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Living deliberately

Henry David Thoreau, an American author, poet and philosopher, once said: “I went into the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived.”

We love the idea of living deliberately. Of squeezing all the juice out of life and actively seeking to learn at every opportunity. That’s why we’ve decided to spend the next part of our lives working, volunteering, studying and travelling overseas.

On Saturday we fly out of Australia, initially to Austria to start a Masters of Social Innovation program in the European context, and after that we’ll spend the next four months travelling through 13 countries across four continents, including a month of volunteer work in Tanzania.

It’s not a holiday. In fact we would probably get bored after a while if we were just doing the ‘tourist’ thing. This trip is a chance to explore, to challenge ourselves, to step outside our comfort zones, to absorb different cultures and ways of life, and most importantly to look, listen and learn.

Social justice is what we’re passionate about. Social change, social transformation – new ways to solve old problems. That’s why we founded The Dragonfly Collective – to create a vehicle for us to work for a more just world, without the constraints of an institutional setting.

We have three strategic goals at The Dragonfly Collective: to inspire and enable others to work for social change; to empower existing not-for-profits and social enterprises to enhance their social impact; and, to design and deliver our own social change models and projects from inception to impact. This trip is all about exploring the ways we can do these three things most effectively. For us, that’s living deliberately. Working to ensure that our lives have a purpose that’s bigger than just ourselves.

Living deliberately is also about taking the time to be fully present in a situation and place.

I’ve always said that I can smell the sun. It’s one of my favourite smells when winter is ending and the first warm day of spring has arrived. There are some people in my life who like to point out to me that this is not actually possible, that the sun doesn’t have a smell, that what I can smell is probably something that has nothing to do with the sun. And then there are others, who will stop next to me to see if they can figure out what the sun smells like too.

Smelling the sun is really a metaphor for what this trip is all about. It’s about looking, listening and learning. Its about smell, sound and sight. It’s about feeling and acknowledging difference and otherness. Hopefully it is about opening our hearts and minds to new ways of thinking and reflecting critically on what we see, hear, learn (and smell!).

And hopefully discovering more about how we can use The Dragonfly Collective to make a real impact on some of the ongoing social justice issues that exist all over the world. There is no beginning too small  . . . and this adventure is part of our first steps.



Bell Hooks, Teaching Critical Thinking, Practical Wisdom, is a good read. She argues that we need to look at different ways of teaching and learning about the world, even though we live in a society driven by dominate ideologies. If we’re empowered to critically think through experiences rather than passively absorb how ‘things should be’ I wonder where we’d all be right now…


Sounds like a really interesting read. And that’s a great question – if we all stopped absorbing how things ‘should be’, what kind of world would we live in? It’s been really interesting so far in the Master of Arts in Social Innovation connecting with a group of people from all over the world who all think critically, and who are all committed to changing the world for the better. It just got me wondering – what if everyone had just a little bit of their passion and their ability to think for themselves and live outside the dominant culture, wouldn’t the world be a better place?

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