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Next level Columbus project

We are all trying to solve the complex problems of this world such as sustainability problems and global conflicts. However, we don't seem to be able to get a grip on that all over the world.


I am Nils Beetsma and in 2019 I came across a new form of learning that has been specially developed to solve complex problems. With this way of learning I see an opportunity to collectively solve all the complex problems of this world. This result is not only inconceivable, but also the way to get there is quite unimaginable. That is why I started this project from the Academy for Next Level Learning, which is founded for this purpose. Not only to make these solutions visible but also the way to get there and to concretise this whole in a practical manner. Because this path is quite unimaginable, I’ll start with a metaphor and then proceed to tell my own experience with this new form of learning. Furthermore, you can read on this page how this project is practically put together and who can participate in this.



Who wants to be a Columbus?

Where Columbus would end up and how long his journey would take was unimaginable in advance. Looking back, it is not at all unimaginable, it is even very easy to imagine. What made it so unimaginable back then? People could not see that the earth was round, they thought the earth was flat and had reasons to hold on to that belief. From that idea, it was impossible to imagine where Columbus' journey would go and how long it would take.


In hindsight, everyone wants to be a Columbus, but in advance hardly anyone wants to go on exploration. Because for anyone who thought the earth was flat, the outcome of that trip was a nasty one: if you're right, you'll fall off the earth, and if you were not right, your worldview collapses. Just as Columbus got into a boat and went on a journey of discovery, everyone can now discover what the real solutions to complex problems are with Next Level Learning. And just like for Columbus, it will probably be a surprise where you’ll come to.


Columbus was not immediately believed either. Only when enough evidence from the new world comes around and it also gets confirmed by science, it starts to become plausible for people. The same applies to this project: only when enough solutions to complex problems arise from this project we can get the sciences on board to do research on it. Only when the real causes of our problems are also seen from within science, it becomes possible for everyone to see them.

Who wants to be a Columbus?

See signing up and practical information

My own experience

In 2019 I was asked to participate in a workshop for a new form of learning. In this workshop I was given a number of exercises with an animation tool and for the first time I started to see causes for my own behaviour and for my experience of the world, which I wasn’t able to see before the workshop. After a while, however, I could no longer see those causes anymore, and looking back I know that I didn’t even realize that I could no longer see these causes. So there was no motivation to get to see it again, because I didn't even know I had lost it. I was pointed to the fact that a version of the exercises I had done in the workshop, had become freely available online, and as I did these exercises I could see the causes for my own behaviour and experiences again! After a while I lost it again. When I first started to see that I wasn’t able to see the causes for my behaviour and experience in daily life anymore, there began the motivation to see them again.


​I was very enthusiastic about seeing the causes for my behaviour and experiences, but when I told others about it, they did not seem to be able to understand me. They switched to other topics or just didn't want to hear me. It was shocking to notice that something that is clear and simple to me cannot be heard or understood by others. Before I had done the exercises with the animation tool I actually couldn't have imagined the causes that I started to see after I did these exercises. And I have come to see that others cannot imagine it when I try to tell them. That is why I started organizing activities in which everyone can participate who is in the process of achieving or has already achieved Next Level Learning (as described on the page "How"), to be able to talk to each other about the causes they have come to see and to share what they have discovered.


​When I started to see new causes of my behaviour, my experience and those of 7 billion others, I also started to see solutions to problems that I did not see before. If everyone would continuously look at the world with these insights, we could solve all the complex problems in this world. However, just like with myself at the time, with everyone who is not actively engaged in solving problems after they did the exercises with the tool, these insights into the real causes of behaviour disappear over time. Because this happens without us being aware of it, nobody will automatically get the motivation to do these exercises again. Now the question remained for me, how can these causes and solutions remain permanently visible? And how do they become visible for the rest of the world? If you solve problems more intensively with this form of learning for a short period of time, these insights will no longer disappear and that's how I came up with the idea for this project: if a large group of people spends a short time solving complex problems, this group of people will no longer lose the solutions they have discovered and if they write down these solutions, they will also become visible to the rest of the world. Anyone who participates in this project can in this way be a Columbus in discovering and making visible the solutions to the complex problems of this world.

What this project looks like in practice

Anyone who is a student at a university or college can participate in this project free of charge. As a participant you will follow a short programme to achieve mastery in solving complex problems. After you’ve followed the programme you’ll work in a group on the basis of Next Level Learning, to come to the solution and transition for a complex problem of your choice, and we ask you to describe the solution and how you arrived at it on the basis of the four questions on the page "How". We will also measure how the participating students experience Next Level Learning as learning method for cooperation and solving complex problems. Before starting the mastery programme, we also measure how participants have experienced cooperation during problem solving in the past. This makes results available from these students who have worked together in groups on the basis of Next Level Learning.

Mijn eigen ervaring
Aanmeld anker 1

Signing up

Students in higher education at a college or university can apply for this project by filling in the form below. Participation in this project including the programme "Mastery in transition" is completely free of charge.

What happens with the results


We will publish the results on this website and also make the results available to others, for example for analytical research and further publication. We will actively approach organizations if there are sufficient results that give reason to do so. Because in our vision the basis for a transition to a new world lies with the universities, we mainly want to present the results there. This will be at universities that play an important role in fields related to Next Level Learning, such as transformative learning, systems thinking, fundamental physics research, research into solutions for Sustainability Development Goals (SDGs) and interdisciplinary and international learning. Universities that have an important role and experience in these fields include Shanghai University, Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Wageningen University & Research.


In addition to universities, we will also approach umbrella organizations to present the results to, such as the Great Transition Initiative (GTI) and UNESCO, where we will present it as a possible response to the Berlin Declaration.



Practical info

The Columbus project is a project for students and caried out by students and therefore free of charge.

The programme "Mastery in transition" is initialy facilitated by Nils Beetsma.

As the project grows, more facilitators will join.

All information about Next Level Learning and the programme "Mastery in transition" can be found on this website.

What happns with the results
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