JRLU Founding TeamDesmond Green, Andrew Skadberg, Yvette Dubel, Dawn Vaz

Executive Summary

The Jamaica Reverence for Life (JRLU) presents an opportunity to Jamaica—to be a leader to the world. Immense opportunities await small, agile nations to provide inspiration to the rest of the world about how to transform the lives of their citizens.

Changing times are presenting new ways that we can reach out to people and provide services. The best way to offer these services is through an educational vehicle. However, the traditional educational institutions have fallen prey to systems that are not teaching subjects that will make a difference in people´s lives, nor in creating a dynamic interchange of ideas and resources between the “public” and the learning institutions.

The JLRU is based on completely new philosophies and foundations, namely that of providing a fundamental offering to help people with more empowered and fulfilled lives through The Practice. And secondly, the JRLU is an institution that is developed with the people in mind as the ultimate benefactor.

Before we can design a new way of providing services, the provision of which are greatly enhanced by the Internet, we must reexamine the fundamental ways that people, organizations and societies operate. The JRLU team has done this. Additionally we have been working on innovative and sustainable strategies for many years. The models we have designed are described in the following pages.

This proposal is presented with two major parts, 1) the principles that set the JRLU strategies and philosophies apart from the old models for education and public service, and 2) action items that will be accomplished.


As the 21st Century begins, a unique opportunity has arisen to re-examine education in Jamaica and introduce a fourth element to the traditional 3 “R”s that will revitalize the impact of education on all ages of students. The fourth “R” is simply “Reverence for Life”. Not to be misconstrued as a religious or philosophical viewpoint, Reverence for Life invites us to instill a sense of wonder into education. Institutional learning and the effects of bureaucratic management has stripped much life and dynamism from the process and experience of learning.

In order to accomplish the introduction of this 4th R we will simply adapt an existing set of skills that are part of The Practice which is the basis of our curriculum for individual empowerment that will introduce reverence for life as an integral part of the existing educational paradigm. Other courses based on experiential learning and personal empowerment are also ready to be taught, but the foundation is The Practice.

The initial delivery vehicle will be based on a long researched concept of a “Center”, or virtual university that has been derived from fifteen years of research of institutions in the United States. The primary innovation introduced by the Center would be the utilization of Web technologies and distance learning in addition to technology utilization far advanced to contemporary educational institutions.

JRLU will not ignore traditional educational settings such as classrooms, workshops, seminars and short courses, but will utilize a dynamic combination of learning environments with an emphasis on experiential, “conversations”, and real-world learning. The aim and underlying purposes of JRLU is to infuse our educational experience with an understanding of the truly spectacular planet where we live and our own inherent magnificence, and then to empower individuals and organizations to ignite the dreams and aspirations in their hearts. 

Overall Vision and Conceptual Foundation

The Nuclear Reaction – or The Lotus Flower (mandala), of the JRLU has its own set of functional parts. The vision for the JRLU is global, but as the saying goes “Think global, act local”. So, as we envision a creating a new model that can benefit the world, we begin in Jamaica based on the foundational work of a native son. Our friend Desmond Green was the inspiration for the JRLU, but he got his inspiration from another great person in Albert Schweitzer who coined the phrase “reverence for life”. However, now we will introduce some of the unique characteristics of the JRLU vision, as captured in its Mandala. There will we be more in depth discussion a little later. 

 1 We memorialize the inspiration for our “lotus flower” (Flower of Life, or mandala) to Dr. Richard Ewing. Dr. Ewing was the Vice President for Research at Texas A&M University until Dec. 5, 2007 and was the inspiration for many of the concepts contained in the RFL. Thank You Dr. Ewing.

As you will note first the internal “programs” indicated by the green overlapping circles indicate the “core curriculum” or educational programs for the JRLU. These programs will be discussed in greater detail later in this case study. As for the petals of the flower, indicated by the blue ellipses radiating from the center to the outer circle, these are the various “Outreach-Service” programs that are unique to the JRLU. These items will be discussed in greater detail too as they are related to the ¨pieces of the puzzle” and will be associated with specific “extension” functions of the JRLU that connect this new model for a learning institution with the rest of the world, but specifically to Jamaica in the initial stages. The final unique characteristic of the JRLU Mandala is the outer circle - the ultimate objectives. Education-Learning, Outreach-Service, Research-Development is the overarching “context” for the institutional model that we wish to create. This model is an adaptation of the Land Grant University system established in the United State. The Education-Learning is pretty much self explanatory, this is the ultimate goal of a educational institution. The Outreach-Service function is about taking what is developed and learned in the institution, out to society. This was the revolutionary innovation of the Land-grant system. There are innumerable benefits to be derived from the dynamic interaction of learning institutions, and the publics that it can ultimately serve. Research-Development describes the internal expansion of what is being done within the institution, while development relates to bringing substantive benefits to the world at large. Essentially, this overarching theme deals with what is learned by the larger initiative, to help evolve how it accomplishes its ultimate mission. Three other concepts which philosophically guide the JRLU are Love, Radical Inclusion and Cultural Fusion. Love, as a concept, speaks for itself, but Love is best expressed through the action of Service, and the whole purpose of the JRLU is for service oriented Learning. Radical Inclusion is an idea that demands that we erase barriers for inclusion and access to all aspects of our new educational endeavors. And Cultural Fusion invites us to notice and examine the barriers that have created so much conflict and separation between peoples of the world, and then erase them! Through these ideas we endeavor to create a space where all can be embraced within the circle of life. As we initiate our Vision, and what the Mandala represents metaphorically, our aspiration is to see that “a critical mass of knowledge and energy is reached, the results can touch the world”.

Jamaica Reverence for Life University as a creative, experiential learning institution will begin with a multidisciplinary core of educational content derived from our team’s broad based experience. Delivery will be supported by state-of-the-art hardware and software infrastructure. Our “faculty” is well connected to excellent colleagues, experts and practitioners around the world. Working together, they can produce a unique experiential, multidisciplinary, international institution that will excel in education, research and outreach. Jamaican students will be able to expand their horizons enormously in this virtual and on-site learning environment. 

Strategy for Success 

We propose to provide a broad based curriculum derived from our team’s existing expertise in the areas of personal empowerment, art, tourism, rural economic development, social change, environmental and outdoor sciences, technology, business, creative marketing, etc. These programs are aligned with the societal areas (inner green circles) of influence depicted in Diagram 1. Creativity will be the foundation for establishing the culture of the Jamaican Reverence for Life University and primary school system.

The JRLU has its foundations upon the Six Guiding Principles that are linked to what we call the “Rural Revitalization and Empowerment Strategy” (RRES). We believe that the time has come to extend the benefits of learning institutions, and to Serve societies as a whole. So, a primary aim, especially in developing countries, is to make the connections to elements in society that can share and benefit – thus the connection to rural development. Those principles are discussed in some detail later.

After the introductory discussion we will describe in more detail some of the functional components of the JRLU derived from our team´s approach called the Rural Revitalization and Empowerment Strategy (RRES). Combined with these grounded principles and pragmatic action items, and a diverse set of course offerings, JRLU is in a position to revolutionize the basis and impacts of education. Here is an outline of this proposal.

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