Bali Experience Inspires Urban Design Student

Presidio Graduate School students engage Balinese young people in conversations about their rich cultural heritage and what it can mean for their lives.

Bali Experience Inspires Urban Design Student

Presidio Graduate School students learn value of narrative in community-building

With four months left in her MBA Program at Presidio Graduate School, Stephanie Ciancio has just had a life-altering experience. She and several other students returned from a trip to Bali where they witnessed the value of narrative in community-building.

  Presidio students join local Balinese to create conversations about culture. 

Ciancio was one of three who worked alongside to implement a human design-centered process for community-building involving the philosophy of Tri Hita Karana Bali. The process involves interviewing, synthesizing the information, and prototyping recommendations.

The idea was to help supply children with the confidence and ability to engage in cultural conversations and narratives that would enrich their lives.

“Agriculture is being pushed out in Bali,” Ciancio says, adding there’s what she calls a “brain drain” happening where the children of farmers don’t want to farm anymore and they’re tempted to leave the island or sell their land.”

A group known as Tri Hita Karana Bali supplies children with confidence and multimedia training so they can enrich their ties with community and tell stories in ways that deepen their cultural roots.

  Stephanie Ciancio

“It empowers youth to gain skills so they can express themselves creatively and make a living without having to leave where they come from,” she says.

“We were charmed by the idea,” Ciancio adds.

The trio worked alongside other Balinese organizations, a translator, and other key connectors to interview 30 youths, farmers, cultural leaders and others within a few days in January.

“They have so much wisdom and aligned motivation,” Ciancio says. “When we were trying to synthesize the interviews we had conducted, our recommendation was to strengthen the communication because we learned that there’s a lot of dependence on word of mouth and trust, but there’s a need to pass along the wisdom from generation to generation.”

Training the young people to use multimedia gives them a modern medium for the conversation to stay alive, she says.  “It’s about getting people to tell their story and talk to each other.”

  Students took turns interviewing and taking notes as they met with Balinese farmers and community leaders. 

“It was a transforming experience to see the light in people’s faces, the excitement. We could see that they had a higher purpose and that it was aligned,” Ciancio reflects. “I left really impressed with what people can do — and grateful for having that shared with us. Our accomplishment was getting them to shine that light on their own gifts.”

Ciancio has just begun an internship that involves a project involving urban revitalization — something she says she is most passionate about. She’ll take her experience from rural Bali with her, she says, not just as inspiration but also as a beam for her own journey.

A version of this article was originally written for the Presidio Graduate School news service. This repost, for which we received permission, follows the style guidelines of the original post. To learn more about generative newsroom options for your organization or community, please

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Jeanne Pengelly

Jeanne Pengelly joined Axiom News in 2012 as a video producer and online editor. Along with her 20+ years of experience in journalism, Jeanne holds a Masters in Journalism from the University of Western Ontario (1988), and has two undergraduate degrees with the majority of her course work focussing on the history and sociology of science and medicine. Jeanne has worked as a radio news director, education reporter, the editor of a small northern newspaper, freelance writer, and television journalist. She developed and produced a training program for young journalists, which included one of the first community television newsmagazine programs in the country - an accomplishment that won Jeanne and her co-producer a national award in 1994. Contact Jeanne:, or 705-741-4421 ext. 30.

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