The Janwaar Castle Summer Camp

From June 1-30, 2015 we will run our first summer camp at Janwahr Castle.

Janwaar Castle is a project of we_school and can briefly be described as a learning environment with a skateboarding park in its core. It’s located in Janwaar near Panna, a small buzzling town in Madhya Pradesh, Central India. In the village there are about 250 – 300 kids.

The summer camp is the first activity of its kind in Janwaar. Three of us – Yogesh, a local scholar from Khajuraho who speaks good English, Vivek, a Teach for India fellow, and me. We will run daily early morning sessions (until 10 am) with the kids and late afternoon sessions (6 – 7.30 pm).

The main goal of the camp is to teach the kids English – so the camp language will be English! The kids of course can answer and talk in Hindi or their local dialect.

And we’ll have guests joining us:

Laura, a friend from Bombay who is native Scottish and an excellent violinist. She will conduct music sessions and hopefully give a concert in front of the Khajuraho Temples.
Mamaji (a local tour guide, actually the best you can find in Khajuraho) will join us for Indian mythology and history sessions.
Children from Kunderpura – an Adivasi village close by – will visit us.
The Maharaj of Panna will come and tell stories of the past.

The kids will learn English in face-to-face session with Vivek, we have tablets with English learning programs, we have dictionaries, English books and we hopefully will have one or two whiteboards. Besides English learning we organize nature walks, we will build dustbins for the skatepark and pillars for two swings, we paint, play and dance and we will take the kids to Panna National Tiger Park which is close by but the kids never had a chance to go there. And of course there will be lots of skateboarding ! 

The entire endeavor is calculated with 2,30.000 INR or 3000 Euros and I do need your help !

Here is a list (things_we_need_mit) where you can see what we need and how we will spent the mn see what we need and how we will spent the money – it includes very precise donation packages such as:

– 5 English books for either 1000 INR or 1500 INR or
– 3 dictionaries for 3000 INR or
– paint and brushes (1000 – 2000 INR)
– paper (2000 INR)
– a jeep for the Tiger Safari (6500 INR) or
– costs for skateboarding teachers (5000 INR) or
– snacks, milk and fruits (from 1000 – 2800 INR) or
– transportation

1000 INR are app. 14 Euros, maybe a little less.

Just let us know what you like most to support!
100% of the money will be used for the case you mention.

Please make transfers payable to:

Account name: Ulrike Reinhard
nature: we_school summer camp / case you’d like to support
IBAN: DE63700222000071631281
BIC: FDDODEMMXXX

If you are not donating from Germany and want to avoid unnecessary banking fees please use transferwise.

Thank you!

A few weeks ago we started our first activities with the kids from Janwaar and – as you can see – the kids really enjoy it!

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Excursion to the Khajuraho Temples, at Mamaji’s organic farm

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Skateboarding sessions at Janwaar Castle, our skatepark

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And if you want to know more about our activities please visit our website or read below or send an email to

we (at) we-magazine (dot) net

Goals of Janwaar Castle

– to improve the children’s and the women’s health 
– and their standing in the community
– to bring hope and show possibilities for all the villagers and 
– to enable and guide them to solve their problems by themselves and even
– make a decent living out of it.

for the kids

– we provide many things they don’t have at school
– things they don’t even know of (like skateboarding)
– a space where all are the same (no caste and gender issues)
– we make them capable of communicating with “outsiders” (virtually and real)
– this is why learning english is so important ….

Its Impact

on an individual level

– physical fitness because of skateboarding and other sport activities (volleyball)
– exposure – learning YES, I can >>> self esteem
– health >>> extra food (fruits) on 2 days in the week
– learning new things / skills which broaden the horizon
– learning to “imagine”
– connect with foreigners 

on the village and community level

– connect the village with the outside world
– establish small businesses
– create a community culture
– clean(er) village

ARTBOARD / SKATEBOARD – Collaboration with skate-aid

Last weekend Bea, she does all the design stuff for our various “we”- endeavours, and I went to Münster. My second visit to this beautiful old city … We visited skate-aid at the skate palace.

