Our Presence is Perhaps ...
I wonder if other practitioners ever find themselves questioning the validity of what they do? Of what they offer?
I never question the validity of The Thinking Environment, the profound impact that it has, and more than that – right now – the yearning ache for it in our world at this time. But I do wonder about how to get it to stick with the people I teach?
To stick, so that whatever small serving of it I can accomplish, to the best of my ability (which, let’s face it, is sometimes questionable, given what “it” is) has the potential to take root. To germinate. To grow.
That has been and continues to be my BIG question.
The tail end of July took me to Bangkok. There’s an Academy, in a small village called Gummersbach, in Germany, outside Köln. For the last two years I’ve gone there, with my dear friend and colleague, and brilliant facilitator, Marike Groenewald (www.anew.co.za). We spend nearly two weeks with people from all over the world who stand for liberty, equality, human rights and the freedom to choose in countries where those values are in short supply at the level of politics and governance.
This year, whilst there, I met Audrie Semeona Frias, from the Philippines, the programme officer at the Council of Asian Liberals and Democrats (CALD).
Audrie invited me to Bangkok. CALD were running their 3rd CALD Youth Political Academy event: The Liberal Hackathon. 18 young people from Cambodia, the Philippines, Indonesia, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore and Taiwan would meet in Bangkok to “hack” ideas that would address this question:
“How can we strengthen youth engagement in politics in South-East Asia?”
I thought I would begin with what the people I worked with in Bangkok had to say: “I thought the Thinking Environment was a fantastic way to start off the Hackathon. I very firmly believed, right from the beginning, that we needed to introduce a thinking process to the part icipants and I feel good that we picked the Thinking Environment for that. When I first learned about it in Gummersbach, it left a lasting impression on me and I wanted our participants to have that as well. I feel that in my position as an officer for our organisation, having the platform to reach youth participants that are strongly involved in politics, I need to make our programs as impactful as possible. I felt like we accomplished that with outcome of the Hackathon.” Audrie Semeona Frias Programme Officer, CALD But you know how it is, with a clever mind when it is “doing it’s thing”? So, I knew Audrie was already converted.
What did the others think……?
Rax Chay Tong Seng, who works for the Official Portal of the Parliament of Malaysia – Parlimen Belia Malaysia had this to say. It made my heart sing! “I found that the method of conversations by using the Thinking Environment was magical. It allowed me to communicate more easily with the other participants, and to really build relationship. As politicians, we always keep quiet and filter in our minds before talking………it makes us, gradually, to become “talkless”. After I learned the Thinking Environment, and shared in my 20 minutes “learning partner conversations” I find I can share things with another more easily, and also bring more happiness to people, and to myself!” Rax Chay Tong Seng Parlimen Belia Malaysia
Sir Lawrence Mendoza Agustin II from the Philippines definitely had the best name in the group...and lived up to it in personality, gravitas and humour combined! I loved that he recognized the power of the Thinking Environment to make way for, and in so doing, enhance, the rich value-add of Diversity. “Being in a diverse group, with individuals coming from different backgrounds, and with different personalities, I believe it was the introduction and application of the Thinking Environment that made the whole Hackathon organized, smooth and efficient. (note from the author, how’s that for an elevator pitch on what the Thinking Environment helps to unfold…….!?) Learning about listening with genuine interest and without interruption really made that difference.” Sir Lawrence Agustin, Legislative Staff Officer, Office of Senator Francis Pangilinan, Senate of the Philippines.
Trya Amanda from Indonesia talked about how safe dialogue in a Thinking Environment made her feel, to share what was really on her mind…with someone she had only just met!
Sovannara Heang shared about understanding the mistake he was making when listening, and feeling a strengthening of his ability to listen well.
Quinta Pradipta noticed how valuable the Thinking Environment is, in particular, in the political context where it could help political leaders to “lower their ego, so as to really know about, and engage with everyday people”. This view, of the importance of what the Thinking Environment had to offer to politics to enable real engagement, real understanding, real connection, was echoed time and again.
And if ever anyone needed a clear cut business case for using the Thinking Environment in their teams at their workplace, or with their families at home, I thought this reflection summed it up with such accuracy and economy of words that I will be using it for the rest of my life!
“Having completed the CYPA a few days ago, I can clearly recall the value-added nature of the Thinking Environment and how it improved the quality of communication between my group members and I. Actively using it as the guiding force in our open discussions, each of us felt heard, represented and appreciated. (Author’s note: heaven on earth!) As such, we were able to think more critically about situations and challenges that we were faced with. It was an obvious difference from the regular group discussions that I have had prior to this event. Naresh Buddalongaiwan Film-maker and Storyteller at Cockroach Singapore.
For the longest time now, one of my favourite poems has been ee cummings’ poem “I carry your heart with me”. I love every word of that poem, and in particular its opening lines: I carry your heart with me(I carry it in my heart)………
This will be, forever true of the people I met and worked with in Thailand. I carry their courage-cultivating hearts with me wherever I go now. And I trust, with all of my courage-cultivating heart, that the wisdom of listening to ignite another’s best self, their potential, their purpose, will go with them into every difference making conversation they have, every day. Forever!