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Jeffrey Elkner

Eudiamonia and My Upcoming Summer in Liberia


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With my plane ticket now purchased, I have a date certain for the beginning of the Summer program in Liberia - Monday, June 20, 2022. In my previous post, Sparking a CS/ICT Educational Effort in Monrovia, I described the immediate educational goals for the Summer program. In this post I want to share a bit more about the "pie in the sky" goals that motivate me.

I have always been driven by the quest for eudaimonia, that Aristotelian concept that often gets translated into English as life with a purpose. This drive has only grown deeper as I approach the later years of my life. For the last decade I have found my eudaimonia in the movement for worker cooperatives. I have long believed that the selfish, accumulation driven logic of our capitalist economic system is leading our species toward disaster, and that we need to find a more just and humane alternative if we are to prosper. The name for that alternative that is being used with increasing frequency of late is the solidarity economy, and I want to spend the rest of my life doing what I can to contribute towards its birth.

So while the immediate goal this Summer in Liberia is to help my dear friend and MCSS superintendant Isaac Zawolo establish a web design and development program within his school system, my big picture goal is far more ambitious than that. I want this to be the beginning of a 5 year project at the end of which we have recruited and trained a cadre of student ICT leaders that can contribute to the development of their country in significant ways, and to do so not as victims of imperialist exploitation but as collaborators in the development of the social economy. I plan to tell my students this Summer that I hope that a few of them will become worker / owners of NOVA Web Development, or perhaps start a sister cooperative enterprise based in Liberia. This will hopefully provide us with the chance to participate directly in the International Cooperative Alliance, whose logo appears at the top of this post.

In the intermediate term, success will mean that several of the students I teach this Summer, the ones who find studying web development rewarding and want to continue to pursue it, will continue to work with me remotely throughout the school year after I return to Virginia. In fact, since I plan to use the same project based, worker coop oriented curriculum I am in the process of developing both in Monrovia and Arlington, I hope we can explore remote collaboration between students in both locations next year. My students in Arlington have the same need for meaningful and rewarding work that doesn't force them to do evil that the students in Liberia do. The world will be a better place if we can work together, contributing in some small way toward Benjamin Melançon's dream of People Incorporated: The Cooperative (Give a listen to Agaric's Show-and-Tell on April 14 to hear Ben share this dream himself).

Lastly, on the immediate and mundane level, I plan to reach out to the free software and cooperative communities to see if I can get some assistance defraying the cost of my travel to and stay in Monrovia. I'll be asking for recommendations from fellow tech cooperators as to how to do that with free software at tomorrow's Show and Tell, and I'll be sure to post what I learn.