Another workshop is over and I am turning to the next event, the last of what initially were four and became three. I have sorted out flight changes here and got tickets for flights in the future which might make an outsider believe I am a flight attendant, one that sits rather than attends. I am fussy about seats and it has taken some back and forth to avoid middle-back-of-the-plane seats.  I am mostly in the middle of the plane on aisle seats which feels like a major accomplishments with planes filled to capacity.

I have done three sessions in this workshop, all custom-designed and producing intended outcomes. One was about organizational culture. An inventory of practice led to the identification of four areas they wanted to be more intentional about: how to deal with gossip, with cliques, how to make rewards more equitable and the use of space. I wish them luck. If they fail it won’t be for lack of good intentions.

As a result of that session we now had a vocabulary to talk about the norms in the workshop, which, after having been identified in an age-old workshop ritual, were consistently violated without anyone paying attention. This produced the mother of all norms which was that norms don’t matter.  Everyone nodded, such is life.

Later in the workshop, after consistently seeing about 20% of the participants at the starting hour, I popped the question, what was going on? This revealed how our own team was contributing to the new norms, the competing pressures; all very understandable and all very manageable.

The second session was about story writing. Story telling is of course an art form in all of Africa but story writing is a different story indeed. When asked who loved to write only two hands when up. Writing is associated, as in so many other places with the red pen of the teacher, the critical boss or funder. I used many of the materials Axel used in Afghanistan with his SOLA writing group. I had heard about the effect but not seen it. I was happy to see how the group produced 4 very moving stories, three with a good ending and one with a bad ending (system failure).

We had inserted a session on resiliency – a topic much researched in the child-in-distress literature, and, since 9/11, also in the business literature. It was fascinating to see how this group of people, very much involved in saving children, produced the same overall conditions for resilience as a large international study did (community, identity, family and support systems). They then translated these findings to their own organizational settings, identifying what needed to be in place, established or strengthened in order to become more resilient. Some of these organizations are tiny and living hand-to-mouth; resilience will be what will ‘keep them whole under conditions of adversity.’

After lunch I returned to the office to process the evaluations – good and useable feedback. From it I learned that one participant was convinded that attending this workshop would contribute to the ‘excelaration’ of his (her? organization). What a concept!

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October 2012
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