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Leadership and Activism, Philosophical Meanderings

Frog Birds, Autonomous Individuals, Groups and Flying Kites in the Rain

I believe that society must be reconstructed to enlarge the contribution of autonomous individuals and primary groups to the total effectiveness of a new system of production designed to satisfy the human needs which it also determines.

-Illich (1973)


Frog Birds, Autonomous Individuals and Groups

The time is now to listen to Frog Birds, intensify your autonomous local groups and fly kites regardless of the occasional fluky wind and rainstorm.

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Every evening in spring I hear the Wood Cock croaking in our fields like a frog bird. Usually on the edge in a wild-scape it beckons “greeck, greeck, greeck”. Then, as it flies into the dusk draped fields surrounded by woods I hear its song change to an ethereal call of light tones, sweet, light and comforting; as a mountain vista is in the west after making that last push over the ridge. I know the sound of the Wood Cock like that of the eagles laugh and humming bird’s wing song….it is familiar. Likewise I know the sound of my community, our transition movements, the organizations that shelter change makers and ready for the next bend in the river to support them. I know also the schools which dot my region waiting like a confused flock abandoned by their masters and wilding by the day. I can see what our landscapes, networks and local environments are becoming or can become in terms of a learning ecology. I am organizing with these systems while listening to my community closely.

It is time for us to intensify our understanding of the local forces that shape our ability to transform learning. What do you know about your community? What birds sing in your living space, and what does this tell you about terrains and landscapes to learn in? What are your community needs? Are your schools adrift, trenchant, or in active upheaval? Who can help you revision and act, act, act in redefining learning locally….? Who in your communities are engaged in projects that bypass “schooling”, might be moving complete mutations, or may just need support? Why do they strike you as special, how many other community members might you organize into primary autonomous groups to explore solutions to your vision for better learning environments. How might you network this praxis? Illich (1973) makes the argument that we should seek conviviality to reclaim our spaces for life and learning:

I choose the term “conviviality” to designate the opposite of industrial productivity. I intend it to mean autonomous and creative intercourse among persons, and the intercourse of persons with their environment; and this in contrast with the conditioned response of persons to the demands made upon them by others, and by a man-made environment. I consider conviviality to be individual freedom realized in personal interdependence and, as such, an intrinsic ethical value.


Who are you looking for to collaborate/share/design/participate with if you don’t see them as partners already? I defer to Illich (1972) again, as he has my thoughts on the topic to a tee in many ways:

Three types of special educational competence should, in fact, be distinguished: one to create and operate the kinds of educational exchanges or networks outlined…. another to guide students and parents in the use of these networks; and a third to act as primus inter pares in undertaking difficult intellectual exploratory journeys….To design and operate the networks I have been describing would not require many people, but it would require people with the most profound understanding of education and administration, in a perspective quite different from and even opposed to that of schools.

Flying Kites in the Rain

Unique, local, self organized, mutual aid driven human organization is at times hard to imagine. But in reality its like flying kites in the rain. This morning my son and I departed our farmhouse with our kites for the field and a dreary rain drizzled morning. We both remarked that this was a “funny” thing to do. Yet, we also knew there was wind, air, the sky, space to run and a chance to learn in what we have come to call “fluky winds”. Flying kites is much like taking the chance to organize new learning communities….its messy, full of wonder, takes concentration (but not to much), and a willingness to be side by side with someone you believe in.

Praxis Weaving

We should also collectively vision a praxis weaving space. Networked worlds are (indeed the Coop is) a vital space. I would like to see your communities work and weave it into mine, be inspired by your projects or those you know of and support. I imagine a world where autonomous local groups are learning in conviviality linked in a networked mesh. I would love to hear your ideas.

See you in Network: @steelemaley #praxisweave

Cross-posted from

About Thomas Steele-Maley

I believe we live in networks. My networks see sustainable and resilient local communities learning together with ubiquity. Thomas currently serves as a praxis weaver for a mesh network of learners and their projects.


2 thoughts on “Frog Birds, Autonomous Individuals, Groups and Flying Kites in the Rain

  1. i love this Thomas.

    i first heard the verbiage – networked individualism in Howard Rheingold’s Net Smart (Barry Wellman).
    i’m thinking if we can trust in that idea… simply facilitating curiosities.. we will see what you (and Illich) write about.
    and i believe.. it will be then.. that we will not only be free to be, but to discover the breathtaking-ness of us.

    How do i have to be in order for you to be free.. – Orland Bishop

    I work with communities of place.. just people who happen to live together in the same neighborhood, same city, same town, who come from different cultures, ideologies, religions, tastes, and values. In my philosophy those differences are the greatest untapped asset we have in our society. In what conditions can those differences lead to something productive? – Milenko Matanovic

    Posted by monika hardy | April 22, 2012, 2:12 pm
  2. Thank you Monika. As you know you and the Innovation Lab are inspiration to so many who are on the edge of learning theory and *praxis* or those making their way there, in their own ways. You are a solid hub in our mesh network and I am grateful to collaborate. Onward!

    Posted by Thomas Steele-Maley | April 23, 2012, 10:47 am

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