After having a first great and intense day, we started this Tuesday in this beautiful small town with fresh energy… I was really interested in the new methods and reflections we will get from this meeting.
In this second morning I thought that is not easy to find places with people from many different backgrounds. And it is beautiful to see all this people from different countries and cultures learning from each other in a participatory process… definitely this is something unique and I am so happy to be part of it. This is really an enriching and empowering experience!
At the beginning not knowing what you will do is little bit hard, especially if you are more used to structured trainings and meetings, but if you trust on the process, at the end you see how the agenda is decided by the needs of the group. It is really interesting thinking how this goes beyond the individuals and at the same time it is part of each one of us… We all are a portion of the group as individuals, but as a group we are creating something new. And this is linked directly with Ubuntu´s philosophy: “I am because you are”. To start working, Arun did an excellent presentation about this sense of belonging to a community. We must remember we are part of a community, because sometimes we forget we are not alone in this world.
After listening her words I could conclude we should start trusting and sharing instead of fighting and competing against each other.
Then we did the voting in our Market Place, most of us wanted to know more about Democracy and that is why we spent the whole day with Florian thinking about Power Relations and types of Democracy. We had to think about what would we do if we were a society and we had a cake… how we would divide this cake? This question may sound easy to answer but definitely it is not… it leads to deep reflection about the foundation of society and the power relations in it.
What an inspiring day and only the beginning of an intense week that will be full of learning, questions, challenges… and obviously fun!
Sarina & Arun
It was a Monday and before we went to The Unknown, we knew there were the Spaniards, the English, the South-African and the Dutch. We also had our belly full of good Italian food we ate the night before. We knew we had a blast because of the good energy flowing through us. And now we were going to meet the rest of the group: the Germans and the Austrians, so we could go to The Unknown together.
At first we had to walk through Madrid from our hostel to ICA Spain, where Aurelia and Iman work, to the bus. The Germans and the Austrians just landed in Spain and where already in the bus. We greet and shook each other’s hands. Some gave each other big hugs, because they already knew each other. Like the night before the good energy was flowing through us again. Now the whole group was together. Oh no, wait: “Where is Mike!?” Yeaaah, I will never forget that.
With the whole group complete, including Mike, we went from the busy city Madrid to the peaceful village El Espinar. Arrived in El Espinar, in the hostelry we all got our own room, our own two, three or four beds. Before we went into The Unknown, we had a couple of minutes of our own.
Let the Journey into The Unknown begin…
As we sparkled in the room like the rays of the sun a great sense of joy and hope washed over us. A feeling of anticipation that something unique was going to happen was confirmed.
The opening exercise was illuminating as we looked at our shoes and shared our unique stories about the shoes that carried us to El Espinar. We then were taken on a journey across many continents as we shared stories of our existence on planet earth.
The river then followed to Mike and Yvonne’s mind mapping in a courageous attempt to answer the crucial question: “What works well to promote a society where power is used more equitably, including how we can support ourselves and others to take more control of our lives, to bring about positive change at all levels.”
We picked up this beautiful quote on the journey: We are the people we have been waiting for!! Let’s take a leap of hope.
Mind mapping provoked all the gems in the room to shine even brighter as we demystified the question that triggered so many exciting responses. This took us down a river to design a participatory process.
It was really exciting to take risks as agents of change to design a programme for the week from such a diverse group of people. Each one expressing the spoken word in a melting pot of ideas, knowledge, experiences and emotions.
After a few hours we sat together at a long table and we had a good lunch. That was a great opportunity to get to know each other better. A conversation with food and drinks is always a good idea. And after the long day we sat together again for a lovely dinner. The Unknown was still there, but we felt more at ease because of all the personal stories and the fun followed by a big smile.
So GOOD night, SLEEP tight, tomorrow we will be shining as bright.
Well, the final day of what has been an intense and yet mentally invigorating and challenging week. I learnt so much from everyone. The exercises were stimulating and questions arose for me as how to use these exercises of variants of in the work that I do with vulnerable women, or my role as a martial arts coach, my involvement in a local community festival, in fact all areas of my life. Many of the exercises, I will be using as invaluable tools as a means to an end.
