The “I / We / It” Framework

Exploring Ourselves, Our Groups, and the Systems We Live Within
At the heart of our curriculum is the belief that each of us has a unique voice and contribution to make to the world. Furthermore, we believe the highest purpose of education and learning is to activate and support each person coming to know who they are in the deepest sense, why they’re here in the world and what they’re called to do.

Like the Mystery Schools of Greco-Roman antiquity, the Academy is dedicated to personal and collective transformation, exploring the conditions and mechanisms that best give rise to learning and to uncovering one’s unique voice. We have developed practices and methodologies that help us plumb the depths and find the answers to the most essential questions: Who am I? Who are we when we are together? What is mine to do in the world?

These three questions live nested dynamically within each other, moving from foreground to background depending on the focus of awareness. We apply this framework, which we call the “I/We/It,” in our Leading By Being foundational course and throughout our curriculum. As part of a fluid, interactive dynamic, these three questions help us examine ourselves, who we are in relationship, and the impact of the structures and systems we live within.

Conventional education, family systems, and social structures can cause us to lose contact with and become alienated from who we truly are. In our trainings and workshops, we draw upon the I/ We/It framework as a tool to discover and catalyze our individual operating systems, help us unlearn patterned responses and behaviors, and expand into our innate sense of calling and aliveness.

Attending to these three aspects in our daily lives, moment by moment, helps us recognize barriers that keep us from being better humans.

Who am I?

Who am I? What brings me alive? What is my calling? These questions might seem unimportant or even contrary to contemporary education but they are, in truth, at education’s heart.

“Education” stems from the Latin word, educare, which means, “To draw out that which lies within.” The Academy’s orientation to learning hinges on the premise that who we are, as leaders, teachers, parents, artists, etc. facilitates the learning process and the transmission of knowledge. What we communicate, and how we communicate is secondary to our presence—the qualities of being, self-awareness and capacities that make up our essential nature.

The Academy’s trainings explore personal identity from multiple perspectives: the constructed self; the free or authentic self; and no self, or Spirit. Like archeologists, we sift through the layers, looking at the impediments and blocks to what connects us to our innate sense of wonder and aliveness. This process can be as as much about unlearning and disrupting old patterns as it is about learning.

As we become adept at dancing with the three aspects of self, we grow in our capacity to respond creatively to any challenge we might experience…and become the change we wish to see in the world.

Who are We?

After we investigate “Who am I?,” we explore what happens when the “I” meets the “We.” Who are we within our connections and relationships, our families, communities and the larger web of life?

Leonard Bernstein, influential to the founding of the Academy, once posed the question, Don’t we never learn? Our work at the Academy passionately takes up Bernstein’s question, exploring how we as individuals and as a culture may wake up out of the violence and the mindlessness with which we tend to operate and become better at being human.

The Academy curriculum provides an introduction to the complex dynamics of groups, and to some of the practices and methods that create the “field” conditions for group transformation. These include navigating difference, shadow work, nonviolent communication, collaborative learning, council practice and ritual, creative arts and story-based work, and an examination of scapegoating and how to move beyond it.

In courses and workshops, we experiment with these practices together, increasing our capacity to stand in relationship, to collaborate, to disrupt harmful patterns and systems, and to support each other to shape our world in positive ways as diverse groups and communities.

“I think what my work is about is trying to get as close as we can to the core of ourselves as human beings, so that the expressions of who we are can come through without too much socialization, without too much of the impact of socialization.  And I think we are all to some degree occupied.  When I say occupied I mean occupied by the assumptions, the beliefs, the histories, the points of view, the expectations, et cetera, of everything that’s come before us and lives inside the, not just the current zeitgeist, but history.” –said Aaron Stern?

What is It?

In the process of self-discovery, we encounter the social systems that shape and influence us. The question “What Is It?” invites us to examine our relationships to these systems and their influence and impact upon us both as individuals and as members of a group.

“What is It?” also refers to one’s work in the world: What’s mine to do in terms of vocation and/or calling? What does my personal leadership look like in specific fields of action?

Moving into the question “What Is It?” brings a different level of complexity and continues to reveal essential nuances as the individual and group inquiry deepens.

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