Piloting chaos with integrity and inspiration Interview with Christer Windeløv-Lidzélius, current Principal of the KaosPilots, Denmark

First published on November 2011.

What did you and your colleagues want to achieve with this education?

We have often considered the KaosPilots as a positive answer to youth unemployment but, to many, it has meant more than that: influenced human potential, moved boundaries etc.

The KaosPilots was our vision of a fantasy education, one that we would have attended if it had only existed when we were young. It had to be a space of professional, mental and personal development, where you were able to be yourself – completely.

The KaosPilots coined the fact that the society we dreamt of actually already existed; the school dares to stand by its cultural and political roots and thereby its values and opinions. That is, a non-dogmatic venue where the multitude of views is in itself valuable. The school has always held much room for differences.

However, it is important to emphasise that, naturally, the KaosPilots stand on the shoulders of a long line of progressive personalities and initiatives throughout history, mixing the folk school, cooperative movement, Bauhaus and Beatnik; it’s quite the cultural and philosophical cocktail The KaosPilots was a significant counterpart to the often rigid way of constructing education that influenced most higher education institutions at that time.

The KaosPilots’ cultural and pedagogical DNA is strong: a particular processanalytical and solutionoriented approach, the four basic capabilities (opinion, relation, change and action) that underpin the specialised qualifications of project design, process design and business design.

And the challenges?

The first is seeing if the KaosPilots can protect its integrity and independence in a time of great forces attempting to mainstream the school and include it in the established educational system. The second is seeing if the school management and employees are able to be sufficiently open and curious about the needs and new ideas of each new group of students.

Finally, how do we ensure that the KaosPilots’ desire for success is always greater than the fear of failure? This means that the school board, management and employees must strive to keep the school’s entrepreneurial nerve and adventurous spirit alive.

If the KaosPilots – that is, the board, management, employees and students – sell out on integrity and independence, are not able to view each new group of students as the most exciting talents the school has ever housed and are not able to keep the entrepreneurial spirit and desire for adventure alive, then the school’s raison d’être is truly threatened.

The world does not lack challenges and possibilities, and times have changed since the beginning. What are the needs which students face today? If the KaosPilots are the answer, then what could the question(s) be?

We desperately need people who are able to create new solutions to the dire challenges that the planet faces. To be a frontrunner, you have to produce surprising and thus inspirational answers to the three basic challenges below:

  1. How do we recreate global sustainability and environmental diversity?
  2. How do we learn to live in an increasingly culturally diverse society?
  3. How do we ensure a far more dynamic and binding cooperation between the three old sectors – the private sector, the public sector and the voluntary sector?

None of the three can solve the basic societal challenges alone. The problems are simply too complex and transgressive for such an approach.
This is why we need people who are not merely able to embrace the complexity, but who are also able to act and create within it.

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Illustrations by Paul Davis - http://copyrightdavis.blogspot.com/