In the year 2000, a group of Chilean academics involved in language, literature and the social sciences and committed to the humanities and human rights began to think how to put the transformative powers of language to use in the classroom. We shared the urgency of building a space for work and research into teaching writing and critical thinking as a way of inspiring and empowering individuals from groups historically ignored by those in power. In doing so, we were responding to what was an obvious gap in our educational systems. Moreover, we saw in the new technologies of communication an opportunity to experiment with novel ways of working and learning.
The previous work history of ESE:O’s founders was a key element in the project. Soledad Falabella contributed her experience as a teacher and worker in Berkeley and Silicon Valley. Jointly with her, philosopher Rodrigo Marilef played a vital role in designing and imparting novel workshop-based courses in academic writing and critical thinking at the Diego Portales University in Chile, and CIDE in Mexico. Soledad Falabella was responsible for creating and directing the degree in Language and Literature at the Alberto Hurtado University, an experience that brought transversality to the project. María Rosa Maurizi’s notable experience of on-line work as the person responsible for forming the first Electronic Education Network in Latin America (REDUC) was vital in developing the impact, scope, and replicability of the methodology.
Thanks to this synergy, the team was able to take charge of an innovative and mainly face-to-face program for awardees of the Ford-Equitas Foundation, who were scattered over Chile and the Southern Cone of Latin America. In 2005 ESE:O—whose name derives from the word for “essay” in Esperanto, the utopian language of peace—was formally inaugurated.
ESE:O now has 12 years of work and achievements behind it. It has developed and implemented projects with many communities and institutions. Participants have included women, children, LGTBI, educational communities, academics, artists, indigenous peoples, researchers, activists, postgraduate students and members of civil society, among others.
ESE:O has worked with the Ford Foundation, the Equitas Foundation, CIDE (Mexico), OECD (Latin America), the Government of Mexico, the TEC of Monterrey, the Colegio de México, UNAM (Mexico), APHRC (Kenya), the CARTA Consortium (Africa), the University of Fudan (China), the University of Beijing (China), the University of Sao Paulo (Brazil), the Government of Chile, and the University of Chile.