate the last two speakers on that, because
the two are very much linked, congratulations
Mairead Ni Drisceoil:
When I was growing up in primary school the children were
taught how to grow bluebells and put down potatoes, onions,
cabbages. There is none
of that now at all, so we did have what you are talking about from
the other side of the
. Perhaps if we had that
again it might work. I
do not see the Irish National Teachers Organisation here today, but
if that happened perhaps we might not have the high incidence of
crime because the spirituality would be linked with the wonder of
the fall of the leaf and so on.
If teachers were doing that in primary school today they
would be considered "way out" or crazy or something.
on the subject of city farms, there are children living in deprived
parts of large cities and they think potatoes are just out of bags,
and milk comes out of a plastic bottle.
So it's good to hear that the Overend sisters in Dundrum ,
these wonderful ladies have been giving that for the children of
, and we need that very urgently.
And the fantastic work that you do here is not being heard
enough at all. I don't
see Gerry Ryan or RTE here reporting on you for the evening news,
isn't it about time we asked them to come?
Just to respond quickly, we sent press releases everywhere we
could think of, every local radio and every national programme we
could think of, but you actually need a separate P.R. body doing
nothing else but chasing them up and there are wheels within wheels
would like to address a question to Erik and one to Dom Hegarty:
Erik, where do you see the programme slotting in within the
existing education framework or do you see it completely independent
of it, and to Dom Hegarty -
having seen what has happened in Northern Ireland and it's seems to
me a classic case of a wheel having been invented, I am interested
to know if any discussions to your knowledge taken place in the
Department of the Environment on developing a joint discussion group
with Northern Ireland to see can we borrow from them and learn from
what they have done so that we can implement something
similar here in the south.
Response (Erik van
As far as the existing educational system goes the EarthRoots
programme is based on a three-year programme. We are thinking that
perhaps the first target group will be high school drop-outs and we
will be able to offer in conjunction with the system the high school
equivalency for completing the full three years.
In the United States(mainly in Vermont), there are three or
four community level colleges very interested in working with us and
having us provide what they have already been looking to develop -
an international style programme, and in exchange for that they
would work with us at different levels from the high school up.
Part of what we could offer then is advanced standing in
these participating college systems.
When I came over here I spoke with some representatives from
the RTC system and they were also very interested in aligning with
us, so I guess the simple answer is using the existing institutions
to the point where we can combine programming.
I do think that there are earlier stages, where we are
putting together pilot programmes in various locations where you
can't do the whole picture. You
have to start small, and trial it and demonstrate it so that others
gain confidence in it. That
could even be based around the likes of a summer camp.
I don't know if discussions have taken place or not.
have had discussions with our counterparts in
in relation to their regional strategy.
But in relation to the work that Joyce is doing, they have a
much more centralised system. We
have local planning authorities, who are their own masters, they
don't have the same situation in the north.
Once we have finished preparing the planning legislation
which is going through now and nearing its conclusion and when we
start on the landscape guidelines we will welcome discussions with
our counterparts in
and we will consult widely with everybody else.
I am here today to listen as well.
I think conferences such as this are a great help in deciding
the best way forward.
Regarding the earlier comment about planting bluebells in the school
yard, there is a scheme in existence right now with the Earth Wisdom
Foundation where they are looking for a piece of land in the city,
in a town and in the country to develop pilot programmes for growing
soft fruit and orchards and teaching horticulture to people,
especially schoolchildren, if anybody has any interest in that I can
give them a contact address. We
would like to see this programme developed across the
be taught, all the world would learn; as all the world reads, or
in this matter of making artists; first you must find your artist in
the grain; then you must plant him; and with patience, ground and
weather permitting, you may get an artist out of him – not