Schumacher Summer School: Rethinking Ireland’s economic future?

This morning I dropped in to see John Woods, who’s organising Schumacher Ireland’s first ever Summer School under the title “From crisis to resilience: rethinking Ireland’s economic future”… It’s the first time such an gathering has taken place in Ireland, though Schumacher College in Devon has been running such courses for the last twenty years…

In three short (and somewhat truncated) interviews I asked John firstly what it was all about that what issues he hoped the summer school could achieve by taking Schumacher’s holistic or ‘systems approach’…

In the second part he outlines who the teachers are and the fully participation approach…

The key word John uses for the Schumacher process is ’emergence’. In the context of the social media revolution it’s a word that’s commonly used to not dissimilar to the way social media has emerged and is indeed is kept almost in a constant flux of watching and anticipating new needs. It’s generally held to mean that whilst you set off with a clear intent, you also suspend judgement as to where the journey will take you.

In the case of the Summer School, the intent is clear enough:

Explore answers to questions including:

Ø What are the roots of the economic crisis and why did conventional economics both fail to anticipate it and to provide coherent solutions?
Ø Why has 30 years of economic growth failed to improve well-being in many developed countries?
Ø What are the weaknesses of the development models in both jurisdictions?
Ø How can we develop resilience to external economic, financial and energy shocks?
Ø Can global finance be transformed so that it serves rather than exploits people and can local and community finance provide an equitable alternative?
Ø Will social innovation be the motor of the new economy?
Ø What would a new economic paradigm look like for Ireland?
Ø How can we support emerging leaders for these uncertain times?

There are four members of the teaching team: Robin Murray, from London; Hazel Henderson who will conduct a number of sessions live from California; Peadar Kirby from the University of Limerick; and Jonathan Dawson who is Head of Economics at Schumacher College, and originally from Armagh.

In the final interview John talks about why he believes it matters…

You can sign up directly on the website, or contact John Woods directly either through the Office: +44(0)28 9042 6513 or on his Mobile: +44(0)7712 843 213

There are a limited number of bursaries being made available through Queens and the NICVA based Centre for Economic Empowerment


  • carl marks

    I first came across Schumacher’s book Small is Beautiful in 1983, I was at the CAT ( Centre for Alternate technology) in Wales and learning how to build wind turbines and water filtration systems using appropriate technology, this was in preparation for heading to Indonesia as a VSO.
    Sometimes you hear people saying that a book can be a life changer Small IS Beautiful was the nearest any book ever came to being a life changer for me.
    It showed that small scale projects such as locally designed and built water purification systems could have a greater effect on the standard of living of local people than the Huge projects (Dams etc) would have.
    The book came into my life at exactly the right time and helped me during my 4 years in the NTT region of Indonesia.
    The CAT centre give me the technical knowledge to do my job and Small is Beautiful explained why what I was doing would help.
    Like most things done by the Schumacher College these talks look both interesting and challenging, alas I won’t be able to attend them but I think I will read Small again.

  • One of the chapters of Small is Beautiful is entitled ‘Buddhist Economics’. Schumacher describes the purpose of work as threefold; ‘to give a man a chance to utilise and develop his faculties; to enable him to overcome his egocentredness by joining with other people in a common task; and to bring forth the goods and services for a becoming existence.’ In fact we focus exclusively on the last resulting in an often unbecoming existence.

    ‘The ownership and consumption of goods is a means to an end [well-being] and Buddhist economics is the systematic study of how to attain given ends with the minimium means.’ he writes. ‘Modern economics, on the other hand, considers consumption to be the sole end and purpose of all economic activity…’

    I’m really looking forward to exploring the implications of this kind of thinking at the summer school in June.