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skate-aid – under the umbrella of the Titus Dittmann Foundation – was founded in 2009 by Titus Dittmann, the German skateboarding legend. skate-aid supports humanitarian aid projects for children and young people worldwide. Their goal: to promote a sense of identity and purpose through skateboarding.

Exactly what we are planning to do with our we_school skatepark project.
Therefore I am very happy to announce that skate-aid and we_school “join forces” to let the ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD project fly.

The cooperation includes:

  • we both use our networks to promote the project
  • skate-aid will operate and conduct the auction on a charity basis;
  • ARTBOARD/SKATEBOARD will become a skate-aid project without loosing its independence
  • we garantee the handling in India and coordinate the project locally
  • skate-aid brings in its expertise in building the skatepark
  • we connect them with the locals and provide sustainable progress

So NOW – having all the skateboards ready and having set the ground for a charity auction – all we need is YOU to join and make the auction a HUGE success – for the sake of the young children in rural India.

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The Pulse of India

AAP is definitely a game changer in India. Not a days goes by without the AAP making the headlines in India’s news industry. While Delhi’s political and intellectual elite couldn’t have dreamt of AAP winning the Delhi election last December and rarely gave them any “airtime” – many of them were laughing about AAP efforts only month before their take over – now they blame AAP for riding a dangerous wave, a “wave of anger” as one senior journalist put it in India’s left liberal Tehelka. A wave that could get out of control.

To think about controlling networks and to compare the situation in India with Germany in the late 1920ies reflects a lack of understanding of what the networked world is all about and what its implications are for politics and governance and ultimately for democracy itself. One CANNOT look at AAP WITHOUT looking at self-organisation, participation, connectedness, transparency and complexity. If you exclude this broader view, you only get half of the story.

AAP introduces a complete new system of democracy.
It’s about participation, transparency, openness and empowerment.
Political leaders and political parties in a complete NEW role.
It’s nothing less than a paradigm shift.

Welcome to the 21st Century!
Welcome to the networked world!

For the existing two party system and all its affiliates AAP MUST be disruptive.
Yes, indeed.
But disruption sets the stage for change.
And neither the Congress nor the BJP are capable of guiding the transformation process India’s citizen are asking for.
Both of them have lost their credibility.
Both of them are stuck in the old paradigm.

If India and its elite tackle AAP as a chance and not as a challenge, India can become a role model for the world.
India’s citizen will see the WILL for change and they will take their chance to participate.
Especially the young people.
By 2020, 500 million Indians will be under the age of 30!
This is a dangerous wave if they don’t find jobs and if they can’t feed their families.
For many of them the principles of the new paradigm are like the air they breath – being brought up with the Internet. Which means that they DO understand participation, transparency, openness and empowerment.
It’s them who are asking for a fair share.
Plus India’s new middle class, especially in the cities, which so far has not been addressed by the existing parties.

No matter where you look – politics, economics, society –
fundamental change hardly ever comes from the inside of an existing system.
It always starts on the edge, almost outside the system, and goes mainstream the moment it proves its competency, efficiency and capability.

The political system in India so far has been dominated by BJP and Congress.
They provided plenty of reasons for letting a new system emerge.
Emerge from the edges.
Just as AAP did.
BJP and Congress really seemed surprised when the AAP tsunami hit them.
The AAP tsunami is even going nationwide.
And of course the establishment is scared.

And what do the visionaries and intellectuals who care for the country’s future do?
Just like BEFORE the Delhi election when they didn’t give the AAP any serious thought – they now blame the AAP for making mistakes instead of exploring and trying to understand the ongoing paradigm shift.

Since AAP is something completely NEW it’s pretty much to be expected that mistakes and failures will happen. But what we also see is, that networking systems are much faster in learning than hierarchical and patriarchal systems ever were. And that multiple equilibria can beautifully co-exist.

I’d love to see that the Indian elite which is setting the tone in this context is at least trying to understand what the transformation the AAP is driving is all about!
Even its performance is not yet perfect.
Just think how perfect BJP and Congress are!

