Share & Connect
Alexander Laszlo is co-founder and President of Syntony Quest and former Director of the Doctoral Program in Management at the Graduate School of Business Administration and Leadership (EGADE- ITESM) located in Mexico. He was recently elected President of the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS). He has also worked at UNESCO and for the U.S. Department of Education. He has been Visiting Professor at the London School of Economics and the European University Institute. In addition to being the author of multiple book and journal articles, he is also a 5th Degree Black Belt in Korean Karate.
Toonari Post (TP): You are well known for being the co-founder and President of Syntony Quest. Could you explain to us a little bit about this organization?
Alexander Laszlo (AL): Syntony Quest is an educational non-profit organization whose purpose is to serve as a bridge between academia and the business world on topics of sustainability. Many NGOs are focused on working with the problems of people; however, they often lack a more strategic platform from the point of view of theoretical and scientific progress on sustainability issues.
In our organization we conduct interactive research on socio environmental issues with a, participatory approach that is informed by the emerging context. This is the main purpose of Syntony Quest, to be a bridge that fosters self-directed sustainable development in case-specific contexts.
Sustainability means not exceeding the carrying capacity of our planet- trying to maintain a certain balance. But the goal of Syntony Quest is to help create a prosperous world, one that goes beyond mere sustainability to true thrivability, fostering an economy of abundance.
We must create an economy based on nature and not on abstract economic concepts, which are very common in the current economic system.
TP: On the other side, one year ago Giordano Bruno University was opened, where you have the role of Director of Learning and Curriculum Innovation. Tell us, what is the pedagogical model used?
AL: Giordano Bruno University does not seek to impose models that are not relevant to the current context. We are against the subordination of ideas. We want to develop a process of change in the narrative presented by the instructor in which the student has to memorize theory in the most efficient manner possible. Normally, the student has only to learn and repeat the narrative presented by the teacher in order to get the best score, trying to be as faithful to the original narrative as possible.
We want to move beyond this approach, to a second and then to a third point. The second part consists in a change of the teacher’s narrative. The narratives become based in simulations, which allow students to be an actor in a narrative, such as an interactive game like Buckminster Fuller’s World Game or the Model UN experience offered at the high school level for students to simulate a Conference of the United Nations. A simulation like this allows students to experiment, and see how to practice playing different roles.
This second option is good but, what is the intention of Giordano Bruno? It’s not only about the first model that consists of repeating the teacher’s narrative, and it is even beyond the second, which is to live in a designed narrative experience of it, which is still provided by the teacher.
The third model consists of the students creating their own narratives around the learning themes being focused on in the course. This is a process in which students are given the opportunity to live the topics of the course into their own narrative experience, making the course material relevant to their own situation and their own environment in a global context.
TP: Could you tell us a little bit about the instructors and the academic community?
AL: The Giordano Bruno model is very interesting, because the goal is to create an international cultural community of students from many parts of the world based on study groups of 21 students. These groups function as cells in a structure that can have from 10,000 to 300,000 students in a single course. Nevertheless, we are always focused on the groups of 21 students.
This model allows us to significantly reduce the costs while at the same time increasing accessibility, thereby potentially reaching students in any part of the world. Of course, they need to have access to Internet. Once there, they can interact with the other students of their group.
In this process, there is an instructor who designs the course. The course has certain parameters that allow for the use of technology in ways that are rapidly becoming more common in education these days. We want ideas and information to arise through a collegial process among students.
Thus, the learning challenges and the instructions for how to find the resources are designed by the instructor. However, the model for understanding the lesson arises through the cell interaction among students.
We seek to encourage interactions, for students to do two things: the first is to take the lessons and discuss them with their family and community, and the second is to report their results, perspectives and outcomes with their group of 21. All this helps the student to know the global context of the challenges of being an evolutionary change in the world while at the same time learn to be sensitive to the needs of their locality.
The teachers that we have are people of advanced preparation in their chosen field; as Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), they design courses of large-scale and scope, which are then managed by a team of facilitators. However, the professor is mainly a designer of the course and responds only to questions that assistants can’t respond to. Primarily, we are looking to help students learn to answer their own questions and solve their own problems.
Read part two here.