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From the Desk of the Director
December 2022 (2), 7th March 2022 (1)

Fr. Ranjit George SJ
BA (Economics), MASW (PM & IR), MA (Philosophy)
Doctoral Student [Ph.D. in Management and Labour Studies
at the Tata Institute of Social Sciences (TISS), Mumbai, India.
Thesis Submitted to the Institute on the 8th of December 2022/
Abstract Here]

Contact Me
Email 1.  Email 2. Office Mobile: 0091-9446397763 (Through Anandavally Amma)

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We are now eagerly waiting the birth of a new year, 2023, to continue to enable us to shape our challenging future(s) for the well-being of all.  For all of us here at Loyola Extension Services (LES), 2022 has been an eventful and learningful year. We hope it was equally beneficial for you too. As the year come to a close, we hope to continue our passion, aspirations and contributions into the new year and well beyond it. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


The twelve months of 2022 will be over soon. As we wait to welcome the new year, we like to share a selection from our diverse and rich journeys. It was a blissful year with a couple of significant new collaborations, explorations and initiatives that have systematically nurtured and strengthened LES as well as LES Multiversity. In addition to earlier associations, I am happy to place on record here some of the significant happenings and associations during this period. 

 

In March 2022, LES collaborated with University of Lincoln UK in their Tribal Educational Methodology (TEM) Project at Attapadi and Wayanad. Through their project Ontu Nilva, which means ‘stand together’, we created the Networking and Collaborative Platform among the tribal youth community in the following five key domains: Higher Education, Climate Change, Tribal Agriculture, Health and Art & Culture. This effort opened a meaningful opportunity to collaborate with local civil society organisations -- Mahila Samakhya, Thaikula Sangham and AADI. We are now in the process of consolidating this experience and learning in the area of ‘youth engagement’ among members of the indigenous communities. Youth engagement and outreach programmes for indigenous people are important concerns of LES.


In June 2022, with an orientation to deepen the interdisciplinary research thrust and culture of LES and LCSS, LES Multiversity launched a new and significant initiative, the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS). Dr Binoy Pichalakkattu SJ, the Director of Loyola Institute of Peace and International-relations (LIPI), Kochi, heads the institute. 


July was eventful with the visit of National Assessment and Accreditation Council (NAAC).  It served as an occasion to take stock of the diverse engagement avenues of LES and showcase the same during the peer team visit. The higher grade awarded for the extension activities is a reassurance for the role of LES as the Social Lab of the College. I acknowledge the contribution of all the staff and students of LES and LCSS for the synergic support that made it possible.  

In the latter half of July, LES designed and executed yet another project headed by Dr Elizabeth, the former Principal of LCSS, to facilitate the Social Immersion Experience of postgraduate students from the Digital University, Kerala. The programme was entitled Digital Access for Community Empowerment (DACE). We hope that the robust extension services offered by LES will benefit from this collaboration.


In August 2022, LES organised the first of the six youth training programmes in collaboration with Indian Social Institute, Bengaluru and two other local NGO partners, Bluepoint Org and Cheru Resmi, in which 22 youths participated. The participatory event touched on the Indian constitutional values and their critical importance for youth and the future of the country.


In September, we cleared our FCRA renewal from the Government of India. We also obtained the new CSR registration. As a registered charity, we are in the process of building an active fundraising effort. We hope to nurture and strengthen our community extension services and learning programmes that are actively supported by the community.  We want the public out there to be partners in helping us build a compassionate society -- ‘Community Supporting Community’. Please reach out to me if you want to help/contribute.


November was eventful for our engagement with children. Our CHILDLINE effort introduced a new certificate programme on Child Protection (Offered by Jobi). The senior students of Sociology, Social Work (MSW), and Disaster Management, as well as the junior students from Counselling Psychology (MSC) who completed the certificate programme, conducted sports activities for the development programme supported by UNICEF and guided by CHILDLINE in five schools -- three were for tribal children and another was for the visually impaired.  


November also presented us with an unfortunate, sad occurrence. We lost a dear team member. The sudden demise of Ms Pushpa Bhai was a shock to all of us. LES acknowledges the significant and heartful contributions of Ms Pushpa Bhai, who served at Loyola Family Counselling Centre for over two and a half decades. A scholarship, in memory of the late Pushpa Bhai, will be established soon with the support of her family members. The scholarship will be awarded to a meritorious student at LCSS. 


Two of the most notable events that marked the historical leap at LES -- or specifically, LES Multiversity-- were the successful completion of the first round of the Gandhi-Mandela-Freire (GMF) fellowship programme on Conscience and Compassion (under the LES Multiversity Platform) in September and the National Symposium on Artificial Intelligence in November (under LES Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies/IIS). Both events opened up novel and innovative learning spaces for the students and teachers of the Loyola College of Social Sciences.

