Learning Village Suomenlinna

Finland:

The purpose of the experimental Learning Village in April was to bring people together who are committed to practices such as facilitation, storytelling, improvisation, visual and other art forms, all combining the multilevel aspects of participatory tools. Kirsi Joenpolvi, GEN-Ambassador for Finland reports.

The concept of community has many facets and its meaning is constantly broadening. New kinds of leadership skills, learning environments, the use of collective potential and creativity are being born and bringing people together. It has led to the emergence of pop-up organizations and short term 'communities', allowing people to experience the art of being part of a community. It seems necessary in order to make space for the next leap towards collective healing and a systems-oriented approach.
Myself, and some colleagues in the Art of Hosting network, organized a participatory experiment called the Learning Village in Finland last April. The purpose of the Learning Village was to bring people from various fields together; people who are committed to the art of being humane through various practices such as facilitation and Art of Hosting and Harvesting, storytelling, improvisation, visual and other art forms, all combining the multilevel aspects of participatory tools. The Art of Hosting is an approach to leadership that scales up the personal practice to the systemic using personal practice, dialogue, facilitation and co-creation of innovation to address complex challenges.
Our invitation was to join us to live and work together for one week on the historical fortress island of Suomenlinna in Helsinki, Finland. Suomenlinna is a UNESCO World Heritage Site in a maritime environment and surrounded by nature and layers of history. During our week together we would use participatory methods to explore questions, ideas and concepts we wish to be part of our future world: what do we want to leave behind, and what are the key aspects we want to take care of on a deeper level?

The invitation was crafted to attract people from various fields, not only the Art of Hosting practitioners, but other change agents from different areas of society; business, education, politics, arts and media. Eventually the event attracted 45 participants plus the hosts, altogether 54 curious people from different corners of the world and from many fields in society, such as NGOs, business, art and education.

Design of the event
People could choose freely for how long they would stay. The total length of the event was 4 intensive days, +1 pre-planning and +2 post-reflection days. In terms of participation, the peak was on the first three days. The law of two feet was intensively practiced. This was an experiment we were all responsible for. In the context of divergence, groan zone and convergence the process was fluctuating, constantly breathing people in and out.
For those not familiar with the terms, this is the jargon describing the process of opening up and endurance to keep our hearts and minds open while dwelling on the edge of chaos. It is where the creative sparkles can happen, where the collective breakthrough can take off. The process work uses a term `secondary process´ apart from the actual primary process, which in this case would be the exploration of new ways to live and work. At the Learning Village, those emerging moments were crucial and constantly overlapping. Everybody had their own rhythm, effecting the group´s waves.

Containers for the event
Short term events are usually more about the connections formed during the event than about the physical place itself. We were lucky in both senses; our location brought some powerful elements into the process - thanks to Juha Huuskonen, the head of Helsinki International Artist Program - who offered HIAP ś premises for the use of Learning Village. By being such a dominant place, Suomenlinna created a safe but open hub that allowed us to get in touch with our most important building blocks. Like love and healing for example; they seemed to be crucial pieces in the business of transforming the structures and creating a better future.
As for the social container the circle practice was our main operational tool, infused with Open Space Technology. Energetically it contained everybody, no matter for how long or short they stayed.
As holders, we were trying to create suitable structures for emerging processes. Enough structures to hold the process and enough space to get into the groove. We were on the quest for sensing and using our hunches. Calling question as our center, circle as a coming together point, and the rest just coming in as it came.

The future we wished to be part of…
Some elements for the Learning Village were visible, some invisible and some remain unidentified. The feelings of safety and trust are important indicators for any self-organized venture for sure. How to build that social capital is an art in itself. Open Space Technology helped us to create the reality for our mini cosmos. It called us to be true to ourselves, follow our hunches and thus support the system.
Everything was equally important: sleeping, dreaming, dancing, singing, hosting a workshop. Just being in the mindset of Open Space was empowering – we practiced the law of abundance. An unexpected and powerful aspect of social spirituality emerged. It allowed us to merge the inner and outer worlds and, to use our hearts as the compass. There is some simple truth in it. Maybe the future just asks us to take the next achievable step. For example: how can we keep our hearts open and support others to do that too?
We need systems to which we can commit wholeheartedly and that enable radical sustainable changes. We need more of a holistic worldview. There must be sparkles of joy, inspiration, trust, respect, and truthfulness along the process. At the Suomenlinna Learning Villages, we played with our edges, helped each other to shift our perception, let the structures go and put some back. We are humans, at times not so perfect and the processes were reflections of that. But somehow the outcome brought us in touch with the center of collective love that is the glue and platform for a better future.

Happy news: There will be Learning Village II in spring 2016! The exact dates will be announced soon, please check out our website: https://learningvillagesveaborg.wordpress.com/

Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/learningvillagesveaborg/
Art of Hosting: http://www.artofhosting.org/

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14.09.2015