I had the pleasure of interviewing Mr. Bonomo, who is involved with several initiatives in Argentina that stimulate participatory democracy and education. He is part of the part of the political party Partida de la Red and the education program SOLE.

Mr. Bonomo, could you explain what SOLE is about?
SOLE stands for Self Organized Learning. Instead of a teaching method with closed-ended questions that lead to answers that are true or false, we take a different approach. With us, pupils work with so-called “big questions”. “How does my phone know where I am?” “How does a seed grow into a tree?” They have to research in little groups and interact much more actively with teachers. In Argentina pupils are taught to sit and listen and they often are afraid to make mistakes. We intend to change that. And we are not the only one, there is an international network of different SOLE programs.

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What do you think are the advantages of the grassroots approach you are taking, as opposed to structurally changing the education system through the government? Do you have plans for upscaling the program?
I am also a member of Partido de la Red, so of course in the ideal situation we would be elected for the government and we can influence education ourselves directly, maybe roll out SOLE on a larger scale. There is this term that I really like, which is “glocal”. It stands for thinking global while acting local. We do the same: we think about the bigger context and collaborate with SOLE projects in other countries.

You are also part of Partido de la Red. The party works with its own platform: DemocracyOS, through which members can vote how the party should vote on policy proposals. That means you would not be able to just influence education policies on your own viewpoints (like rolling out SOLE), can you explain further?
What we did is a really nice experiment, but we are up for the next step. Not many people dare to take the risk to become a member. When you elect a party to represent you in the government, you want to know what they stand for. People asked us: What world do you want? So we are now in a process of transformation where we are asking citizens what their viewpoints are to help us decide on our own position.

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What do you think is the future for democracy?
People need to make a habit of participation! We need to learn to take good decisions together.

How can we do that?
You need to make sure people have the resources they need to participate, such as time and connections. To be honest however, people in power want to stay there. As political power is connected to economic power, participation is a threat. Companies will not fund campaigns anymore if they cannot influence the decision making of a politician anymore. People on the other hand people want to have true impact. That is why we do what we do with Partido de la Red. To break the spiral.

What inspires you to do this work?
Well, two reasons mainly. I studied environmental sciences, but I realized in order to make political changes, you need to start with education. The solution is not technical, it is cultural. Next, I studied on a public university, which means my studied is paid from the tax money of poor people. This is my way of giving back.

Thank you! I think in the aftermath of recent USA elections it is very important to raise a generation capable of doing thorough research and critically reflecting and discussing. Many media channels (on both sides of the coin) have given a very skewed version of reality. To prevent such division in the future we need people that are not only critical, but also learned to collaborate from a young age.