Transpartisan Note #45
by A. Lawrence Chickering and James S. Turner
A Matrix Informed Project in India
Educate Girls Globally (EGG), founded by Lawry Chickering nearly twenty years ago, has enjoyed extraordinary success promoting positive social changes in the most “difficult” populations in rural India. The most important of these are cultural—from premodern, pre-individualist, role-driven values to more modern, individualist, conscious values.
This change produces multiple positive outcomes: significant increases in learning even from tribal girls, who grow up afraid to speak up in front of boys; active cooperation in creating community projects providing their own financial support without subsidies from EGG; empowerment of girls as learners and leaders; and others. The most important change, however, is from passivity to action by communities seeking to control their destiny.
In terms of the Transpartisan Matrix, the change is from static (order-right) tradition to the more dynamic and entrepreneurial freedom-right. In small communities, featuring much social interaction, trust mitigates the conflict that such change would provoke in communities with little social contact and next to no trust.
EGG’s model is in more than 7,000 primary and secondary schools in two states of India, and it has not experienced significant opposition or conflict in a single school. EGG begins its work in communities rife with negative behaviors rooted in what appear to be selfishness and an utter lack of empathy. In watching these communities apparently unable to change makes it clear that “experts,” waving the banner of science, can stimulate no more positive change than priests, citing The Bible.
EGG began with a developmental view of its traditional communities and their potential for change: starting in order-right, dominated by tradition, with no conception of the left’s order quadrant or either of the freedom quadrants.
EGG’s work is based on a cornerstone of free market capitalism and the freedom-right: property rights. But not rights in private space (property): rights in public space (ownership)—rights as co-owners of schools. Sharing ownership of schools brings people together in a common enterprise: improving the school, which includes bringing drop-out girls back to school, doing community projects arranging financing without EGG subsides, the Girls Parliaments and Life Skill Training (parts of the EGG program which may be seen as self-help training for succeeding in freedom-right social relations), etc.
The economist’s model has obvious value, but ignoring rights in public space limits economists understanding of what people value (their “utility functions”), which include the order quadrants, embedded in social relationships. In doing so, they miss opportunities to make free market capitalism an instrument of empowerment for the poorest people in many places.
Empowerment, as EGG facilitates it, requires more than just changing rules. Civil society organizations have essential roles to play in helping traditional communities achieve the empowerment that can change everything for them. The Transpartisan Review will explore these roles in different social realms, exploring how change is happening in many places right now.