Here are three basic principles you should consider when talking about AAP. These principles set the frame of the new paradigm. Basically it’s the move from a container to a network! I don’t mention explicitly openness, transparency, participation and collaboration as the main anchors … all of them are somehow included in the following:

Inclusiveness over Exclusiveness
Let people participate. Respect their input.
From what I’ve learnt in rural India, most of the people are aware of their problems and even know about solutions.
However in the existing system they are not empowered to provide their solutions.
Solutions which will be accepted in their environment because people take “ownership” of their solution.
So we need to provide adequate platforms and forums, online and offline.
Remember RTI?
The idea of writing a manifesto per constituency is definitely a move in the right direction. Include people in the process of finding ideas and defining solutions. Take them into responsibility. Try to figure out where network intelligence is needed and useful and where hierarchy is required. A smooth shift between these two modies is essential.

Emergence over Authorities
It’s no longer about who is “important”, who is the “authority” – it’s much more about the people on the edges and outside the systems (= inner circles) who come up with new ideas and who are disobeying.
Build structures which allow disobedience … only if you push existing boundaries, will innovation happen.
Reputation in a networked world – in the kind of system AAP is trying to set up – is based upon doing things right for the network. If you put garbage in, you only get garbage out. Reputation has to be earned over and over again – it no longer comes with any kind of guarantee. It’s highly dependent on each single project.
The problems we are facing today in each single sector are so manifold and complex that their answers have to equally manifold and complex (see Ashby’s Law).
The patterns and structure will then emerge. The people should be able to bear the complexity, and the system will organize itself.

A 360° Cycle
If you want politicians and parties who create solutions and services that have a use, that can be “sold”, you have to answer the question: Will the citizens accept and “buy”?
And this is what AAP is working on: to close these loops completely – to connect it to each and every citizen. To create this 360 degree. So no matter whether it’s a technology program or an agricultural program, an idea for the water or solar energy – for each of these ideas this loop needs to be closed. And interestingly with many things you can close the loop in the villages/cities/constituencies themselves. This is where politicians can step in. And this makes the system scalable.

 Basically the entire work of the AAP is nothing but innovative management methods. It’s about imagining what India could look like. It’s experimenting, co-creation, collaboration. Co-creation is done by the citizens themselves. Collaboration takes place with the expertise that comes from technology providers or domain experts in any kind of field.
 We live in the 21st century and I do believe that no single politician or a single party can do it on their own. But all together we can do it! And this is the AAP approach.

There are still some missing links like financing for example – which doesn’t work in the old system either – but this can be solved as well.

Some of these principles can already be found in democracies. Take a look at Iceland, Finland, Sweden and Tunisia. None of them is as far or as radical as the very pragmatic approach taken by the AAP. But they all do point in AAP’s direction. What makes AAP so attractive and complex is the fact, that the AAP provides a path – which might be still unpaved in some sectors – where all of these principles COMBINED co-exist. They aren’t separated from each other. Theirs is a truly democratic system with social responsibility and entrepreneurial thinking at its core (for a discussion of this see theinterview I did with Mehmood Khan in February 2013. Mehmood is one of the founding members of AAP).

It’s high time to have a closer look at it !
It’s much more of a chance than a threat.
Get the people ready for it instead of telling them AAP is “dangerous”.
Find ways to explore and experiment.
Get rid of outdated obstacles.
Explain the paradigm shift.
Open up the doors for a greater WE.
And let the borders of the inner circle become permeable.
Think for your country.
And drive the change.

Even though the AAP and citizens don’t have all the answers yet, India will be much better off riding the wave than staying stuck in the old rutt.
Fail; but fail fast.
Explore possibilities and learn by doing so.
Make the processes transparent.
Accept that you can’t control the entire movement.

India’s democracy can only grow by walking this path.

And the children and grand children of the 70+ today will love their elders for doing so.
So what are you waiting for?
Get ready and walk your talk!

Khajuraho – One with Nature and Culture

Brijendra Singh is – among many other things – tour guide in Khajuraho. Everybody there calls him “mamaji”. He has a deep knowledge of Indian’s mythology and during his lectures/tours on the famous Khajuraho temples he easily links nature, culture and where it all comes from. He gives deep insights into India’s society.

