This past Tuesday, October 7, the Ohio State University community learned a great deal about the way in which community development, education, and the arts can intersect for positive social change and transformation. This was the primary topic of Daniel Bryan’s talk titled “Rehearsing Change: Finding, telling, and transforming the Development Story in Amazonia” presented in the “Continuity and Change in the Andes and Amazonia” Working Group.
Daniel Bryan is the Executive Director of the Pachaysana Institute. His experience as a Peace Corps Volunteer and educator in Ecuador contributed to the creation of this program. The name, Pachaysana, comes from two Kichwa words (the Ecuadorian variety of the Quechua language): Pacha, which means world, earth or time-space and Aysana, which means balance. Balance in the world is what they hope to contribute with their mission of empowering communities to create new models of sustainable development that are conscious of both local and global needs. The way in which Pachaysana approaches this mission is through what Daniel calls “rehearsing change”.
“Rehearsing change” is envisioned to be a way to mediate and understand development, especially its global and local claims, through education and theatre—it implies understanding development as a process, not a thing. This is what allows Pachaysana to work with development as story and to move its participants to create a personal connection to that story. Pachaysana has already been running short-term programs that have been participating in workshops in the Ecuadorian amazon, asking community members and the international participants to express their connection to development through art. The results at the local level have been greater levels of participation in questioning developmental interventions, a more engaged community-wide dialogue on natural resource extraction, higher self-declared levels of self-esteem, and the beginnings of a recognition that development is a part of the community’s story, not just a means to income. Together with the international volunteers and the local communities, Pachaysana has discovered and tried to diffuse the idea that development requires practice and that we can practice by creating story. This is the way that Amazonian communities and international visitors are able to rehearse change.
Perhaps the most entertaining part of Daniel’s workshop, especially for those people who happened to be walking through the Kuhn Honors and Scholars House was the participatory section. In this last portion of the presentation Daniel asked his audience to act out some of the exercises that Pachaysana has used in their workshops, including following instructions and human sculpting. The idea was to activate a different form of learning and communicating than what is traditionally covered in lecture-based and essay-writing courses.
Daniel’s talk gave only a brief taste of the complex program that the Pachaysana Institute is. However, there is an opportunity for OSU and its students to continue to get to know this project and build a relationship with it. One central part of the Pachaysana’s operations is its study abroad program, which introduces a new concept that goes even beyond international service-learning programs: fair-trade learning. The program is directed toward any student who has ever muttered the phrase “the world is messed up” and “I want to make a difference”, but it aims to rehearse change rather than to reproduce programs like those in which students are imagined almost immediately as ‘change-makers’ even before any sort of sustained dialogue with the people who live in the situation that they are attempting to change. Pachaysana will be welcoming students for their first full, semester-long program this Spring, where in addition to participating in these community-based initiatives students will also receive courses on a variety of topics including “Identity and Place”, “Design and Evaluation of Sustainable Community Projects”, “Storytelling” and “Theatre for Social Change and Innovation.” Credit for these courses will be given through the USFQ. Students should consult the Office of International Affairs as well as visit the program website to see if it would be a good fit.