Awakin Calls » Vinod Sreedhar
Vinod Sreedhar: Educator, Musician, Traveler, Seeker
Vinod Sreedhar is a Goa-based social entrepreneur and environmental educator working in the realm of Systems Thinking. In 1996, he decided to walk out of college -- he was studying Commerce in Bombay -- and started composing and producing music for the advertising industry. India's newly liberalized economy was seeing massive growth in new television and radio channels. A few years later, somewhat disillusioned by the purely commercial focus of the ad industry, he co-founded and ran a social enterprise, Phase Five, between 2000 and 2007 with friends. Phase Five facilitated workshops and projects on Active Citizenship, Democracy, and Waste Management for some of India's top colleges and organizations like the British Council, the World Bank, and Praja Foundation, a Mumbai-based See full.
Vinod Sreedhar is a Goa-based social entrepreneur and environmental educator working in the realm of Systems Thinking.
In 1996, he decided to walk out of college -- he was studying Commerce in Bombay -- and started composing and producing music for the advertising industry. India's newly liberalized economy was seeing massive growth in new television and radio channels. A few years later, somewhat disillusioned by the purely commercial focus of the ad industry, he co-founded and ran a social enterprise, Phase Five, between 2000 and 2007 with friends. Phase Five facilitated workshops and projects on Active Citizenship, Democracy, and Waste Management for some of India's top colleges and organizations like the British Council, the World Bank, and Praja Foundation, a Mumbai-based NGO working on building participation among the citizens of Mumbai.
In 2006, an encounter with a climate change-driven event - a massive cloudburst in Ladakh - helped birth his next venture, Journeys with Meaning (JwM). With highways washed away and closed, he used the time to understand why a high-altitude desert region was facing rainfall of such intensity. His conversations with the local community revealed the extent of the changes due to climate change and increased human action in cities. In these events, he started to see larger disconnects as the root causes; the disconnects between humans and nature, between different human cultures, between head and heart, and between our actions and their consequences. Since he had prioritized learning by doing for himself and found it very helpful, Vinod felt it would be a powerful learning experience for people to travel across India to better understand these disconnects and see how they were directly or indirectly leading to the vital issues of the day.
JwM operated on the Gift Economy model for six years. Participants could pay whatever they wanted or nothing, apart from costs, instead of being charged a fixed fee. JwM built its reputation for immersive and responsible travel in this period. Due to challenging personal circumstances, Vinod had to drop the full-time Gift Economy model in 2012 for a more conventional pricing model. Since then, JwM has made a place for supporting Gift Economy by reserving some seats in every learning journey or workshop, for people with financial constraints. They are encouraged to pay what they can or supported through external sponsorships. Many have also chosen to volunteer their time or skills in exchange for their costs being waived entirely or partially.
In 2015, JwM started offering learning journeys to schools through its JwM Juniors program. This was conceptualized and designed by Neha, Vinod's partner, who had recently joined the team. These learning journeys for schools have become a mainstay and they now focus on working mostly with students. Students have loved their experiences and the trips to Ladakh, in particular, have helped JwM win the GOLD award in the Best Experiential Travel category in the Indian Responsible Tourism Awards 2019.
With COVID affecting travel-based organizations hugely, JwM has been put on the back-burner while Vinod works on his new venture, All Systems Reboot (ASR).
His intent with ASR is to integrate three seemingly disconnected areas -- the personal, the professional, and the planetary -- so that people can take their cue from Nature -- an interconnected whole -- and bring conscious wholeness into their lives once again, by rebooting, and redesigning what life and work mean to us, while also giving energy and time to the only planet we can call home.
Vinod's journey has been about learning, and sharing, what disconnects we live with and relearning how we can live and grow in communities that nurture us and our home.
Five Questions for Vinod
What Makes You Come Alive?
- Working on ideas and projects that help me improve my understanding of myself and the world, make the world better in whatever small ways possible, and that help make progress towards solving 'wicked' problems- Helping students explore new ideas, perspectives, and experiences on the immersive learning journeys across India that we conduct through my organisation, Journeys With Meaning - Opportunities to offer people the help and support that they need, particularly if they're struggling to find clarity, purpose, or meaning in their lives - Conversations that make me think and rethink my own positions on various issues- Quiet time with myself, often in Nature, but anywhere really
Pivotal turning point in your life?
My first visit to Kashmir in 2002, when it was still under curfew, was totally unintentional. At a conference in Jammu that I was attending, I shared a room with 2 boys from Kashmir. And at their invitation, I stayed with them in Srinagar for a few days. On my first day there, a friend of theirs asked me if I had come from India. Though the question was a sincere one, as a staunch nationalist at the time, the question angered me as I saw Kashmir as a part of India. The same evening, an interesting passage in a book on India by Shashi Tharoor blew away all my preconceived notions about Identity. And I decided right then to listen to the Kashmiris, not through the lens of my Indianness, but as a fellow human being. That one decision has completely transformed the way I see myself and others, and has opened up beautiful non-threatening spaces for dialogue with the so-called 'other' no matter how ideologically or culturally different we are from each other.
An Act of Kindness You'll Never Forget?
I've been the recipient of too many kindnesses to enumerate here, but this one was a lovely act of kindness offered by an auto-rickshaw driver in Galle, Sri Lanka when my wife and I were visiting in 2015.About an hour before we had to board a train to Colombo, we realized we were completely out of Sri Lankan currency. I had some US dollars and if we'd had a little more time, we could have exchanged it for Sri Lankan currency at a bank. But we couldn't risk missing our train and had to rely on what was at hand. Unfortunately, my ATM card also somehow didn't work at any of the machines around us, so we could not withdraw any cash for our journey ahead.Since we had about $50 with us, I asked the auto-driver whether he could take $20 from me and give me the equivalentin Sri Lankan currency. Because of the language barrier, he didn't understand what I was saying. But realizing we needed money, he immediately pulled out as much cash as he had in his pocket, about a 1000 Sri Lankan rupees -- mostly what we had paid him to take us around Galle and bring us to the railway station from our hotel in his auto-rickshaw -- and just gave it to us! When we asked him about ways in which we could return it, he was cheerfully insistent that we didn't need to return the money!Fortunately, we did find an ATM nearby soon afterwards where our card worked! We didn't need to take any money from him, but to see such kindness from someone who could ill afford to give away that much money to strangers, was a truly beautiful experience that we will remember for the rest of our life.
One Thing On Your Bucket List?
Living an earth-friendly life on the land...
One-line Message for the World?
Inner transformation leads to outer transformation.
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