When I first saw him I was blown away by the beauty of his look (eyes) and hands.
Really enjoyed the conversations we’ve had – (not only) Khajuraho needs many more of him!

During this interview we were sitting in his “bio”-garden – a beautiful spot in which every tree and vegetable and flower is treated naturally – no chemicals at all … except twice a day when airplanes fly 15m over his head to touch down at Khajuraho airport.

Mamaji introducing himself

Khajuraho – its culture and its nature

Happiness

Cast and class


Responsibility

Where co-creation begins …

4 weeks ago I went for the first time to Partha, a small small village in Uttar Pradesh, 45 km away from Mahoba. Beautiful landscape – a mixture between India and the Serengeti. Stunning.
Everybody there is depending on agriculture. The area is one of the poorest parts of India and a typical example for what it looks like when rural India is left behind urban development. The poor are the victims.

Standard house in the village of Partha, UP

Antonella Zurina (Geeta is her given Indian name), who is running Kabir Foundation in Khajuraho, took me there. For a very simply reason. One of the villagers, Hakim Singh, wants to donate 2 acres of farmland for building a school. And her idea was (still is) that we build a we_school there. When we arrived at least 30 of the villagers were waiting for us! It was such a warm welcome!

I sat down with them and the first question which came up from the villagers was: What are your plans? When I told them that I had no plans at all and that I am only here to see and to listen all the blood in their faces went into their feet. Pure despair remained. I felt pretty uncomfortable since I only realized by then how high their expectations were.

Tons of cow dung >>> fire, cooking

They told me about all their daily problems. We went through the village and they showed me the 2 existing schools and other buildings which one might use for community activities, and they showed me the land Hakim Singh wants to donate. They were very proud. And I could feel how much they want help and how much they are willing to support activities once someone starts them.

Before they invited me for dinner – my stomach still refuses any kind of local spicy food ;-( – I told them that I would think about the entire situation and talk to Mehmood Khan, a social entrepreneur and game changer of its own. And I promised to come back to them within 2 weeks.

“Group photo with madame” – just before I left Partha

2 weeks later I went back – together with Mehmood Khan. They welcomed us with drums, flowers and the most delicious chai. This time probably 50 of them. We sat down and discussed the options. At the end we agreed to do a 2 day workshop – early in May – where all the stakeholders in the village are involved: children (girls and boys), teachers, farmers … At the first half of day 1 we will discuss their most pressing issues, the second half of the day is reserved for local administrative and political people who address their point of view. At the second day we will work in groups with the villagers trying to identify workable solutions and in the afternoon we prioritize the solutions and write down an action plan. We expect at least 500 villagers to join the workshop!

The villagers are still a bit hesitating – they simply would prefer a ready made solution. But somehow they understood the idea and they trust us. And they work for this idea …We believe that the villagers themselves need to be made stakeholders in the development process. And this is what we are going to do with them.

And this is when co-creation starts.

Only then the village and its people will experience a transformation they all like, everybody is committed to and everybody will be working on. That’s the only way to make change sustainable!

Mehmood Khan and I after our second meeting, before late dinner – in the “guesthouse”

And to close this blog post, here is an email I received from the villagers after our meeting …
Nothing else to say!

Dear, sir/ madam

as you know according to the last meeting on 21/03/13 ,we want to informe you ,that

we have arrenged the meeting on saturday then we have notify 75 active member with there all type of responsbilties.

so please, we want to your time dated on as 25/03/13 on monday,

please gives some point how will you manage your journy

thanking to you

your ,s All villagers

Raghava K.K.

My friend Egon Zippel interviewed Raghava K.K. in New York City for our latest issue of we-magazine: we_!NDIA. TED describes him as follows:


Raghava KK began his career in art as a newspaper cartoonist, and the cartoonist’s bold line – and dead-on eye for truth – still powers his art. His work spans painting, sculpture, installation, film and iPad art, always linked by his challenging opinions on identity, conformity, gender, celebrity, ceremony. (He even views his lavish Indian wedding as a piece of performance art.)

