Steadfast in the Changes : SIF Ethical Individualism 2019 in Review

1024 495 World Social Initiative Forum

Last October 18-20, 2019, youth volunteers from Freunde’s Freiwilligendienste program gathered at the Goetheanum for SIF Ethical Individualism 2019. Now in its 2nd year, the 3-day Forum was one of the Engagementkollegs or after-service seminars offered by Freunde Ehemaligenarbeit.

Text: Nicole Asis [PH] | Photos: Massa Ando [JP], Nicole Asis [PH] & Juan Bottero [AR]

The youth’s quest | © Massa Ando [JP]


Apenas sei que caminho como quem    I only know that I walk as one

É olhado amado e conhecido                  Who is watched, loved, & known

E por isso em cada gesto ponho            And that’s why I place in the smallest act

Solenidade e risco                                     Solemnity & risk


(excerpt from Escuto by Sophia de Mello-Breyner)



What is Ethical individualism? | © Juan Bottero [AR]

Though attending Engagementkollegs is a requirement after their voluntary service, the Freunde alumni have a choice which seminars they would want to attend based on their interests & the questions they carry after their volunteer year abroad. Freunde Ehemaligenarbeit coordinator Georg Wiedemer partnered with the Social Initiative Forum to organize this Forum as a way of processing the changes the volunteers experienced through the lens of Ethical Individualism developed by Rudolf Steiner. The Forum organized at the Goetheanum is also a chance for the alumni to get to know the place & have an insight into Anthroposophy.


Going through changes | © Massa Ando [JP]

Knowledge is Participation In her two keynote lectures, Social Initiative Forum project leader Joan Sleigh wove in Immanuel Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason & Rudolf Steiner’s Philosophy of Freedom as guiding posts for the Forum. Joan pointed out that globalization collapsed boundaries between nations, yet resulted in a growing disconnection from one another, regressing to nationalism. She also mentioned our hurried relationship with time & how we try to balance on a tightrope of unpredictability & state of flux. Looking at the phenomena of time & space, Joan asked, “how do we develop the flexibility to deal with the uncertainties, & at the same time be grounded in ourselves, so that we do not lose our motivations, ideas, & connection to the world?” This field of change is felt by every conscious individual, she added, where there exist the possibilities of both crisis & transformation; which contains the unforeseen & the unpredictable; & thus questions every identification, recognition & alignment. The questions the alumni are carrying after going through major crossroads in their lives, in a way, can be connected to Kant’s questions in his Critique – what can I know, what should I do, what may I hope for, and what is the human being. The moment of change, Joan continued, is an invitation to go beyond our inhabited self into an expanded one. & this invitation is where Ethical Individualism comes in, as a call to participate morally in the world yet still remain individual & self-directed. It is also where every action is imbued with knowledge gained from participation, acceptance of the other’s free will with empathy, & a commitment because of one’s love for the thing in itself.


Creating the space | © Massa Ando [JP]

Sharing Narratives, Inner Experiences, & Emerging Impulses Questions like how can I find my way to help & develop, what will I do to carry on, & how can I transform the personal change I have experienced to benefit the world are what the volunteers carried with them coming out of the voluntary service. Through recalling their journey & understanding the encounters that led them to new insights & growth, they tried to integrate these gifts through the 3-step process embedded in the workshops offered. Joan Sleigh worked on the question: “how do I awaken to & understand the growing needs of the future, aligning them to the impulses emerging within my Self, while Social Initiative Forum co-worker Milla Kowarik explored the relationship between transforming one’s Self  & one’s participation in the world. Economist Fionn Meier tackled how finance can become a tool not only of economic stability but also to heighten responsibility in shaping one’s destiny; & Social Initiative Forum coordinator Juan Bottero paralleled 3 human capacities (thinking, feeling, will) to 3 world challenges as a way of orienting one’s development & social engagement. Georg Wiedemer looked at tuning into a dialogue between environment & one’s Self toward happiness, self-directedness & responsibility, while Social Initiative Forum co-worker Nicole Asis used improvisation as a way of forming a listening space to find one’s voice, be interested in another’s, & create something new in the moment within the group built. Lastly, Anthroposophic Council for Inclusive Social Development co-director Bart Vanmechelen worked on various listening exercises for “soul fitness” & opening to what the other is bringing as a preparation for one’s conscious interaction in the social realm.


