I have always been fascinated by how Baha’i and Baha’i-inspired organizations tend to evolve so drastically to meet changing conditions and build on experience. The Baha’i Academy is a perfect example. It began in 1982 to provide an academic home for some of the many Baha’i scholars who were forced to flee Iran during the Islamic Revolution. For many years they ran training programs for Baha’is who were coming in from all over the world in venues all over Panchgani like the campus of the New Era Teacher Training Centre and the famous Prospect Hotel. In 1998 the Academy moved into its current home right next to the Baha’i Bhavan (Baha’i Centre) and an old house that apparently Gandhi had stayed in at some point.
In 2000 it began to collaborate with a number of colleges and universities across the state of Maharashtra to offer a program that helps to fill the gap that exists in value education offered to students. Since then the Academy has gone on to focus more and more on this program and develop curriculum that is used along side curriculum developed by the The Foundation for the Application and Teaching of the Sciences (FUNDAEC) in Columbia.
To support the Academy’s efforts to build institutional capacity I have had the chance to help out things like their three year planning process, website planning, curriculum development and public relations work. One of the main reasons I decided to set out on from home again this year was to have the chance to work in an environment where I could more directly and explicitly apply the teachings of the Baha’i Faith in the context of a formal organization. It’s been incredibly stimulating to spend so much time studying material to try to draw from the experience of other Baha’i-inspired organizations all over the world that are part of this collective learning process about how to effectively engage in social action and discourse.