His early work as a painter made a complete break with his cartoon career — he painted watercolors on canvas using only his hands and feet. Since then, his work has grown to knit together aesthetics from both worlds, as collage and complication play against flat color and precise lines. He shows in galleries and performance spaces around the world and often collaborates with other artists, most recently with musicians Paul Simon and Erykah Badu. In 2011, he launched his children’s iPad book, Pop-it, shaking up the concept of an ideal family. He is currently working on a project that promises to shake up everything! From news to education.

Egon asked Raghava pretty “BIG” questions – nevertheless they will give you great insights into the way Raghava is thinking and living and making arts!

My favorite quote from Raghava is: “I can’t promise my child a life without bias — we’re all biased — but I promise to bias my child with multiple perspectives.” This is what we will focus on in we_!NDIA.

Broad View on Indian Politics, Culture & Society

Prem Shankar Jha is a well known (traditional) journalist based in New Delhi, India. He mainly writes about politics and economics in India with a focus on globalization. His analytical and honestly balanced writings gave him more than once a hard time to survive in crucial positions within India’s newspaper landscape. Today he is working as a freelancer and writes frequently for Tehelka.com, one of the best sources of news in India – as The Guardian says.

I ran into Prem by coincidence. He stayed at Ken River Lodge, one of my most favorite places close to Khajuraho where I more or less live since March 2012. This is where the interview took place.
Luckily we’ve had the chance in further conversations to discuss journalistic values and approaches – mainly the differences between (traditional) journalism and citizen media. We talked about the Arab Spring in particular and reflected on the different point of views from the West and the East – way to often based upon interests instead of balanced reporting. The latter is undoubtfully needed to get the overall picture right, meaning to achieve objectivity in the reports. But how do you achieve this is an art form of itself. It requires definitely a lot of experience, empathy and willingness to “dig deep”.
For this I really would love to see a broader collaboration between well trained journalists and citizen media people – I have the feeling the potential which might emerge out of such a collaboration is huge. So please go for it!

Honesty is crucial when you want to change the world!

Mehmood Khan brought the delights of Lux soap and Brooke Bond tea to many countries in South East Asia, and behind such innocent pleasures he took with him the infrastructure of consumer capitalism: advertising agencies, market research companies, supply chains and beauty pageants for Miss Lux. Meehmod was Head of Innovation at Unilever. He was responsible for taking on regional power barons, putting in place a global supply chain and fostering global integration.

Today he is bringing all his business experience back home to India, trying nothing less than a revolution in development to turn the tide of poverty.

Mehmood belongs to a very old Indian family. He was brought up in Mewat – an 1.5 hour car ride from Delhi. When he went to school there, he says, the school was pretty good. Same was true for water and other natural resources. Today the challenges are huge. The local population has increased fourfold in 40 years and the land cannot cope. The forests have largely disappeared and water is becoming scarce. There are not enough jobs and there is not enough energy.

The magic word going along with his ideas is social entrepreneurship. In this interview Mehmood Khan shares his ideas on social entrepreneurship and gives insights how to tackle some of India’s huge challenges.

Part 1

Part 2

“You can`t escape …

… in India, you are forced to deal with it!” says Lakshmi Pratury in our conversation about India. She gives some very helpful and interesting insights on how to deal with India and how India can continue to grow.

From what I have experienced during the last year – I feel there is a lot of truth in her words.

Lakshmi is host and curator of the INKtalks.

Parts of this interview will be published in the next issue of we-magazine: we_India!

“I can” – Riverside School in Ahmedabad, India

Kiran Bir Sethi founded Riverside School in 2001. Riverside is the amalgamation of an approach to learning that is embedded in common sense and a vibrant research centre for school education. There, insights from cutting-edge research are turned into working models of pedagogical practices with a single-minded focus – student well being. Over the last 11 years, Riverside has developed, implemented and shared a unique curriculum that is proving to be the benchmark for providing a no-compromise school education of the highest quality.

In the following interview Kiran tells the story of Riverside – which is her personal story as well.

What I liked best was the open and “light” architecture. Riverside is truly a space where it can be fun to learn. The environment is right for the kids to grow.