Interview with Roshan Paul - How Do You Learn How to Change the World

By Madeline Hendricks - Apr 12th, 2016

As more and more people seek careers of meaning and impact, how do you, in fact, learn how to change the world?

Indian by birth but global citizen in deed, Roshan Paul is a man who escapes definition. In both his personal and professional life he is always looking for innovation. His endeavours range from his social entrepreneurship to his unquestionable academic achievements, and to his identity as a cricket journalist-cum-storyteller-cum-novelist who has worked or studied on every inhabited continent.
An engaging speaker, Paul comes to TEDxAmsterdamED as co-founder of the Amani Institute, where he has set aside barriers to generate an educational model fit for the dynamic needs of the twenty-first century.

This year's TEDxAmsterdamED theme is #BorntoLearn. What does #BorntoLearn mean to you?

My father was a big Bob Dylan fan, so I grew up listening to Dylan as well. A quote from him meant a lot to my dad and it has come to mean a lot to me, too. "He who ain't busy being born is busy dying." It’s about the importance of lifelong learning and how your decline begins the minute you stop actively trying to learn new things. Born to Learn for me is about that quest for continuous learning and self-improvement. You can't ever stop!

What motivated you to get involved with education?

I'm a late starter in the field of education. I came to it only after turning 30, first having worked in social entrepreneurship for a decade. If you had told me at 29 that I would be starting an education venture in a couple of years, I would have laughed. However, what does move me are all the people who are seeking meaningful work and careers. It seemed that the biggest roadblock for them was that higher education wasn't tailored towards that type of learning. Rather, it was more geared towards academic and research outcomes. So if we wanted to create sustainable and scalable ways for people to get the training they need, to build the careers they want, then it had to start with education. I believed we needed to create a new type of adult education that was more geared towards skill-building and personal growth than towards academic or research outcomes.

What’s the last thing you’ve learnt?

I've recently learnt about "Teal organisations" thanks to a remarkable book called Reinventing Organisations. This really opened doors in my mind about what the organisations of the future are going to be like. It also taught me what type of culture we should be creating at Amani Institute if we're going to align how we operate internally with this path where the world of work is going. We're starting to run small experiments with Teal culture within our organisation. It's been a great learning journey to take those ideas and try to make them usable in our context in Kenya.
I'm also very interested in Biomimicry and how to translate it from the realm of science and technology towards the realm of social change. We've created a new course around that, called Bio-Empathy, which is about first reconnecting with nature, and then learning from nature's designs, and applying that towards solutions for social innovation. So I also spend some of my "learning time" on understanding biomimicry better.

What do you hope to learn on the day of the event?

On the day of the event, I'm hoping to learn about what others in the field are doing and compare that to our own ideas and direction, and see what new ideas emerge as a result. Doing this talk is a way to put together what we've done in our first five years and consider where that is taking us for the next phase of our work. We are at an inflection point with Amani Institute, and I'd like to share what that point looks like and see how people react.

Can you give a one sentence summary of your talk?

As more and more people seek careers of meaning and impact, how do you, in fact, learn how to change the world?

Can you share a quote or a person that has inspired you in the field of education?

There are so many it’s hard to choose! I really like this one from Maria Montessori: "Establishing lasting peace is the work of education; all politics can do is keep us out of war."

To discover more about Roshan, please follow this link.

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