We were well into our training course, Facilitation for Change when I found myself looking at a poster on the notice board, expressing ‘HOLTDAYS‘. It just happened to be in the room of the community centre we were working in. I wondered what on earth were HOLTDAYS? I’d also started thinking about what had brought me there, to this course with the strangely sounding name, Facilitation for Change? What needed changing? Or was it me..?
Certainly people were talking about the big issues, such as global capitalism and climate change, artificial intelligence and our common beliefs and values. I realised one of the reasons I was there was to take stock of the many changes in my organisation after restructuring. We discussed how much power we had as individuals and groups to influence change as well as expanding our focus to seeing how positive and negative changes in society have come about through collective action, for example, the National Health Service (NHS), free school education and fascism.
It also helped to focus on the personal too. We were asked to consider a time when we’d acted positively to challenge something. And I recalled an intervention I’d made in the care home for my elderly mum with dementia when her care fell below an acceptable standard. For many of us, this was enlightening, believing it was a time when we had spoken ‘truth to power’. And we felt energised by this greater self-awareness.
When we completed a process task on the state of Britain today, in stages, analysing what it looked like, how we had got here and gazing into the future, it looked a gloomy picture. It’s fair to say the group consisted mostly of people, liberal and left-leaning in outlook, though I did try to lift the mood by performing pop-up Tory adverts, often describing an optimistic vision of a vibrant, robust Britain, emerging from austerity, standing proudly, a soon once again to be an independent state in the world with, moreover, nearly full employment. And there are not many countries that can say that! And I popped down again. I’m not sure I convinced anyone.
But look, we still have much to be grateful for – nature, the countryside and seas, our parks, if we’re lucky; legislation, such as the Equality Act. And we have learning, I argued, providing space for people to discuss and grow. And I thought it would help if we smile a bit more. Actually, we were doing a lot of smiling amid the intense focus of small group work.
How would this go down as a training exercise in the boardroom, one of us asked? I’d read once that many managers nowadays at middling level aren’t required to think to do their jobs these days. Their plans are pretty much set and their role is to get people to perform them.
So, for some organisations, bringing people together to think creatively in ways they may find a little challenging is a good way, surely, to help build a team and invite create solutions from everyone, not just from the more vocal? So I thought. Yes, so long as people can see the purpose behind the exercise and how it fits into the overall day…as we had come to think creatively about changing, becoming re-energised.
Well, was I feeling re-energised? We’d just been through a massive restructuring at work which has left us all, I think, not a little shaken. For me, this training was just the tonic I needed to reconnect to what I feel is vital for the health of a good society, namely, learning. Our beliefs and values are being shaped to a large extent by careful news management, polarising people too easily into opposite camps. Learning may help us hear each other more clearly, if we are to make progress in society.
And suddenly I noticed I had been reading HOLTDAYS all wrong. Suddenly, it jumped out at me. How had I not seen it? It wasn’t HOLTDAYS, it was HOLIDAYS and I smiled, feeling re-energised, more self-aware and grateful to be part of this group, knowing that, together, we formed a small part of the chain, which both held society together and was the agent of its transformation.
For more ideas and information…
This training was organised by Liverpool World Centre.
The training was delivered by Partners Organisation Dublin, skilled in facilitation work over many years. For WEA tutors, the participatory learning resources and ideas are saved on WEAVE.
Robert Chambers, Participatory Workshops, a sourcebook of 21 sets of ideas and activities, earthscan, ISBN 978-1-85383-863-7