Venezuela FlagCommunity = Co-Creating Ecosystems | Trans4m Junior Fellows

Annia Costermani Visconti:
Becoming an Agent of Transformation

“Integral education means not only to teach a trans-disciplinary curriculum in order to help the student transform their organisations and societies in multiple dimensions. Most importantly it means firstly to help the student conduct self-reflection in order to transform themselves.”

Annia Costermani Visonti

I was born in Venezuela and immigrated with my family to Switzerland at the age of eight. Without speaking any German, I was thrown into a completely new world with unknown values, norms and traditions. I hence grew up between two cultures. I learned quickly to detect intercultural differences and appreciate intercultural exchange. I never thought that one of my cultures was superior to the other, just different, each with its strengths and weaknesses.

During my high school years my interests in international relations, politics and economics started to grow. I chose to study economics at the University of St. Gallen, because it allowed me to combine my two biggest interests: economics and international relations. At that time my biggest academic goal was to acquire knowledge on how I could contribute to a positive change in the economies of ‘developing’ countries, especially Venezuela.

During my bachelor’s degree I not only studied economics, but also learnt about empirical methods, public policy, international relations and law. However, from the beginning on I was disappointed by the educational approach, as I mostly had to memorize laid-out facts; the studies were mostly focused on western economics; and alternative and creative thinking processes were not really stimulated. My studies never challenged the status quo or encouraged me to learn about alternative approaches to economics. Hence my studies never really taught me how ‘developing’ countries could successfully and sustainably develop their economy, except of the narrow traditional macroeconomic growth theories. I started to feel disconnected with my surroundings and life choices, not knowing why I was feeling this way and what had changed. I felt totally lost and completely unsure about my future steps and decisions in life.

The integral perspective on education, self, organisational and societal development opened my eyes in several perspectives: Firstly, it made me realise that during my studies I was gradually loosing my connection with my southern relationship based roots and heritage as they contradicted with the more western rational and individualist values of my studies. It made me feel lost and empty. The integral approach to myself taught me that different cultures and disciplines don’t contradict each other, but they complement each other building together a whole. It taught me that I don’t have to chose one of my cultures, but simply transform them into an elevated unity of both. Secondly, I realized that the field of economics alone is too limited to tackle the great development challenges of our time, but there is a need for a more integrated approach. To actually produce socially relevant research and innovation that can be applied successfully in real life, we have to face research questions from different perspectives and academic fields, to finally interconnect them.

Since 2015, I have been a Junior Fellow of Trans4m and I am currently spending four months with its partner organisation Sinal do Vale in Brazil. I am currently writing my research-to-innovation Bachelor Thesis “Integral Education for Agents of Transformation – An Adaptation of the Integral Development Approach to the School of Resilient Communities at Sinal do Vale, Brazil” as a transformative tool for the development of the Sinal school, which allowed me to genuinely contribute to Sinal’s long-term sustainability.