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  • Writer's pictureOPA UK

ISGP offers inspiration for social transformation beyond academic education

Young people gathered online last month to study materials that develop their capacity to contribute to the advancement of society.

Students met digitally as part of a course offered by the Institute for Studies in Global Prosperity (ISGP). ISGP offers seminars for undergraduates and postgraduates around the world to meaningfully explore concepts that shape young people’s individual and collective efforts to build a materially, intellectually, and spiritually prosperous society. This educational process draws on two bodies of knowledge: science and religion.

Young people are encouraged to take a discursive posture that aims to build unity in tackling challenges

ISGP is distinct in supporting individuals to transform their inner and outer lives, in the knowledge that it is this twofold process that will contribute to the advancement of humanity. The programme also allows students to develop a framework through which they can analyse their realities. In so doing, these young people are encouraged to step away from a divisive and othering approach to social issues, taking a more discursive posture that aims to build unity in tackling challenges. Students are therefore given the tools to engage in social issues in ways that foster universal participation, healthy dialogue, and an independent investigation of social reality.

The persistence of the current global pandemic has brought with it an acute awareness of the need for social transformation. As part of this transformation, many norms and assumptions underpinning social structures and educational processes require re-examining, both in light of Covid-19 and young people’s altruistic capacity for advancing social good. A participant in the first year of the four-year seminar programme said:

“The ISGP participant gathering was an opportunity to reflect on my studies in the broader context of the purpose of my life. I found it extremely helpful as often in academic settings, these conversations begin and end with academia. It was eye opening to remember that our studies are a means for us to be of service to humanity and contribute to its spiritual and material progress. The gathering was also a unique experience to hear from friends in different academic fields all reflecting on the relevance of our spiritual reality in their field—which is present in every academic arena, in different ways.”

With students from different disciplines gathering together, the ISGP seminars are a place for dynamic conversations, only heightened by the more urgent need to recognise humanity’s essential oneness. The space aims to allow students to have constructive conversations that critically analyse social reality, giving them the tools to continue their university studies with a broadened lens.

The content of the seminars includes an examination of the relationship between religion and society, science and religion, and the role of the media in society, among other themes. In exploring these topics over the course of four years and beyond, the participants begin to learn to engage more acutely with their social reality. They are also able to identify areas where they may begin to contribute to a constructive change in both the material and spiritual life of their communities.

A participant's art on 'attraction to beauty'

This year’s seminars were held online, but an environment of mutual respect, cooperation, joy and humility, that has come to distinguish the ISGP seminars, assisted the participants in strengthening their identities as constructive agents of change. As the UK continues to combat both the destructive forces of society and the challenges presented by the ongoing pandemic, these young people are continuing to learn how to practically channel their fresh insights and fortified attitudes within their own realities.

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