All posts by Pam Barker

The Joy and Power of Resonance

Six days ago, I returned from a week in Guatemala serving my role as a new Board Member on the Aldea Foundation (learn more), formerly the Behrhorst Partners for Development. Carroll Behrhorst, MD, was an important influence in my life as a friend, colleague, mentor and professor at Tulane’s School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine in the mid-1980s. The stories he shared and the questions he asked of me then have profoundly inclined my thinking and influenced the direction of my choices and my life. Being in Guatemala for the first time in 30 years, having my feet again in the world of international public health and education, and reconnecting with the Foundation and its on-going work of engagement, empowerment, increased personal and community agency, all based in profound respect for the Mayan people of the Highlands of Guatemala and the wisdom within us all, reminded me of the joy and power embedded in working with resonance.

Carroll Behrhorst lived and expressed deep and unconditional respect and high regard for the people he served. Stephan Kinzer, in his New York Times article of July 16th, 1984, said Dr. Behrhorst’s was a “health program” rather than a “medical program.” He and his colleagues, all of whom were Guatemalan, trained hundreds of local health promoters to treat the sick in their own villages, which Dr. Behrhorst believed anyone with a ‘modicum of information and compassion’ could easily do.

Wisdom lives within each of us. Developing practices that help us recognize and attend to that wisdom is a foundational goal of emotional intelligence. We can all help one another. Given pertinent information and by activating our innate compassion, we can become and we can co-create more peaceful, just, accountable, fair, and healthy individuals, families and communities. By knowing ourselves better and by practicing our sense of choice, our sense of agency, we can more often align our actions with our inner knowing or wisdom, guided by our emotions and by a moral compass.

I am reminded by my recent visit to Guatemala and the work of the Aldea Foundation of both the power and the joy of working in an environment where there is resonance­–where beliefs, assumptions and values are shared. As we clarify and make more explicit our shared beliefs, assumptions and values, we create the opportunity to work with greater joy, perseverance, creativity, flexibility and power to more sustainably cultivate a just and peaceful world.

Organization for Economic Co-Operation and Development (OECD): Better Policies for Better Lives

This summary and the link to the OECD’s report on Skills for Social Progress: The Power of Social and Emotional Skills, came to me from Ross Hall. Ross is part of Ashoka’s Global Leadership Team and directs Ashoka’s work with young people across Europe. He and I met at the Ashoka U. Annual Conference in Washington DC in late February of this year. He graciously shared his notes from the launching of the Report in Paris on March 10th,, 2015.

The development of social and emotional skills, especially empathy, is foundational to Ashoka U’s commitment to co-creating a Movement to educate for innovation so that each of us can be positive changemakers and contribute to the greater good.


 NOTES FROM THE LAUNCH OF THE OECD’S REPORT: Skills for Social Progress: The Power of Social and Emotional Skills

10TH March 2015

 Extract from the report:

Today’s children will need a balanced set of cognitive, social and emotional skills in order to succeed in modern life. Their capacity to achieve goals, work effectively with others and manage emotions will be essential to meet the challenges of the 21st century. This report presents a synthesis of the OECD’s analytical work on the role of socio-emotional skills and proposes and  strategies to raise them. It analyzes the effects of skills on a variety of measures of individual well-being and social progress, which covers aspects of our lives that are as diverse as education, labour market outcomes, health, family life, civic engagement and life satisfaction. The report discusses how policy makers, schools and families facilitate the development of socio-emotional skills through intervention programmes, teaching and parenting practices. Not only does it identify promising avenues to foster socio-emotional skills, it also shows that these skills can be measured meaningfully within cultural and linguistic boundaries.

Notes and discussion points:

  • “Children need a balanced set of cognitive, social and emotional skills for achieving positive life outcomes” (Social and Emotional skills work with / reinforce / are reinforced by cognitive skills).
  • “Education stakeholders would benefit from receiving information on what works and guidelines to help foster children’s socio-emotional development” (But there is a lack of evidence as to how these skills are developed and there is a need to apply neuroscience to the field more meaningfully).
  • “Stakeholders need to work together to ensure that children achieve lifetime success and contribute to social progress” (an ecosystemic approach to development is important).
  • “As ‘skills beget skills’, early interventions in social and emotional skills can play an important role in efficiently raising skills and reducing emotional, labour market and social disparities.”
  • “Social and emotional skills can be reliably measured within a culture of linguistic boundary” (But cost-effective, easy to use measures are still lacking; longitudinal research is still lacking; and research into the negative effects of Social and Emotional skills is lacking).
  • “Teachers and parents can help improve children’s social and emotional skills by promoting strong relationships with children and mobilising practical learning experiences” (But teachers and adults in schools need to have these skills themselves and need to be trained / screened as such)

Next steps:

  • The OECD also announced the next stage of the project – a longitudinal study of skills development in cities.
  • Included in this project will be need to define a full list of Social and Emotional skills (empathy is currently lacking for example)
  • Andreas Schleicher noted that this project is the OECD’s most important and an essential complement to PISA