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In March 2016 several members of the Talloires Network’s Youth Economic Participation Initiative (YEPI) visited the Social Innovation Lab at the Lahore University of Management Sciences (LUMS). The visit coincided with the university’s second annual Social Innovation Mela. This three-day event highlighted the wisdom, culture, history, and art of the city of Lahore, with the theme of reclaiming “Lost Lahore.”

Processed with VSCOcam with e2 preset Through this lens, the mela (which means festival in Urdu) sought to make visible aspects of the city’s rich historical, cultural, scientific and artistic heritage that are too often subsumed by the logic and values of a fast-paced globalized world. Former Chief Justice Jawwad Khawaja opened the event with a call to “unpack our colonial past, and reclaim the lost Lahore.”

During the first day of the event, renowned architect Taimur Khan Mumtaz gave a presentation on the sacred geometry inherent in the traditional Islamic Architecture that can be found throughout Lahore’s old city. Singer Tina Sani discussed the beauty and harmonies of South Asian classical music. Professor Majeed Sheikh brought the audience back over thousands of years to the beginning of civilization in the Indus Valley.

The second day moved the activities into the streets of the Lahore, allowing participants to directly experience the architecture, markets, and sacred sites within Lahore’s walled city. In the afternoon, Taimur Khan Mumtaz led the group in an architectural reading of the Wazir Khan Mosque. The day concluded with a panel entitled “Denizens of Alien Worlds: Identifying Influences on Education.” This panel featured LUMS Professor Basit Koshal, Islamic scholar and educationalist Moulana Jahangir Mahmud, and two members of the Tallories Network delegation: Vice-Rector Beatriz Rodriguez Villafuerte of the Universidad Veracruzana (Mexico) and Professor Ross VeLure Roholt of the University of Minnesota (United States). Panelists and audience members alike noted the similarities between their contexts. Whether in Pakistan, Mexico, or the United States, people are calling for a dramatic transformation of higher education.

YEPI Cohort in PakistanThe final day brought the event back to the LUMS campus, where Talloires Network visitors Jennifer Catalano (Director of the Youth Economic Participation Initiative), Elli Yiannakaris (Director of the Raymond Ackerman Academy at the University of Cape Town),and Ross VeLure Roholt joined Pakistani scholar and author Mehjabeen Habib and Hasan Jamil of the British Council in a panel entitled “Toolkits for Community Intervention.” Each panelist brought a unique perspective on the complex and rewarding process of working with communities. Afterwards, Patricio Belloy, lecturer and staff member of the Centro de Emprendizaje at the Universidad Austral de Chile spoke about the Human Scale Development Framework in a talk entitled: “Synergic Satisfiers of the Fundamental Human Needs: Examples from Chile and Pakistan.”

A final panel brought together a distinguished and extraordinary group of men, including Raza Kazim (Lawyer and Founder & Director of Sanjan Nagar Institute of Philosophy and Arts), Kamil Khan Mumtaz (Architect and Professor), Yousuf Bashir Quershi (Designer), and Salman Rasheed (Writer and Author) to explore the question:  “Who Are We: Problematizing Sources of Identity Formation.” This panel delved deep into the functions and formations of identity in the Pakistani context, calling on participants to reflect deeply on the multiple and complex factors that influence each individual’s understanding of oneself.

Throughout the mela, speakers and panelists urged the audience to think critically about learning, pedagogy and educational policy. They challenged listeners to question the status quo of higher education, and to seek more holistic and inclusive models of education that are deeply embedded in the communities, cultures and contexts in which they are located.

Finally, the visit also offered ample opportunity for exchange among the visiting YEPI partners and the LUMS staff, students and professors associated with the Social Innovation Lab. Participants shared strategies and challenges, reflected on commonalities and mutual values, and explored the differences between their contexts and approaches. See TN Connects for quarterly updates from each of the YEPI programs to learn more about the universities that are part of this initiative.

For more information on the Social Innovation Lab, check out their Facebook page.

For a Storify on the Social Innovation Mela, click here.