Fellows - from Philippines, Malaysia, Sri Lanka-Myanmar, and Nepal -- for the GMF learning journey (February - September 2022) had undergone an 8-month learning journey of 300 hours covering self-supervised and 42 learning encounters with educators from 17 countries. The learning journey was focused on initiating deep self and eco-socio-spiritual transformation. It encouraged critical Self-discovery (reclaming self) as well as integrating compassionate praxis in the engagement with the Other (community and nature). This was achieved through the integration of the pedagogies of the oppressed (Freire), non-violence (Gandhi) and reconciliation (Mandela). Animated by this foundation and deeply derived from them, the programme also gave birth to new inclusive, non-oppressive and regenerative narratives and pedagogies of courage, hope, happiness and compassion. 

In October, we had the online and offline convocation of the first batch of GMF fellows. The fellows visited LES in mid-October, during which they were formally inducted into the GMF Fellowship Community. The five formed the core of the GMF Fellows Community, which we hope to actively nurture over the next five years. This would be an inclusive, dialogical, safe and hospitable space for the young to authentically and bravely explore themselves and share thoughts, ideas, challenges, concerns and vulnerabilities. It is a space to recover wounded memories to heal as well as nurture memories to engage in civic/public action for the common good. It is also a community mindfully guided by transdisciplinarity (i.e. a transdisciplinary mode of being), transformative learning and critical, compassionate civic/public engagement. 

A lot of work in the coming months and years will be handled by the GMF fellows. For now, they are in the process of bringing out a collective publication on the “GMF Learning Process” and how it has impacted their private, professional and public lives. The GMF Learning Process encounter booklet will be available from January 2023. The GMF fellows are also helping LES to reach out to possible candidates for the second batch.

The two-day-long national symposium on Artificial Intelligence entitled Contemporary Developments in Artificial Intelligence: Inter-disciplinary Interactions and Implications is the first public activity of the Institute of Interdisciplinary Studies (IIS). The symposium extensively explored the technical, application, social and ethical aspects of AI.  A number of critical concerns and questions were raised during the two days allowing interdisciplinarity to take root. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

From the perspective of LES Multiversity, which considers many possible and diverse eco-human futures (not just human), including an indigenous one (the “future is indigenous”), the dominant narrative of AI-governed future as the only future that humanity has, has to be subjected to mindful and critical interrogation and deliberation. The present orientation of the corporations spending huge amount of resources to produce ‘advanced’ robots seem to also suggest the drive to create a technocracy, sustained by the idea of  a technological utopia.The danger of this has been the theme of many big-budget Hollywood films -- a technological dystopia depicting menacing AI technology/aggressive robots controlling and oppressing humanity. Humanity’s loss of control of technology has many dangers including its own destruction and demise (extinction). 


LES Multiversity is also concerned with the basic issues of building intelligent machines -- Has the present ‘advanced robot’ been constructed by a more comprehensive understanding of the ‘ecology of intelligence’ which minimally (without considering non-human intelligences) covers ‘multiple intelligences’ as well as cognitive, emotional, social, ecological, and spiritual intelligences. To this, we at LES Multiversity propose the need to add ‘compassionate intelligence’. Against this background, the present robots are rather primitive as they focus on cognitive intelligence and algorithms around it. Thus, while we may be building versions of the ‘algorithms of compassion’ and animating the present version of AI-robots, building a robot as a genuine, ‘human-like compassionately intelligent being’ may really take us many, many more generations. And during that time, whether we will survive our present destructive tendencies, including the AI-supported and sustained wars we carelessly indulge in, is a big question before us. Will ‘human stupidity’ eventually destroy us? As an a-political solution, the big technocratic narrative today is that humanity will take to inter-planetary travels and settle in other planets, (where we probably repeat the same). 


Not denying the value of AI today in many sectors like health and agriculture, the challenges that we may have to face are part of the hegemonic future that we are systematically sold or we are ‘forced’ to choose. But whose future is it? Who is funding and controlling that future? Are we all involved democratically to shape that future? We need answers. To build a collective compassionate future where no one is left behind,  we have to return to our basic activity -- education and learning processes. We have to rethink and go beyond disciplinarily. The national symposium on AI by LES IIS is an attempt and contribution to this. It will lead us to interdisciplinarity (and transdisciplinarity). We also need to also rethink ‘university’ and build more relevant and robust ‘multiversity’ or ‘transversity’. LES multiversity is small effort in the direction. Perhaps the way we think about AI, robots, transhumans may significantly change as our learning institutional environments and ecologies undergo critical transformation. As we face planetary dangers and destruction, it is also time for urgent and deep reflection.


Meanwhile, my team and I wish all of you a wonderful 2023. Lets continue to build an inclusive culture of kindness founded on compassion. Let our compassionate being include not only Humans but all of Nature.

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Fr. Ranjit George SJ

LES/LCSS, Sreekaryam

5th December 2022

Contact Me
Email 1.  Email 2. Office Mobile: 0091-9446397763 (Through Anandavally Amma)

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