Aligning Localization, Economic Democracy and Education: The Community Schools Model

If we are to transition to a just and regenerative society capable of supporting human and ‘more than human’ life during the current era of crisis, dislocation, extinctions, and climate disasters, the Western colonial model of schooling, inherited from the Humanist history of the West and developed in parallel with capitalism must be replaced by a community engaged model that supports development efforts centered around localization and economic democracy. This panel will discuss an emergent alternative global vision and the convergence of movements and forces intended to address the systemic challenges we face, and propose a model of “community schools” that transcends the modernist model of separation of school from community in favor of deeply embedded institutions that function as spaces for learning for all age groups – centers of learning resources, connection making, peer-to-peer learning, decolonizing, community building, healing, and mentorship.


Dada Maheshvarananda will present some ideas on how he sees the potential of economic democracy to reshape the life of local communities, especially in terms of generating more leisure time for non-commodified labor, increasing access to resources for all to utilize, and the creation of opportunities for service oriented activity aimed at the well-being of the “Commons.”

Roar Bjonnes will highlight some of the important principles of the localization movement and how this provides a context for community schools.

Howard Nemon will provide an overview of existing models of community schools, with an emphasis on how they differ from conventional schools that are committed to sustaining the political and economic status quo. He will situate the community schools movement in the context of the localization (decentralization) of the economy.

Kathleen Kesson will discuss what one US state is doing to break down the walls between school and community; a multi-faceted effort involving legislation, education policy, and a large network of non-profits engaged in a collective impact effort to make it happen.

No volveremos a la normalidad, porque la normalidad era el problema (“We shall not go back to normal, because ‘normality’ was the problem to begin with”)


Kathleen Kesson

Dr. Kathleen Kesson is Professor Emerita of Teaching, Learning and Leadership in the School of Education at the Brooklyn Campus of Long Island University. She is the former Director of Teacher Education at Goddard College in Vermont, and was the founding Director of the John Dewey Project on Progressive Education at the University of Vermont, a research and policy organization. She has written extensively in numerous academic journals about democracy and education, teacher development, teacher inquiry, unschooling, environmental education, and spirituality and the arts in education. Her books include Curriculum Wisdom: Educational Decisions in Democratic Societies, Understanding Democratic Curriculum Leadership, Defending Public Schools: Teaching for a Democratic Society, and most recently, Unschooling in Paradise. She is currently involved in exploring the connections between personalized learning, communities, social justice and democracy in Vermont. In her spare time (and when the sun shines), Kathleen is an avid gardener, with a special passion for permaculture and pollinator plants!

Howard Nemon

Howard Nemon holds a PhD in Social Welfare from the University of Pennsylvania, where he worked on country-wide indicators for social progress. His research and academic teaching focus on social policy,community organization, and international sustainable development. For several years, he has worked with the PU Global Office on publications, training, and website development. He has also helped organize Prout work both nationally and locally in the USA. Howard is currently the Executive Director of the Prama Institute which is a Center for Neohumanist Studies under Gurukula.

Ramesh Bjonnes

Ramesh Bjonnes is an Ayurvedic and Naturopathic lifestyle coach and the Director of the Prama Wellness Center, where a plant-based lifestyle is considered our best medicine. Bjonnes studied yoga therapy in Nepal and India, Ayurveda at California College of Ayurveda and is a certified naturopathic detox therapist from the Ananda Marga Wellness Center in Cebu, Philippines. He has taught workshops in many countries and is the author of four books, including Sacred Body, Sacred Spirit (InnerWorld), A Brief History of Yoga (InnerWorld) and Tantra: The Yoga of Love and Awakening (Hay House India).

Bjonnes is also a writer and researcher on alternative economics, in particular P. R. Sarkar’s Progressive Utilization Theory (PROUT), and how this model provides an alternative to the crisis prone system of corporate capitalism. Using PROUT as a framework to analyze the current market system, while also outlining a more sustainable economy, his book Growing a New Economy, co-authored with Caroline Hargreaves, is a “hopeful account of the possibilities contained in our current crisis,” according to world-renowned environmentalist Bill McKibben. He is also the co-founder of Systems Change Alliance, a platform and network for organizations working towards deeper systems changes in economics, science, culture, and ecology. Website:

Dada Maheshvarananda

In 1978 Dada Maheshvarananda traveled to India where he became a yogic monk and studied the Progressive Utilization Theory (Prout) under its founder, Prabhat Ranjan Sarkar. He has taught meditation and organized for social justice for four decades in Southeast Asia, Europe, and South America. He is the author of six books, including After Capitalism: Economic Democracy in Action (InnerWorld, 2013) and Cooperative Games for a Cooperative World: Facilitating Trust, Communication and Spiritual Connection (InnerWorld, 2017). He is co-author with Mirra Price of Tools to Change the World (Proutist Universal – Copenhagen, 2019). He has given hundreds of seminars and workshops around the world at international conferences, colleges, high schools, cooperatives, yoga centers, and prisons about social activism and spiritual transformation.