Anthony James worked in the field before deciding on his Deakin Degree: Master of International and Community Development.
What were some of the memorable experiences you had at Deakin? i.e. social, academic, intellectual.
I had been overseas working in the ‘field’ for several years before deciding to do this degree. So in my case, it was terrific to test my thinking and experiences within a broader context of knowledge, experiences and ideas. And to hone my understanding of that broader context, in particular the global economic and financial systems and institutions, given they are so central to how we organise ourselves as human societies.
It was also an opportunity to delve into the much needed work being done to reconstruct these systems into more sustainable, fair and flourishing models. I wanted to understand and be able to articulate how my ideas, experiences and observations stood up in that context. In that sense, I recall this time as a pivotal one, and am very grateful for it.
Did you learn anything from your Deakin studies to take directly to the workforce?
In addition to what I gained directly from my experience at Deakin, outlined above, I was able to complete my Masters with reciprocal credits from a range of other universities. This enabled me to explore complementary areas of great interest and relevance to my work, not available at Deakin at the time, with people I particularly respected.
This included Indigenous peoples’ perspectives of Country, sustainability and development, the increasingly critical domain of energy, and an area of study that is now gaining more traction in the development space – the epistemological and ontological underpinnings of how we ‘see’ the world, and ultimately what makes us human. After all, what is the field of ‘development’ without those understandings?
At the time of my study, these areas appeared less available, and less prevalent in the field. Which is partly how I ended up getting together with some colleagues to create The Rescope Project - a not-for-profit organisation that works in this space.
So yes, I learned plenty to take directly to the ‘workforce’. Though as much to recreate the very notion of that workforce, to be less an artefact of the industrial colonial model of education, production and consumption that served us in some ways (though not in others, and certainly not for all) last century, and more closely aligned with the post-consumer growth systems that (most of) the world needs now.
What are your career/ life highlights?
Ah, now there’s a question! I’ve never thought about it. In a sense, not wanting to sound trite, life itself is the highlight. A line from one of my favourite movies goes something like, ‘A career is a 20th century invention, and I don’t want one.’ I had been ‘groomed’ for one, of course, like most of us. But the notion of ‘career’ is arguably a product of a much more linear understanding of nature and society than we have today. And quite narrow.
I became guided much less by questions of my personal career progression, as what I could do that contributes most to the world at any given time.
I have found that to be a vastly more liberating and fulfilling premise from which to work. And having had the good fortune to host public conversations with business people, economists, development professionals, academics, artists and religious leaders, I have found that premise to be a uniting one that brings the best out of people. No surprises really, given that it connects with a history of thinking and spiritual practice that is as old as humanity itself.
So while I could look back and relish adventures like travelling the world in a rock band, living in a wonderful community in rural Guatemala, and returning home to do what I currently do, the ‘discovery’ of this fundamental premise of life has to be the highlight.
Can you give any advice to our current students?
Have a respect for received wisdom, but the kind of respect that also means examining it deeply. For the dominant model of human development generally remains in a pattern of confusing causes for solutions, and doing the wrong things right. As a result, we are inadvertently worsening a host of issues that we are desperately trying to resolve in the name of sustainable development.
This is where examining how we see the world, what development is for, and the systems we employ to make it happen, is so necessary. Looking in to the underpinning systems and stories we live by opens up possibilities previously unseen, and helps us develop more meaningful purpose, to ultimately do more of the right things right.
On a fundamentally personal level, I have found that giving engenders greater giving in others. And looking out for others results in more people looking out for you. I reckon there’s a model of development in that.