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TRANSFORMATIVE MATURITY: EFFECTING TRANSFORMATION

HELIOPOLIS UNIVERSITY FOR SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT

The next stage in one of our authors' life story (Ibrahim Abouleish), in fact his legacy phase, came to the surface early on in the new millennium when he began to conceive of a new kind of university for sustainable development that would serve to take the Sekem story further on, into society at large, both locally and globally (see Figure 22.3).

It took seven years of unrelenting effort to turn the dream into a reality, and in October 2012, Heliopolis University for Sustainable Development opened its doors to its first group of undergraduate students, in pharmacy, engineering, and business and economics, altogether underpinned by a core programme in nature and community (grounding), arts (including culture) (emerging), science and innovation (navigating), and language, communication and enterprise (effecting). All faculties are supported by a Social Innovation Centre with the role to promote integral development that is to enhance integration between the humanist core and specialized sciences, as well as to promote curriculum and faculty development. Furthermore, the centre engages in identifying and understanding burning societal needs and directing the research capacities of HU to find, implement and up-scale solutions together with the Sekem initiative and other stakeholders from the society, to release GENE-ius.

THE GENE IS CAREING

Grounding and Education

The starting point for HU is to ground itself in its local context which is Egypt in general but more concretely the Sekem initiative and its whole network. Of course HU is an independent entity but it serves the needs of society and the surrounding community and as mentioned the Social Innovation Centre plays a key role in identifying these needs in a process of continuous dialogue with stakeholders at the "front" of sustainable development. One essential step for HU is to tap more concertedly into Sekem's rich experience of community development, desert reclamation and value creation. In terms of the Integral University to which we (8) have alluded in a previous book we are speaking here of, if you like, Community Activism. Moreover the starting process of this outer change is inner transformation, that is beauty and excellence in the sense of ihsan.

Emerging and Catalysation

The phase of emergence for HU comes through its network of partner universities and other partners from the private, civil and public sector locally and globally. Among them are many partner universities that have already been engaged in projects with Sekem or the Social Development Foundation. The synergetic effect of sharing the same network becomes evident. This also holds true for the EBDA with its more than 400 farmers. It is about connecting the local to the national and global and vice versa. Right now in Egypt, as also elsewhere in the world, it is very important to overcome the general fragmentation between different sectors but also between different disciplines and worldviews. In Spiral Dynamics terms (see Chapter 8) we see this as part of the "Yellow" MEME: Catalysing Development of Society. This is the home of the Social Innovation Centre. Like a catalyst it speeds up the process of societal transformation by bringing together the right people at the right time at the right place with a shared calling.

Navigating and Research

Research is traditionally the most essential role of a university, next to education. However, the quality of research often serves to raise doubts on the ultimate purpose of a university – whether it is aimed towards improving society or just to be an avenue for publications. All too often universities today lack a healthy grounding and hence a sense of what is really relevant. Another problem is the fact that researchers remain atomized individuals in the sense of their research topic being disconnected from their social, economic and political, as well as natural and cultural environment. Research in an evolved sense is about creating a value and knowledge-creating community that addresses a burning issue and strives for a (social) innovation to address such: for example that of desert reclamation.

Effecting and Application

The final step of effecting comes almost naturally after being grounded in the local context, connected to the right network and having the right knowledge to solve burning issues. This relates, in our integral terms, to transforming education and learning, thereby engaging the students and faculty in real-life projects that serve to release their GENE-ius and that of their society. Sekem, for example, has a longstanding history of sustainably reclaiming desert land. This experience will lead to changing contexts that themselves require a new understanding and grounding. Therefore the never-ending spiralling GENE rhythm starts again.

 
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