Pillows, cultures and other random thoughts

Dear Aditi and Olivier (read Holly),

 

I just had a beautiful night of chats.

I think often, and with lots of saudaje, about the endless nights we spent sitting on the floor of your apartment. We should get a price for solving all the world’s problems in the infinite space between our heads and hearts. (Do you remember that time I filled in a whole post-its block trying to capture our conversations?!).

Two weeks ago, I moved into a new apartment in Medellin. You have been my role models as I think about how to make it open and vibrant! The whole process of getting the place was a bureaucratic drama – but damn it felt so good when Kirsten, Jonas, Yasmin (two other Recrear colleagues) and I stepped into our new house! We have the vision of creating a shared office and open community space to organize all sorts of cool things. When we stepped in the apartment, it was completely empty, and huge (200sq meters!) – slightly intimidating, but lotsss of potential.

Well, we have been thinking about how to make our house feel cozy, with basically no furniture. So of course something magical had to happen :P.

The organization sharing the office with us, ISEE, brought to the house a TON of colourful pillows. The same pillows they use in their trainings on experiential learning. I swear they are filled with emotions, thoughts, interactions, magic! Do you think your sofa and all the pillows in your living room hold the good vibes of the late-night chats?

Anyways, a ton of pillows and ‘estibas’ (not sure what is the English term, but see photos below), a red carpet, some lights, and candles melting over wine bottles did the trick.

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We started hosting people right and left and filled our home with good conversations. I love those chats that have a substance so real they feel like music. They have a vibe to it, they sink and float at the same time. I know you know what I mean. Ah! We have been dancing a lot too, super important!

It is so rewarding to create common IMG_5836.jpgrituals with others. I find myself thinking about ideas, vibes and ceremonies a lot. Last week Kirsten and I facilitated a ‘semillero’ and it was such a fun representation of how collective cultures can spark.

First of all I need to tell you what a ‘semillero’ is, because it’s a pretty cool concept. The word comes from semilla, which means seed. From what I understand, a semillero brings people together around a common interest. It is a opportunitiy to explore opinions in creative ways. An open platform to socialize ideas, information and visions. It seems that in Colombia they have a ‘semillero’ for just about everything!

Anyways, we were asked to run the first 2016 meeting of a semillero on experiential learning. We thought it would be a reunion of a 10 to 20 people at most. We stepped into a room with about 80 people! Oh guys it was so FUN!

We ran a workshop that I had designed to come up with the manifesto of ‘Make Change Happen’ at the University of Sussex. The idea of the workshop is to create a common vision around what participants want to do with the semillero, and to collectively decide what kind of space they want to create.

So we started by asking everybody to list the ‘10 things that make you happy’. I always love these lists. When people were done with their lists, we asked them to get into groups of 6 and come up with a list of 5 things they could all agree gives them joy. Then we divided the big group in two, and asked people to create a frozen image based on one of their 5 in the list. Using the concept of the sculpture garden (remember the theatre of the oppressed workshop we did at IDS?) half of the group acted out their happiness, while the other half whispered words and phrases behind them – giving voices to the statues.

This was just a warm up, but it was so important to set up the tone. The exercises wanted to make the point that we come to this space with all of our liveliness, all our joy! Kind of important to know the things that make us shine! I love creating moments where the essence of what makes us move is not considered secondary.

The manifest building exercise went like this. We created five stations around the room with these questions written down on flipcharts:

  1. A beautiful life looks like this:
  2. In my life, I make change happen by…
  3. When I enter the space that this semillero creates I want to feel:
  4. I want to contribute to ….
  5. Above all, I believe that …

We had cut out coloured papers in all kinds of shapes (and we had to quickly cut some more!). We put markers, glue and scissors around the room. Each participant was asked to grab pieces of the coloured paper and complete the sentences individually. In 10 minutes the room was filled with beautiful mosaics of colours, geometry, words and hand-drawn art.

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Then we created three groups. Each group was asked to pick 2 or 3 coloured papers, across the 5 stations. With the papers each participant picked up, every group worked to make sense of their collection of words/sentences/drawings.

I observed them losing themselves in the words. There was a whole symphony of thought/emotions/aspirations playing out. Oh what people came up with! The associations created so much meaning… When each group shared their manifesto the room was sparkly!

Of course, a culture is not created in a two hours workshop. But the workshop made me reflect about the power of being intentional about organizational cultures, and how that can make a huge difference; it reminded me of the magic of collective processes.

IMG_20160303_173948Anyways, at the end of the workshop we brought home a bunch of the papers that were not selected by the groups and we created a sort of ‘sculpture’ with them.

Believe it or not, the words gave the living room so much life!

Well, this is the end of my late night rant. The summary is: I’m sinking in Colombia and the Gioel-Colombia infusion feels so good.

Here’s to wine and chats muy pronto!

I love you both so much!

Gioel

 

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