The first Summer School of Dialogue took place July 4th -10th, 2012, in Sejny and Krasnogruda, in the Podlaskie region of north eastern Poland, with a wide range of participants from Belarus, Georgia, Ukraine, Poland. Thirty six participants, four workshop leaders, two facilitators of documentation – all working together for seven intense days in three languages, mainly based at the International Centre for Dialogue – over 70 hours of activities, presentations, discussions and sharing of practice.
Our final session took place a short walk from the Krasnogruda Manor House, in the early evening. Participants received their certification for completion of the summer school, and Krzysztof and Chris shared their thoughts on the activities of the week.
In the evening, we attended a sold out concert by Orkiestra Klezmerska Teatru Sejneńskiego in Sejny, followed by an after show performance by a core of the Sejny Jazz Collective, who finished the evening with a brisk version of the Johnny Cash song ‘Ring of Fire’ (although the vocalist was losing his voice after several consecutive concerts played this week on the road).
In his introduction to this session, Jean Pierre spoke of how cultural workers can operate in resisting the status quo and in developing strategies to change society. He called upon three individuals to speak of their personal experiences in dealing with the changes in their societies in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Presentations were then made by:
For the evening presentation, Jean Pierre presented a lecture “Crisis, What Crisis?”, offering his anaylsis of the current European situation in a globalised marketplace, and suggesting ways in which culture in the wider Europe had a crucial role to play in development and resistance. Russian translation of this session was undertaken by Aliaksandr Antsipenka.
The Open Space workshop consists of different forms of work – from individual reflections, group discussions, thematic sessions where one idea, suggestion or topic collects all the remarks, comments and proposals for action. Jean Pierredescribes it this way – as “a kind of meeting in which the participants create their own programme of self-managed discussion groups, experiential workshops, ideas sessions and planning meetings. Open Space allows diverse groups of people to get together, discuss issues of heartfelt concern, pool their knowledge and develop plans for collaborative action.” Great emphasis is placed on individual responsibility for participating and taking action. There are no invited speakers, simply a facilitator to explain the procedure and facilitate the plenary sessions.
In the first sessions – described as ‘walk and talk’ – individuals walked around the grounds in pairs to discuss these three questions: 1. What is your experience of leadership? 2. How would you describe the position of leader? 3. What do you find the most exciting about leadership. They had twenty minutes for this introductory exercise, before reporting back their findings to the full group.
Participants shared some of the following ideas on characteristics of leadership. (This is not an exhaustive list but a quick selection of comments)
– taking responsibility and acting to share responsibility
– ability to resolve conflicts
– ability to maintain team spirit
– listening to people’s opinion but unafraid to take a decision
– charisma is important but not always
– ability to trust the people in your team
– being able to effectively use available resources
– listening to the group and representing the group
– open minded but able to prioritise
– a leader does not have to be authoritarian, but someone you respect and has respect for others
– ability to inspire people
– skilful at communicating with many different people
In these two video clips, Salome Joglidze from Tblisisi and Roland Zarzycki from Wroclaw share their conversation back with the group, with Aliaksandr Antsipenka translating to Russian.
Participants were then invited to propose a topic in the framework of the question of leadership – and to negotiate a time and a place for this group on the time line. The groups then spent the next sessions over the two days following these discussion, documenting their proposals and typing it up as a written document to present back.
As the first round of Open Space discussions concluded at 20.30 pm, all participants were then invited to an evening of Georgian food, wine and music in the basement of the Manor House. The food was specially prepared by Ia Iashvili, Salome Joglidze and Maka Kukulava in the kitchen at Gospoda restuarant on the Polish -Lithuanian border. Thankyou to Grażyna Łowiagin for her kitchen staff assistance.