THE IDEA OF THE COMMUNIVERSITY:
COMMUNITY – PILGRIMIUM – ACADEMY – LABORATORY
The modern Western university has created an elite ‘one-size-fits-all’, atomized, ‘scientific’ and universal institution, with an international academic curriculum, focused on the solo-heroic student. By contrast, the Communiversity is focused on communities of learners, grounded in their culture, producing knowledge which is relevant to their own local situation, values, practical actions and the enterprises that they are invested in developing together.
The idea of the Communiversity has arisen out of the increasing recognition that Western ‘Mode 1’ universities are failing to meet the needs of many local communities, not only in the so-called ‘developing world’ but, also, in the ‘left-behind developed world’. Much of the current serious disaffection with contemporary economic structures, politics, and society stems from a feeling, amongst many, that they are unable to participate in the wealth-creating and sharing aspects of society, which give others their sense of meaning. The resultant estrangement gives rise to social problems of mental illness, isolation – even amongst young professionals – rejection of democratic and authoritative institutions and can, at its extreme, lead to increasing levels of suicide and street violence. Whilst the Communiversity is unable to address all these issues, it is one tool amongst many, which can assist in connecting people, communities and cultures to a model of collaborative learning that helps to make sense of who we are and what we can contribute.
In former times other institutions held these functions. Monasteries, local academies and laboratories, together with libraries, spiritual and cultural ‘disciplines’ and the “Republic of Letters” each served to bring people together in learning communities that retained a measure of connection to localities. Of course, the transformation of communications media, most particularly connected to the internet, has allowed for a scale of informal learning unsurpassed in human history. But, the digital world of access to universal knowledge has, paradoxically, led to a further disconnect of people from learning communities. One core aim of the Communiversity is to assist in enabling local communities to access, utilize and develop learning and knowledge, often through the use of Web-resources, that are relevant to their situations and transform lives, neighborhoods, and culture.
Orientation : The Integral Need for the Reinvention of Knowledge
Most universities, as well as research laboratories and management consultancies, are Eurocentric (including Euro-America) in nature and scope. As such there is no overall global “integrity”, authenticity, or indeed “alternity” in the “scientific” education that a Zimbabwean, a Nigerian, an Arab or a Pakistani receives – in their cases inevitably French or English in origin – or in the kind of research they undertake, which is more likely to be American in its empirical, or more likely pseudo-empirical, orientation. Secondly therefore, when it comes to the “development”, or better regeneration, of a particular country or community, what we call the recognition and release of its “GENE-ius”, again there is no obvious place to start. The West predominates over the rest.
The Euro-centric or U.S.-centric research agenda, or educational curriculum, is, then, alien from where “non-Europeans” (that is most of the world) individually and societally are. Consultants and research laboratories, secondly, deal with the development of products, services and organisations, inevitably constrained by “western” macro forces, notably those of the “Washington Consensus”, that are invariably beyond their control. Community developers, thirdly, seem to have faded into oblivion in the wake of today’s all-pervasive individual leaders and entrepreneurs – now social as well as business ones – who have become the order of our day. Finally, and altogether as a result, the social and economic regeneration, of whole societies seems to be, on the one hand, left locally and largely to chance, notwithstanding the sincere, or indeed insincere efforts of public policy makers to deal with such. On the other hand, and globally, most societies are at the mercy of the “Washington Consensus”. So where do we go from there, now drawing integrally on the “south”, “east” and “north” as well as the “west”?
Communal to Individual
In conclusion, the conventional university logic, whereby you start with the individual and work up toward the society is reversed, whereby you ground learning in a community, emerge through society (pilgrimium), navigate through an organisation (academy) and end with the individual (laboratory).