I’ve been practicing openly sharing for the last few years, and it has without a doubt transformed my life. I wouldn’t be writing this in Aswan now if it hadn’t.
But it’s become second nature to me, and the people with whom I spend my time, that sometimes I forget how transformative it can be.
My task in Aswan is to connect communities, to learn, inspire, and if the Aswani’s desire it (it appear many do), to help them create their own Hub (ideally a member of the growing ice network – the project I’m working with).
As collaboration is ice’s middle name (innovation, collaboration and entrepreneurship), I thought I’d kick things off in Aswan by proposing a festival of sharing. It was a new experience for me, facilitating with May Gah Allah acting as a great translator and main facilitator – my almost complete lack of Arabic making it somewhat of a challenge ;).
The group was a really diverse mix, everyone from students, to local businesses and craftswomen. With an incredibly variation of desires and aspirations.
We started by telling stories of Egyptians where already practicing sharing behaviors successfully, in order to inspire the participants. I believe at this point May excelled, doing more than just translate, but throughout the process sharing, contributing and assisting in showing people the possibilities and locally relevant examples.
Next I broke out my favorite process tool – Talk to me bubbles. There’s something about sticking pieces of paper and writing to your chest that just works. It’s slightly ridiculous (which breaks through any “serious” energy, which is a barrier to discussion) and it’s blatantly communicative. You can say what you want.
In this instance we asked for people to write down what they wanted to offer the community, and what they needed. We asked them to let go of the idea of funding, instead focus on the things the funding may be for.
The results for me were profound. Here are some paraphrased highlights from May Gah Allah.
“Many of them have known each other socially for years, but never talked about what they are working on, they have never seen each other as assets or understood that they could help each other”
“One woman (upon discovering that May could lend her a camera she thought she needed funding for) said “so I can restart my project?” It had been on hold for 7 months”
“One girl discovered that her poetry would be valuable to help market other peoples projects, until then she said she had attended out of duty, but never felt she could contribute”
“Most people discovered that the things and skills they needed could be found in the room, but this was the first time they realised this was possible”
In addition – some notable workshops/exchanges
Arabic/English exchange (to connect better with locals whilst here) – this opportunity arose out of shared needs (i will explore setting up a self organised learning group).
Someone else is starting private German lessons
With the Arabic English exchange some local boy saw I had written that I’d like to learn Arabic, and playfully responded on his own bubble. Sadly his wish was to play for the premier league and therefore maybe outside of even the diverse abilities of the room.
For my offers I wrote I would be happy to advise with organising a festival. Now I am collaborating on a Felucca Festival, weaving the ideas of a local Nubian (Darsh) with my own.
Learning from this, I intend to repeat and better document the process (to further build community and improve).
One of May’s team will create a spreadsheet with contact information and a list of offers and needs – so we have some quantitative as well as qualitative data, and so we can demonstrate growing community. Most importantly so everyone can stay in touch.
It’s been a few days since I intended to post this, but the process kick started so much.
Sitting on a Felucca last night with new collaborators, Darsh said what knowledge he wanted to learn from me and what he would teach. We don’t need the bubbles now he said.
Ultimately this is the goal, but sometimes it takes a sheet of paper, some tape and a small amount of facilitation to show people what has been available to them all along.