Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Experimental College of the Twin Cities

A common question on my road trip has been, "what is your background?" because people are often curious about how I became interested in community and sustainable building. I tell them, "I majored in environmental policy, though upon graduating I don't think I had a clue what it really meant..."

It seems that this is true for many people attending university; students become frustrated that what they are learning is in no way preparing them for the "real world," and develop a general jadedness toward official educational institutions. This jadedness is a main reason for forming an alternative skills building school. I was interested in interviewing a member of the Experimental College of the Twin Cities (EXCO) to understand their motivations and their processes for setting up this free school. There are two things in particular that I liked about EXCO...

1. Non hierarchical City Repair, there is no one leader in EXCO. This means there is more potential for more classes to be taught within a term, more of a pool of people to take classes, etc. I think this structure can often lead into trouble in getting time commitments from members, but if done well has an amazing ability to mobilize and motivate all members to claim collective ownership of the thing which they have created. Also to be lauded is their efforts in holding spanish-speaking only classes...I'm interested I think in a bit more history regarding that chapter of EXCO (named academia communitaria) and how they increase local participation

2. Their website is well done. In researching many organizations across the country I have come to rely almost solely on websites as my primary source for information. EXCO makes it super easy to sign up for classes hassle, and its free! Question though...what about the people with little to no access to computers?

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