24 October 02010

Dougald Hine on School of Everything and asset-based development

Dougald Hine at the Royal Festival Hall

Dougald Hine is of the co-founders of the School of Everything. He's also a prime mover in several social enterprises across the spectrum from practical action (Space Makers, which matches creative people and ideas with empty shop space) to cultural movement (Dark Mountain, exploring new artistic languages to help us deal with environmental and economic decline). See his website for the full range.

I first got to know Dougald through London networks like the Tuttle Club and Long Now meetups. Then, a year ago, Dougald and Tony Hall started a weekly series of meetings about self-organised learning under the title School of Everything Unplugged. Through these meetings, we've had fascinating discussions with, to pick just a few,

I'm now one of the organisers of the weekly meetings and we're experimenting with the format, so that, as well as guest-led discussions, we're doing reviews of resources, problem solving, lightweight projects… and group interviews. Candidly, the last of these gives me the chance to kill two birds with one stone: to keep the meeting programme ticking over and to add to my series of Agile Learning interviews. And into the bargain I get to share the hard work of interviewing — coming up with good questions and being alive to the responses — with some smart people.

Thus it was that I came to interview Dougald, in our usual spot looking out over the River Thames from the Royal Festival Hall, and supported by contributions from Clodagh Miskelly, Tony Hall and Patrick Hadfield. And so it was the discussion ranged far and wide. Perhaps a little further and wider than I was anticipating, so I'm splitting this record of it into two.

What ambitions did you have in creating School of Everything?

Dougald Hine (DH): I'd been reading [Ivan Illich's] De-Schooling Society in 2004 and getting very into Illich generally. A year or so later I met Paul Miller who was at Demos at the time and he was the first policy person, the first think-tank person I had ever met. I trapped him in the corner of a pub and talked at him for about an hour about Illich. Luckily Charlie Leadbeater, who Paul had been working with on a pamphlet called the Pro-Am Revolution, had also just become very enthusiastic about Illich. So rather than just thinking that I was this hairy nutter from Sheffield he thought "This is interesting, I'm hearing about this from more than one direction."

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