Posts Tagged ‘mutual improvement


The importance of learning from enlightenment

Now before we begin I just want to make clear that I’m talking about Enlightenment in terms of the Age of Reason, not Spiritualism.

“A small group of thoughtful people could change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.”- Margaret Mead

I’ve often talked with friends and colleges about developing a critical mass of interesting, cultured , creative and socially active people into a group. For me this type of group is the crucible of ideas themselves

Try this taster video

Or a more in depth version: Steven Johnson on TED ‘Where good ideas come from’

As you might already know I spent a few years collaborating in the creative industry.  In my experience something strange seems to happen when groups reach a certain point in which they have to work within a world of other groups.

I’ve recently become involved in a variety of groups and clubs, all with different aims and ethos. There is however a downside, these groups imbue an odd territorial attitude towards eachother. Organisations and communities that would have mutual benefit, or would even benefit from an unusual perspective are fractured and if not willingly ignorant of eachother, they are openly hostile.

It seems odd to me in the great age of sharing and developing information together on a global scale that these attitudes prevail….that’s when I came across something curious

the JUNTO club (pronounced ‘who-n-toe’)

“In 1727, Benjamin Franklin formed the Junto, a mutual improvement society born of Franklin’s love of conversation, personal progress, philosophy, and civic involvement. The group originally had 12 members and was composed of workingmen–the tradesmen and artisans who did not have a place in more elite circles of society. The Junto was thus commonly referred to as the ‘Leather Apron Club.’- The Art of Manliness Blog

These were ordinary men, grouped together to share interesting ideas and practical outcomes.

The club would meet once a week to converse on topics relating to Morals, Politics, or Natural Philosophy. Each week one member had to produce a short essay and present it to the rest, then the discussion would begin.

Inquiry was the main focus and to ensure that the group stayed true to this aim, a president was elected to put a stop to anything that was not rooted in curiosity and an inquisitive attitude, infact small fines were payable by anyone who was deemed to being contentious for the sake of it. Essentially this group had a critical and self-reliant structure.

Most importantly the results from this group were not simply lofty academic ideals, but practical culturally and socially positive enterprise. Infact many of the attributes linked to Benjamin Franklin were actually a series of results from the Junto Club. After 30 years the Junto club split off into more specialist groups, one of the most famous being the American Philosophical Society. Read more about it here and here (scroll down to Junto Club)

So my question is, where is todays Junto club or Scottish enlightenment coffee house? is it even a physical space? do online forums work in the same way? do they have the same impact? are these even the right questions to ask?.

This is important to me, is it important to you?


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