Then my thoughts turned to power dynamics. The power dynamics in all my relationships, some equal, and others less so, due to all manner of reason, from all those more recognisable identity categories, such as age, gender, physical and mental ability, class, employment status etc, but also down to levels of knowledge about self and surrounding, confidence, self-esteem and trust .
Whilst reflecting on the role of the facilitator, either of the day or of the many exercises, the question came up of how… how can I impart the message of empowerment beyond the technicalities or how can I encourage engagement and participation, whether in a session or in any other area of my work life or indeed non-work life.
After a while as a facilitator, it has become increasingly ‘easier’ to plan a session with aims and objectives to encourage people to reclaim their power, but I think one of the key lessons for me over this week has been – I have to give up the power/share the power that I have. For people who have been disempowered, have lost trust in themselves and those around them, and are not knowledgeable about what they are entitled to or choices they can make, change can be scary and difficult. Maybe they have been let down before, lost trust in their own abilities and unable to recognise their strengths. Where do I start? I start with myself. I acknowledge that I have power in this dynamic and look for strategies to share what I have; I have to invite people to come and join me, to take part, to ask questions about what they want, what they are looking for, so that we can start to build up a relationship with each other and make the journey safe. Ask questions, get clarification, check-in, don’t presume – this for me continues disempowerment. I do these as a matter of course, because I have been trained to do this, but this week, has made it all the clearer as to why I need to do this. Don’t just open the door, hold it open and lend a hand to help someone get through.
It feels like a dose of ‘physician, heal thyself’, so off to find another hug!
The last day of this gorgeous week. From the morning on, already a bit sad….
Sue was the facilitator of the day. And I must say that she fulfilled the cliché being German: Punctual and efficient! 😉
We had nice sessions about reflecting and valuating our results. Niko went for a reflection what we’ll take home on the levels hand, heart and head. We had to write it down, put it on the ground and connect issues with artistic means. We discovered several gorgeous artists in our group! Then Najat made a Gordian knot out of our group, which we did not really achieve to cut. Maybe that showed how connected we already felt. Than the hole group managed to stand on only four newspaper papers! Sarina provides us with a beautiful gift we could bring home: Everybody got a paper on his and her back and the others filled it with compliments.
The highlight of the day to make leaving Spain harder: A real paella for lunch!
A last reflection round about the “three T”: Thankful, Thinking of, Take home,than it was over. So much keeping on going in my mind, being carried away by the positive energy, strengthened as a CHANGE AGENT….
A clear minority of 5 persons is starting the day with power walking to the mountain next to the village of El Espinar.
Energized and empowered by the sun those five lonely heroes and heroines make it almost before all the rest of the crowd to the breakfast tables.
That breakfast table is where the crowd gathers every day.
Tikho has the honour to be the organizational facilitator of the day. We do start in time, with an energizer to go then deeply into the parts of our all identities. Mioara facilitates the „Parts of Identity“ a classical exercise that deals with our diversity.
Many people wish to be regarded as entire human beings but are often categorized by only one or another part of their identity. We all have a huge variety of identities. Sometimes some parts of our identity matter more than others. Every part of our identity, be it something related to gender, age, origin, religion, political affiliation, sexual orientation, eating habits, family status, hobbies, legal status, occupation, etc… has its own attributes and stereotypes.
Sometimes we like those attributes and stereotypes, sometimes they can be quite uncomfortable. Nobel Laureate Amartya Sen comes to my mind. He describes various dangers of identity in his famous book Identity and Violence: The Illusion of Destiny.Especially being judged and regarded by only a single part of identity seems to be dangerous because it reduces and separates entire persons and populations.
After an extended group discussion I wonder, if labeling people is necessary to unlabel and question stereotypes? Lunch drowns this questions under deep conversations about climate change. The most important issue of our times and all times in human history.
Later on we got to go working on our project again…
Thursday is the first day to start working on the project book, the project manual and our online outputs like this blog and a facebook site.
In the afternoon the people are getting interviewed telling their own story about working on the projects products giving interviews and formulating descriptions of group exercises for the manual.
I feel quite empowered by Sarina the professional photographer when she is taking a photo of me and all the others. She is listening very well. Then follows an interview about my visions of empowerment and change agents that everyone gives to Natalia our „Multimedia Knwomad“ who’s carrying knowledge to help forming changemakers.