Echoing the striving of the youth | © Massa Ando [JP]

Finding my Purpose, Changing the World In collaboration with Youth Section co-workers Andrea de la Cruz & Johannes Kronenberg, the Forum also held a podium that opened up a space of discussion about the questions living in the youth nowadays. Andrea shared that according to their (re)search The Spiritual Striving of the Youth: Shaping our Reality, the youth is searching for social forms that are impactful enough, which go beyond one’s immediate circle. The research also showed that they are asking how to connect with someone different from themselves & do not hold the same beliefs or thoughts as they do. She also defined the need for a “commitment” where there are too many options, at a time when we are free to do whatever we want. Based on their research, what do I want to do – the thing that will make me say yes to that is meaningful for me & others – is the underlying question most young people are asking. On the other hand, insights & questions on climate change & the prevailing youth activism emerging out of it were also topics opened up by the volunteers in the podium. Through his expertise in sustainable development, Johannes shared his views on the value of consciousness, individuality & freedom when dealing with the climate crisis. Organized by the Youth Section, Bound to Earth: Freedom, Responsibility & Destiny in the times of Climate Crises will tackle the complex questions surrounding climate change on the 30th of January to the 2nd of February, 2020 for the February Days Conference at the Goetheanum.


The Mashrabiya Project | © Nicole Asis [PH]

Encounters through Music, Narratives, & Humor With Meira Segal (flute), Tristan Driessens (oud/lute) & Yoni Ben-Dor(percussion), The Mashrabiya Project brought us beyond borders as they performed Mediterranean & Middle Eastern music at the Goetheanum. They also collapsed ‘then & now’ by setting their new compositions in traditional rhythms & melodies, while getting inspiration from current issues like migration & the ongoing political divide in the Middle East. In another session, Helene Hasler of  The Great African Caravan shared her voluntary experience traveling in Africa with a group of international artists & how they promoted UN’s Sustainable Development Goals in 10 countries through art. Georg Wiedemer hosted “Die Lösung Night”, where the volunteers suggested ways on how to solve the biggest challenges of the world in a light & humorous manner. & the World Café provided a breathing space for the volunteers to enjoy each other’s company through stories, music & laughter.



I & the world | © Juan Bottero [AR]

Taking the Next Step Forward Enabling social transformation is a daunting task for everyone. Like how a 19-year old participant put it, “I know where I can find the strength within me, but I don’t know how I can start to make social changes”. Most volunteers are proactive & see that it can be done. “I would start my class with singing & the children loved it,” shared a 21-year old participant about her experience during her volunteer year as a teacher-assist in Georgia, “they told me they didn’t really sing that much. Singing together made them feel alive & I saw how it changed them.” A 21-year old volunteer expressed her certainty by saying, “I am aware of how to engage in the world & what my inner strengths are”, while another 20-year old participant said, “we need to be confident in doing something (because) even the smallest actions matter”.


Participation | © Juan Bottero [AR]

“We at Freunde-Ehemaligenarbeit have an interest in the world, in a world in which we think is livable & in which we want to live,” Georg said, “We also have an interest in the volunteers & their lives after they did the service with us. We want to know what gifts they will bring to the world.” The Social Initiative Forum team is also interested in this & how their new questions & experiences will enable them to change the world, even in the smallest deeds. Their engagement inspires us to participate in finding ways of knowing ourselves, understanding the other, & working together to care for the earth. Always be aware, never stop to be brave, & follow your dreams, wrote a 19-year old volunteer in her reflection after the Forum. She ended her insight by saying follow the ideals in this world & live it, that it will be reflected in us.  With this as one of the gifts we received after the Forum, we are motivated to be more conscious & responsible in each step we take.


SIF Ethical Individualism 2019 | © Massa Ando [JP]


Related articles: Autonomy to Act by Nicole Asis [PH], Ethical Individualism: Transforming Self & Society by Andrea de la Cruz [ES]

Related keynote lectures: Joan Sleigh on Ethical Individualism & Gerald Häfner on Exploring Individual Responsibility in Global Challenges


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