What is our History?

Origins

While the early roots of this project have started sprouting in the year 2012, the concrete vision for a “CERN-inspired research infrastructure for Contemplative Science” was born in 2015 with the question:

How can the experience, expertise, and model of international scientific collaboration at CERN be merged with state-of-the-art research in the nascent interdisciplinary field of Contemplative Science, for mutual benefit as well as for the wider benefit of society, humanity, and all living beings?

That vision was initially discussed with individual researchers and colleagues in Europe and the US. Further inspiration came through the CERN-UN symposium “The CERN model, United Nations and global public goods: addressing global challenges” in the Palais des Nations at UNOG in Geneva, Switzerland (see a full recording of the event here).

Early explorations

In August 2016, the project and vision was publicly presented and shared for the first time at the European Summer Research Institute (ESRI 2016) hosted by Mind & Life Europe at Chiemsee, Germany. Here the emphasis was placed on key factors that would be essential for a “CERN-inspired contemplative collaborative culture” and research infrastructure for Contemplative Science.

In September 2016, the project was officially launched under the working title “Contemplative Collaboration” (CC) while Wolfgang started working as an independent contractor. The Yoga Science Foundation, who had already been generously supporting the development of this vision (and the necessary career transition) for many years, continued to support the project as a client.

In November 2016, the CC project was presented and shared at the International Symposium for Contemplative Science (ISCS 2016) hosted by the Mind & Life Institute in San Diego, California, USA.

Extending the scope

In 2016 and 2017, visits to CERN and exchanges with colleagues, as well as various trainings and workshops, helped expand the scope of the vision to embrace themes such as: organizational culture and development, collaborative decision-making, communication, and further practices and processes suitable for collaboration. The emphasis began to shift towards the importance and role of practice: the cultivation, development and refinement of skills and traits that help enable individuals and groups to participate and engage in collaborative structures.

An interdisciplinary workshop on the theme of Contemplative Collaboration was hosted at CERN in May 2017, thanks to the support of Dr. Markus Nordberg who heads the IdeaSquare innovation hub at CERN. This workshop, co-facilitated with Nathalie Legros, brought together for the first time particle physicists, contemplative neuroscientists, and other individuals working at NGOs and in the private sector, to explore the creative tension between competition and collaboration.

Updated presentations of the project followed in Europe and the US, e.g. at the European Summer Research Institute (ESRI 2017) hosted by Mind & Life Europe at Chiemsee, Germany. Here the emphasis was placed on the interconnections between first-, second-, and third-person practices and principles that are essential for successful collaboration, specifically in the domain of Contemplative Science. The project was also shared during an “Art of Hosting” workshop at the European Forum Alpbach 2017 in Alpbach, Austria.

Refining the vision

The growing enthusiasm for the vast potential – and recognition of the dire necessity – of “deep collaboration” in science and society was balanced by a humbling appreciation of how difficult collaboration can be “on the court”. This realization was largely shaped by several years of values-aligned community-building and “integrated cooperation” with Leap Forward, whose members also provided invaluable support.

In 2018, a proposal “manifesto” was written to capture the expanding scope of the project – now being titled “Contemplative Scientific Collaboration” (CSC) –, to disseminate its vision, and to propose a possible roadmap and next steps towards further development and gradual implementation over the coming years and decades.

Further presentations of the CSC project were given at the Todi Week in 2018 and 2019, at further conferences and events by Mind & Life and Mind & Life Europe, and at universities in Austria.

Building community

In 2019, a group of researchers converged around the CSC vision and began to explore it further. Together, we steadily augmented our ideas and experimented with the proposed practices and forms in our regular meetings. At some point, we started calling ourselves “enActivists” – to highlight our enactive approach, our practical orientation, and our shared ambition to help transform our academic and research culture that we care deeply about.

In 2020, this collaborative impulse is now growing and branching into several initiatives. Stay tuned for updates that capture the essence of this unfolding evolution!

Next steps

In the spirit and practice of humility, we do not know what the next moment will bring, but our intention compels us to look in the following directions:

  • to identify an „entrepreneurial partner“ who resonates with the vision and mission of the CSC (and ideally is a contemplative practitioner) – perhaps similar to the role that Adam Engle has played in the formation of the Mind & Life Institute – so that the project can grow sustaining wings of social entrepreneurship.
  • to host and co-facilitate participatory workshops, conferences, and networking meetings, to develop the CSC vision and mission statement through a process-oriented collaboration – in a spirit of generosity and curiosity that is rooted in epistemic and intellectual humility. We seek to create safe and empowering spaces for scientists and practitioners to explore „the unknown“ and discover what truly matters, what really is in the service of the whole, and how to collaborate toward accomplishing our emerging goals. 
  • to disseminate materials to share our emerging vision and its „minimal replicable seed“ across multi-media outlets – to “tell the CSC story” and to inspire others to share their stories with us.
  • to discover and invite like-heart-minded organizations to engage in a collaborative partnership. A major milestone will be to actualize the first CSC model for collaboration (and later, a meta-collaboration among several “CSC-aligned nodes”). 

If you have any ideas or feedback, please let us know!