Early in December 2023 I released Skater Girl Asha – the first book of the Janwaar Trilogy (see below). Since 2012 I am extremely involved in India, even though I wasn’t allowed to go there after Covid, my visa applications have been rejected multiple times. Surprisingly this January I was granted a visa and I am happy to see the kids of Janwaar and all the villagers again! In case you don’t know about my activities, just watch the two videos at the end of this blogpost.

This trilogy will shine light on my work from different angles:

  • what it takes for a single person to change and to drive change (Skater Girl Asha)
  • how to ignite progress in a village at a standstill (A Handbook for Change)
  • how to provide access to learning on a much broader level (The Learning Revolution)

  1. Skater Girl Asha

Asha Gond grew up in the small village of Janwaar in the Indian state of Madhya Pradesh. As an Adivasi, the self-designation of the country’s indigenous population, she is outside the caste system and therefore at the bottom of society. Despite these unfavorable circumstances, the self-confident young woman will not be deterred from her path. The now 24-year-old escapes a forced marriage, leaves school and finds her very own passion: skateboarding. She showed such great talent that she competed for India in the 2018 World Championships. But it’s not just on the board that Asha achieves a lot: she catches up on her degree, takes on an important role in her village and becomes a role model for other young women – there and beyond.

The book offers three things: a spectacular coming-of-age story, insights into a reality of life that is foreign to many of us, plus inspiration on what we can learn from it ourselves – personally and socially. It shows Asha’s challenges on her transformation journeys and provides deep insights on how to overcome these challenges and turn them into something positive. Transformation is never a tea party – it always comes with pain and fear. It is on you how to deal with it. Asha is showing her way. 

In the center of all of the actions is the deep conviction that MY ACTION MATTERS and that I have to be the change I want to see. Living and leading by example. So don’t wait for others to start. Start! And find your way. 

  1. Janwaar – A Handbook For Change

I was by no means prepared for rural India. Nor was I prepared for skateboarding. The only thing I was prepared for when I started this skatepark in rural India was my deep belief that change can only happen from within the system, from the villagers themselves, and that they have to initiate and become part of any kind of transformation. Otherwise it won’t happen. During my years as a corporate consultant for NATO, Bertelsmann Foundation, MIT and others, I learned basic principles and rules for transformation. Based upon them I set up this skatepark project in Janwaar. It was an open process – meaning I left it completely open how to define and design the transformation process – I simply relied on these principles and rules and used skateboarding as the trigger for change, as the disruptor. As a consequence the most unexpected things happened. We broke down caste barriers, gave girls a voice and a village an identity. 

It is a valid perspective to claim that a village in rural India and a company in western societies are dissimilar in many respects. So what is here to learn from the example of Janwaar and its villagers? What makes this example valuable for any kind of organization? It is the fact that we all are entrenched in patterns which we rarely question. 

So this book is a road map on how to break patterns. Patterns that are stabilized and maintained by family, society, educational institutions and corporate structures. It encourages you to experiment – regardless of whether it is about politics, our coexistence, climate change or cooperation in companies. It is about the courage to initiate experiments, by no means thoughtlessly, but carefully considered and prepared, but with an open way forward. 

  1. Anil Kumar – The Last Mile – The Learning Revolution

Anil is a kid just like many other kids. One of millions. Born into a poor family in a poor village. With all the talents and creativity every child is naturally “enabled” with. Because of the circumstances he was born into, he had only very limited access to learning. Until he was 14 years old he never had a true learning experience. And no one believed in him.

Until today Anil has experienced different schools – he started out with his early years in an Indian government school in the small village of Janwaar. He then went after 8th grade to a government school in Panna, the next bigger town – but only through our Open School Project he discovered what learning really means: understanding and putting it into practice. 

He had access to workshops and conferences and he experienced student-centered learning first hand. He passed 12th grade a year ago, has then knowingly wasted one year at a college in Panna and is now getting ready for his studies at Rishihood University in Delhi. 

Anil – in theory knows – what learning is all about. And he wants to learn. Yet he is struggling very much to apply it for himself – it has to do with fear, peer-pressure and insecurity, with family structure and caste. This is why I call the book The Last Mile – he still has to go this last mile to make his theory become his own reality, his path. 

By showing the learning reality in an Indian village and with the experience of what I did with the Open School Project in Janwaar, and with Anil’s input, this book is a road map on how to start a learning revolution and include as many as possible in the learning process. Because we need as many as possible to safeguard a liveable future for all.

Videos on my work:

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