Contribution to GTI Roundtable "On Higher Education"
An exchange on the essay A Higher Calling for Higher Education

Anamaria Aristizabal

I was heartened by Escrigas’s essay “A Higher Calling for Higher Education.” Having just read a book that is consonant with the message, The Courage to Teach by Parker Palmer, I am starting to tune into a coherent cry from many people around the world about the reform that is needed in education. In the book I just read, there is an invitation to be part of a movement for education reform, and the author speaks of four stages of movement building: (1) individuals choose to live a life of integrity and courageously stand up for their values independently and in institutional settings, (2) these individuals create communities of congruence, where these values are honored and strengthened, (3) the movement becomes public, and facing criticism, the movement strengthens, and (4) new rules, new reward systems, and new systems and structures are created that start to impact and influence institutions.

I declare with you that I am now a member of this movement. Even though I am not in a university, I do teach in the non-formal education realm (I am faculty of an Integral Coaching School called New Ventures West). I also teach my own, self-created workshops on self-development and life design. Finally, with a team of facilitators, we put together learning circles every month as part of SoL Colombia (Colombian chapter of the Society for Organizational Learning) to showcase new ways of learning together and creating a community of learning and practice outside of the university. In the last circle, we analyzed the current energy crisis in Colombia in the light of systemic archetypes of systems thinking, to contrast with the linear and blame-centered approach that the media sometimes promotes. Parker Palmer says that the education reform movement benefits from these non-formal education experiments. Universities are starting to see that people are preferring more holistic methods of education, and thus becoming more open, just like what is happening in the health sector. The intrigue of more alternative methods is making conventional medicine and conventional education question itself.

To finish, I see my role right now in this movement as building bridges between formal and non-formal education, to give students and teachers a taste of a more holistic education that invites a more responsible participation in society and increases our engagement at all levels: cognitive, emotional, relational, and spiritual. In these experimental spaces, we rekindle a collective fire of the love of true learning that brings our whole selves to the conversation and the co-creation that emerges brings meaning and joy.

Anamaria Aristizabal
Anamaria Aristizabal is a certified Integral Coach at New Ventures West. She co-founded Aldeafeliz ecovillage near Bogota and is the chair of the Colombian chapter of the Society for Organizational Learning (SoL).

Cite as Anamaria Aristizabal, contribution to GTI Roundtable "On Higher Education," Great Transition Initiative (June 2016),

Back to Publication

As an initiative for collectively understanding and shaping the global future, GTI welcomes diverse ideas. Thus, the opinions expressed in our publications do not necessarily reflect the views of GTI or the Tellus Institute.