Wayfinders: Embarking on a New Adventure Soon


August 17, 2022

Arts and Creativity
Learning and Training
Nature and Ecology

by M. Rako Fabionar, Program Director, ILALI

The vision behind the Innovative Learning and Living Institute's (ILALI) Wayfinders pilot program is why I decided to leave higher education after working in universities for more than 20 years. 

The transformative potential was too compelling. 

I believe that Wayfinders is the kind of immersive, living-learning experiment we need during this time of intensity and polarization. As a pilot program, Wayfinders brings together 20-somethings from the same region but of different backgrounds for four months of cohort living, learning, working, and playing. 

The program is designed to support the overall development of each participant and the cohort, with an orienting frame of exploration - individual and collective adventures in “belonging, bridging, and becoming.” The integrative curriculum balances cohort and self-directed learning opportunities and invites participants to explore their values, passions, and purpose while participating in conversations and projects centered around the common good. 

As program director, it’s been exciting to work with so many colleagues and partners energized by this vision and helping it come to fruition. 

The first cohort will come from the greater Seattle region and spend four months on Whidbey Island at the beautiful Whidbey Institute beginning in January 2023. We are now taking applications for prospective young adults from that region.

Imagine a typical day: Waking up in a beautiful natural setting and having breakfast with other Wayfinders, followed by a staff-led session of foundational exercises for vitality and well-being. After these body, mind, spirit, and shadow practices, our cohort participants explore a few options either on their own or as part of a team: working in the garden, hiking, creating new trails on the land, working on a podcast, woodworking, finding inspiration through mural work or virtual reality—or some other emergent, self-directed creative interest.

After lunch, the cohort attends an experiential workshop. It could be on worldview literacy and healthy communication skills or essential tools for social entrepreneurs, or one focused on perspectives on climate change. The late afternoon could see our participants resting, reflecting in nature, or meeting one-on-one with a mentor before joining others to prepare the evening meal. Post-dinner, evening options could include socializing around the fire or in the common house, solo integration time, or local night excursions.  

The heart of this four-month residential journey is learning how to deepen our connection to ourselves, others, and our environment. Doing this with young adults who are liberal and conservative, middle-class and working-class, rural and urban, religious and atheist, BIPOC-identified and not, is both exciting and challenging. And it is precisely the need for this rich experiment in re-imagining civic life during a time of polarization, fragmentation, and transition that energizes me the most.  

I often think of Wayfinders as an extended rite of passage, an initiation into ways of being that better equips young folks and their communities to meet the challenging, changing conditions of our times. Months of immersive living and learning together promise to be exciting, inspiring, challenging, heartbreaking, explosive, grounding, and—if we do it right—transformative and life-changing. 

To paraphrase one of our curriculum team members: To some degree, the program we create for others is often the one we want for ourselves. I admit there is truth in this for Wayfinders and me. And I’m heartened that so many folks from different generations have expressed a desire to participate in such a program. 

Learn more about ILALI and how to apply to Wayfinders here.

Support ILALI and Wayfinders here.

More From Commonweal