Evolving an Educational Program and Social Enterprise
Pachamama has her own unique way of working through all of us, and it was not long before I was asked to develop Jump Up as a program model for other schools. It was a bit of a no brainer really, we had the foundations in the form of draft manual and some great documentary footage. Now, I needed the proof that it worked, and to do that I needed a team!
Two inspirational, wise women, Lee Coller and Barbara Crljen from the Melbourne Be The Change community, offered their help, friendship and exceptional passion to the development and co-founding of Jump Up. While artist Julia Peddie dedicated her time to the creation of exceptional artwork to bring the program to life in the classroom. They helped to create the raft upon which we would navigate a full trial of the program in three demographically diverse Australian primary schools.
Over 4 years we called in the advice and dedications of a team of over 50 teachers, professors, child psychologists, students, artists, filmmakers, business mentors, and cooks. Hosting three residential training and development programs, each one refining the work until we felt confident that we had a full first draft of a fully applicable cross-curricular program.
Then in 2012 a life long dream came true. I was sponsored to travel to the US to visit with the Achuar and to work at the Pachamama Alliance Head office in San Francisco, California for a week’s development on the Jump Up program. A full report of this journey titled, Affirming Intuition, can be found here.
I went on a Pachamama Journey to the Ecuadorian Amazon, and as we travelled through San Clememente on our way to the rainforest, I met the granddaughter of an indigenous community member during a sacred cleansing ceremony.
In her smile I saw my future
A far distant future of generations waiting to be born
The faces of children of all creeds and colors
Luminous with gratitude and love
Two lessons presented themselves while I was traveling, the first was that Pachamama was in no doubt that the work of Jump Up was my calling in the
world…a calling not only from my own great, great grand children, but from the children of all nations.
The second was that the program we had created did not fit with the US curriculum.
I came home with a cup half full and a cup half empty… I had received blessing beyond my wildest dreams, and had made a promise to both my children and myself that one day we would return here as a family to share our work with the children of San Clemente and the rainforest. Yet to progress the program any further we needed funding.
We believed that our funding lay in one of two directions, either from Australian educational funds, or from the Pachamama Alliance community, and both of these would require a solid business model.
My next step was to wise up on business, so in 2013 I enrolled for the School of Social Entrepreneurs (SSE) Accelerator program, securing part scholarship and part investment funding (in the program) from a private benefactor. SSE provided an exceptional experience in its own right and one that felt profoundly aligned with both the intentions of the program and the necessity for us to secure a sustainable income from our work. However, in 2014 a change in Australian politics spelt the death of funding for sustainable education and put a line through the New National Curriculums priority area of Sustainability (upon which we had been hedging our bets for the programs roll out). Our business plans went into free-fall!
After a further 6 months of seeking an alternative route, I was exhausted mentally, emotionally and financially. It was time for me to take a break, earn some money with which to feed and clothe my family, and let someone else navigate for a while.
Bozena Sawa, former committee member of Be The Change Australia and passionate Community Development Agent headed the Jump Up leadership team for the coming year, leaving no stone unturned for our potential to resurrect a financially viable plan in Australia. After a year of hard work we sadly recognized that our vessel of a viable Social Enterprise was sinking. It was time for a radical rethink.
Creative Commons Public Launch
In early 2015 with the blessings of the Jump Up leadership team, I decided to launch the entire Jump Up program (student workbook, facilitator manual and all enrichment materials) on Creative Commons and “Go Walkabout” so that the program could be available to be freely used by all with a suggested donation.
Since then, the program has been downloaded and used by a handful of educators in places as far afield as Austria, Colorado, Toronto, Houston, Melbourne, Italy, England, and most recently China where I was told two days ago that a team of four teachers are now translating the materials to Chinese.
Dreaming of the Future
Today, I recall a poignant conversation from the early days of Jump Up development where Barbara and I were attempting to unravel and make sense of our leadership experience.
We identified the neurological mind fields of working outside our comfort zones, in areas of expertise that were a visceral, somatic sensation, as opposed to academic mastery. I likened the experience to navigating a boat on the Severn Estuary, the home of my ancestors in the South West of England. The estuary here has a 12 meter tide, one of the highest in the world. When the tide is out, no ocean is visible from the seafront and all that remains is a distant small stream nestled below glistening and treacherous mud flats.
At times it has felt like our leadership tide is way out of sight, the ocean a distant promise. Today, as I look out over the Severn from the top floor of my father’s home, the ocean is at high tide, a fleet of boats enjoying racing their summer regatta.
My heart is brimming with compassion, hope, and profound gratitude, and once again I feel the call of my great, great grandchildren asking me to fulfill my dream of working with Jump Up in the rainforest. The ocean is calling me to navigate towards my dreams. My dream is to work with my now teenage children in the Amazon rainforest as we share Jump Up and grow it to its next stage of evolution.