A world map of wisdom: How a Dehradun boy is sharing life lessons with real-life stories from across 195 countries
On December 25, Project FUEL, which collects life lessons from people and transforms them into interactive activities and learning experiences, launched its World Wisdom Map in association with Singapore International Foundation’s Arts for Good Projects.
The ‘Christmas and New Year’s present to the world’ documented life lessons and stories of people from 195 countries across the globe.
The consciousness project combines visual and wisdom anthropology, and spreads awareness about the diversity of lifestyles. It also provides insights on coping mechanisms people employ to create a meaningful life.
“Using technology, it is easier to connect and exchange information to ignite hope and global participation in an unbiased and creative way. This exhibition of human wisdom invites people to engage, contribute, and learn from in an artistic and interactive way on a digital world map,” Deepak Ramola, Founder of Project FUEL, tells YS Weekender.
Map of wisdom
Through its network of collaborators and volunteers across the globe, the World Wisdom Map team created a hub and spoke model. This, in turn, helped it employ a quick and efficient outreach to collect life lessons from lesser-known and remote geographies.
The map is built from the ground up, using data libraries and HTML5. For cartography, the team used Mapbox Studio, and for the firefly and cluster icons used in the map, it leveraged Sketch. The team collaborated with the volunteers using Miro & Figma.
While the collection was demographic, the curation resulted in observing unique patterns and analysis. “It (curation) required constant commitment, curation, enthusiasm, and utmost attention with every person you are talking to,” Deepak says.
The Project FUEL team has spoken with a Lativian musician, a school teacher in Zambia, and a boatman in Myanmar, among others. “Given the COVID-19 context, many stories were certainly intense and emotionally charged,” he added.
The team has also designed 20 life lessons from different countries into a 150-page module that educators from anywhere in the world can use. Deepak says that the 300 life lessons showcased in the World Wisdom Map have inspired a series of exclusive artworks, data narratives, and educational modules to amplify the inspiration and impact of each story.
The team worked with over 10 South-East Asian artists to design the original artworks.
“Some life lessons are so similar that one might think that they come from the same house, whereas the contributors may have never even heard of another’s country. Reinstating that we are more alike than unalike and therefore, the hope for humanity must drive our decisions, policies and purpose,” he adds.
Seeking inspiration from personal stories
Ruchika Singh, Data Scientist of the World Wisdom Map, studied the stories and concluded there is more hope and realisation than anger and frustration. “For me, it is a testament that everybody, if given the opportunity, has something of value to offer to the world, from their experience,” Deepak says.
Born and raised in Dehradun, Deepak started collecting life lessons since he was 14-years-old. Growing up, he was constantly reminded by his mother — who only studied until class 5 and wasn’t allowed to study — about the importance and opportunities that education brings with itself.
“I was fascinated seeing that a woman, who had not read literature or solved a math equation, was so wise and financially proactive in running the house,” Deepak recalls. “When asked, my mother said that life was her classroom.” And that encouraged him to start collecting life lessons.
At 17, he moved to Mumbai for college. He felt the need to pass on the life lessons that he had harvested so long, and collect a few new ones to adjust in the City of Dreams. The gold medalist from the University of Mumbai started Project FUEL in 2009. With FUEL studio located in Dehradun, the team documents, designs, and passes on human wisdom from all ages and backgrounds across the world, using tolls of education, art, media, and events.
FUEL's methodology has been recognised as one of the world's top 100 innovations in education by Finland-based organisation HundrED in 2019 and 2020. It has also been adopted by the City Education Board of Antwerp, Belgium.
From survivors of human trafficking in Nepal to middle school children in Afghanistan, refugees in Europe, and abandoned ghost villages in Uttarakhand, Project FUEL has had the privilege to take life lessons all the way to the United Nations headquarters in New York.
“My work derives its strength from giving a chance to people like my mother to create impact, and for world curriculums to reflect stories of everyday people,” Deepak says.
Project FUEL’s Managing Partner Apoorva Bakshi is also the Co-founder and Managing Partner of Golden Karavan, who are the producers of notable work like Delhi Crime, What Are The Odds, among others.
Storytelling and documenting
In its endeavour of documenting and distributing life lessons, Project FUEL realised that most life lessons come out of hard knocks or experiences of adversity.
“In the process of helping people open up and reflect on crucial times in their life, we observed that exchanging stories makes people feel safe and powerful when sharing and addressing their vulnerabilities,” Deepak adds.
In fact, Deepak says that the narrative of personal stories changed over the course of the pandemic. Project FUEL has been documenting life lessons for over a decade now, but it was only in the wake of COVID-19 when the world unified that the team realised how imperative and urgent it was to execute the dream of putting together a collective pool of diverse global learnings.
Speaking on the stories that the World Wisdom Map highlights, Deepak says, “We have a life lesson from a 6-year-old that says, ‘When you are done using the bike learn where the breaks are’, to a 78-year-old offering advice, ‘Take life by the scruff of the neck and do your best with what it throws at you; It is often the things we don’t try in life that disappoint us more than the things we try that fail’.”
The journey across the world through World Wisdom Map highlights how every person, irrespective of their demographics, is either seeking solutions, hope or validation, in an unbiased, truthful, and personal way.
Deepak says this was only the first edition of the project. “It will be an on-going, dynamic, and growing piece for Project FUEL,” he adds.
Through the World Wisdom Map, the team plans to encourage more people across the world to contribute their life lessons, collaborate, and explore ideas. The team is still collecting life lessons to document a million of them by 2022.
“It is imperative for us to tell our stories because it is the only way to cultivate and preserve hope,” Deepak says.
Check the map here.
Edited by Saheli Sen Gupta