From 15th until 19th March I had a very inspiring writeshop in Kleinmond, South Africa. This was the start of a two 2 trajectory to create a new Barefootguide on organizational learning practices. With 10 participants from different countries it was a very divers group. There were 3 people from Holland: from PSO, Cordaid and IICD. 4 people from South Africa (3 from CDRA and 1 consultant), 1 person from Ghana (VSO), 1 from Belgium (but 15 year Zimbabwe, VVOB) and one New Zealander from The Red cross in Bangkok. The group had a 50% balance in gender as well. But most impressive were the experiences that everyone brought on the table working with southern NGOs and communities.
The environment of the workshop
We were located 2 hours from Capetown in the small town of Kleinmond. We stayed in a holiday home in small bungalows in a beautiful, inspiring landscape with mountains in front of us and the Atlantic Ocean behind us. What better place could you have to start a writing collective. The idea was not to write just another guidebook, but to bring in the vast experiences of the participating NGO’s to bring theory and practice together in combination with an action research next year in 20 Southern NGO’s to bring the guide as a tool for transforming organizations and Social change into practice.
To develop this we needed to know each other much better, but also to develop our own writing voice. One of the exercises we used for this is the technique of freewriting. In freewriting your pen, rather than your mind decides what to write; the hand leads and the mind follows. As simple as it sounds, it’s no easy exercise and takes real discipline to stick to this simple premise. We did several exercises with a start sentence and 4 minutes of writing. Afterward you had to underline the key sentences and share this with a small group to make a poem out of it. That sounds a bit weird, but actually the poems were quit powerful.
Another method that we used was it always powerful storytelling. With the freewriting exercises we also had described two of our key learning moments. You could share the stories with one of the others, pick one and shared that story with the whole group. During the whole week we told these stories and distilled the general lessons out of these stories to use that to describe inside-out how we have gone through our own learning journeys. These general insights were stored on colored papers on the whole: a big collection of thoughts at the end of the week.
To look outside-in to organisational learning the core group of the writers collective (PSO, VSO and CDRA) had done a literature review on organisational learning, which we discussed to see what was most inspirational, fascinating but also to define areas for deeper research, missing parts and remaining questions.
The leading image
On day three we were on a quest for our vision. At 07.00 sharp we climbed in silence the mountain in front of were we stayed. At the top (a 30 minutes climb, through a beautiful landscape, one of the most diverse worldwide in terms of number of plans) we wrote our how we thought the Barefootguide would be used in the world in 5 years time as a free writing exercise. After a lovely walk down through a different path we brought all these stories together in small groups to design the leading image through a very creative drawing process. These three leading images were than shared and brought together into one picture with symbols, metaphors and key words.
The last day was the process that will lead to the development if the barefootguide. The next write workshop will be in May in Egmond (Netherlands). Before that time a needs assessment with some of the partners that will participate in the action research will take place (not at IICD partners) and a similar assessment about current learning practices should also be carried out under the organisations of the writers collective. In the next two weeks it will be more clear what that will mean for IICD. The action research for next year was also designed, but the key question for the next two year were the research areas which needed more deeper research. Also adding the voice of the south more. All of uMood paintingss will contribute more case studies like our thematic learning briefs, our Learn-Work trajectory and country learning reports. We concluded with a mood image of the whole week which was again an creative exercise to trigger your right brain. All in all a very inspirational, intensive and challenging workshop. Looking forward to continue this process in May.