This day especially gives me the feeling that everyone cares about each other, that we learn a lot from each other and that is a good feeling. Allready very empowering.
I did not wake up for the Power Walk. In my observation the people who went for the walk were more alert than us
who didn’t go. It was then I realised that I have been eating a lot of food without physical ecercise. I promised myself to join the walk the next day, which I did and I felt lighter afterwards.
Five Identity Layers exercise led by Mioara came as a shock to some of the participants. I felt that the exercise gave me an insight to how people percieve themselves and the impact on the group dynamic.
It was a challenging start to the day that led many of us to start thinking about identity. For me it was refreshing in the sense that some of us questioned their ability to care for one another in an empowering way.
I am honored to be part of the group process, because, on a personal level I have learnt how labeling without permission can be disempowering.
Going round to hear from the three intellectual outputs coordinators was insightful and refreshing. It was a chance for me to contribute personally to the manual, story and website.
Finally, telling my story to Helga made me realise how stories change overtime when retold. It was fascinating too, the way Natalia positioned her camera, it made me feel special telling my story. Serina art of capturing the real essence of a person was great, asking you to tell a story while she was busy with the camera. Overall, the day went well, because it thought the group what real empowerment is.
We are 20 people from 6 countries, participants in a week long workshop. Our focus is how we can work towards addressing power imbalances in our world. What happened today?
We shared action learning, singing, peer support, dancing, non violent communication, tears, walking and reflecting, laughing, going with the flow, discovering ways to support ourselves while working with complex issues, hugging, polarising, trusting and fermenting friendships.
What a wonderful opportunity to explore the potential and challenges of the group activities. A place to delve deep, to bring experience and insights to the surface and to reflect with each other. My head is full, so many feelings, so many questions….. It is a growthful process for me, I hear similar from other participants. Our challenge for the next 2 days is to consider how we will weave this into our work in the world.
So this was another action packed day participating in this amazing Can Do Empowerment programme which started off with being asked to facilitate a couple of sessions on Action Learning Sets. It was a great privilege to share this process and how I have used it in other situations. We kept the activity in the here and now with real life issues around problems we have experienced as trainers in empowerment and when supporting vulnerable and marginalised communities. It is always inspiring to hear how a group of experienced and committed practitioners can support each other professionally and provide the emotional solidarity that is so important. We then went on to participate in a session on Non Violent Communication.
We took a situation we have been in and used a structured 4 steps process to deconstruct this experience which included; my observations (what do I observe?), my feelings (how do I feel?), my needs (which need(s) would I like to be fulfilled?), my request(s) (which request(s) do I have to myself and / or others?). In a group of 3 we took on three different roles of Presenter, External Observer (identifying needs) and Facilitator (steering the presenter through this emotionally charged situation). Personally I found it difficult to engage in identifying an issue to present as such issues are so emotionally charged and it can be so difficult to revisit these issues if the support may not be there when you need it. Whilst the facilitator helped to negotiate the presenter through the various stages of observations, feelings, needs, judgement and requests the role of the external observer became so critical. It was interesting how being in a position to stand back from the issue allowed the external observer to so clearly identify many hidden needs that the presenter had not even identified themselves. On reflecting back to the presenter it allowed for a depth of understanding that possibly wasn’t there before. This is also true when observing other complex situations in life and is a lesson that can have an impact way beyond the initial scope of the exercise.
We then worked our way through a complex session called ‘Bridging the divide’ looking at issues of conflict and polarisation in society based on the principles of the theatre of the oppressed. This helps to work through conflicts where two parties have no common ground leading to wrong ideas and assumptions and as Friedrich Glasl‘s diagnostic tool for conflict highlights can prevent a conflict from escalating out of control. This was a very demanding session which had been taken as an opportunity for a facilitator to try this activity out for the first time which in itself was very demanding for both participants and the facilitator. It was however a very rich activity which needs further reflection to unpick the interconnections / depth of issues. As such the final activity called the Participant’s Park was a very useful activity which helped to revitalise everyone.
The final part of the day was a health walk with a chance to reflect on another fantastic day with colleagues in the beautiful surrounds of El Espinar.