a simple survey
In August and September I spent 19 days in Juba, South Sudan working with a group of local facilitators/peace-builders in growing our facilitation, nonviolence and peace-building skills.
On the first day we did an exercise we re-named ‘The sun shines all those who …’ to survey the group’s experience. You may know this type of exercise, it can be adjusted for different purposes and framed any number of ways to evoke a certain atmosphere and feelings amongst participants.
In our version, we were aiming for a friendly, simple survey of people’s facilitation knowledge, experience, and skills. People sat on chairs in a circle, and one person in the middle made a statement like, ‘The sun shines on everyone who …. has ever felt a little nervous when facilitating’ for example. If the statement is true for you, you move to a new seat; or if left without a seat, you make the next statement to continue the survey. Here’s the list of the statements we prepared to use before handing over the statement-making to the group.
The sun shines on everyone who …
- is happy to be here
- is setting aside other important work or projects to be here
- knows everything there is to know about facilitation
- knows what your facilitation strengths and weakness are
- knows about about different learning styles
- knows how to design agendas using different learning-styles
- has facilitated a day-long workshop before
- has facilitated a two or more days workshop before
- has facilitated training of trainer workshops for others
- usually facilitates ready-made workshop agendas
- has designed an original workshop agenda and facilitated it
- likes to work in a facilitation team (2 or more people)
- prefers to facilitate alone
- knows what active listening is
- has super-power Active Listening skills
- wants to improve your active listening skills
care and peace with justice
As with the past two courses I’ve been part of in Juba, this year’s participants came together to form a temporary community of learners, facilitators and peace-builders who looked after each other and took care of themselves in ways that touch and impress me. There is a great deal of caring amongst the participants on these courses, which I found myself thinking about each day.
What a lovely world we’d inhabit if we could always pause to reflect on our actions and thoughts, their origins, impact on others and how to live a nonviolent life. To remember, celebrate and honor that effort we strive for after we return to the busyness of our daily lives I painted this picture while in Juba this year. I call it ‘the sun shines on all those who work for peace with justice’.
2015 advanced training of trainers course
27 August, good bye … hello
Good bye marshes, hello friends in Juba, here I come! Less than one month after moving on board a canal boat in London I am leaving. I wonder where the boat will be moored up when I come home. Will ‘home’ be (as it’s been for the last ten years) Hackney?
28, 29, 30 August, arrivals, meeting, greeting and planning
Home sweet home, Rock City Investment Hotel, Juba, South Sudan, the training venue and also our accomodation during the course. As its name suggests it serves mulitple purposes. It is also a depot for UN and other large vehicles, a commercial centre (was, is and .. will be again when the conditions are right for investment), including a water bottling factory and free-range livestock pasture (goats and cows I saw, chickens I heard). We also spent time with our local facilitator planning and dividing up responsibilities and roles while become more familiar with our environment.
31 August, first day of the course
While it can be exciting and up-lifting to meet new and old friends, the first
days of a course can also bring on a bit of anxiety while we try to figure out how we fit into the group, so we use some whole group, but a lot pairs and small group work during these first days. Following on from the ‘sun shines on everyone who …’ whole group exercise, the group next spent about 90 minutes working in small groups clustered around those who facilitate on similar topics to adapt the exercise for new purposes and contexts, which they then presented to the whole group.
1 September, a rarity, no sun shine in Juba and bad news
A foggy morning in Juba, hello day 2! And a wee bit of bad news: it’s official, our colleague from the Sudan won’t be joining us, his visa was denied and we’re giving up on other channels of influence. Today’s main work is on self-assessment, what are our strengths, weaknesses and setting learning goals. I am pleased that my daily creative practice and self-care routine of twice daily meditation seem firmly in place.
2 September, getting well deep into our learning
Star tools — simple facilitation tools that bring out the best in people and help groups shine! Each day of the training we focus on one simple facilitation tool and now by day three we’re well into it. We’ve had go-rounds, active listening and today we added asking good (ellicitive) questions.
3 September, trying to take it all in
I noticed for the first time these little statues that appear along the path from my cottage to the training venue. It makes me think about learning and this course. When something is new, our minds struggle to take in all the new information and we pick up the bits we can. Just like how only today I noticed these statues.
4 September, first week done, but not quite yet
Usually we’d take Friday off for Muslim prayers, just as we take Sunday of for church service. This year a tight budget meant trying to work as many days we could in a row. We stopped at lunch time though, and in the afternoon the facilitation team planned Saturday earlier than we usually would have been able to, then then did a bit of exploring in Rock City. Fittingly we found rock art!
5 September, what’s your learning-style?
Continuing to look at workshop design we discussed learning styles. One of the questions was if you are to cook
something new are you most likely to (a) consult a recipe/visual, (b) ask someone how /auditory or (c) experiment and taste along the way/ which we simplified to call body & movement. One participant piped up to ask, are resources scarce, or can we assume we have everything we need? Good question! Like years past, they are a terrific, thoughtful, hardworking and committed group, I am learning a lot from them, and they are widening my world. And this exercise we pretty much designed in the moment and it was one of those lucky times when it was spot on! I will use it again.
6 September, a day of rest and review for the participants, and slower-paced planning for the facilitation team
Sunday. Wow, the first week and more than half of the course done and it went by fast because of our compressed training schedule. This day we took stock of what we’d done so far, and what we still had to do. We also made some time for ourselves, which for me meant creative time.
7 September, making these tools our own
A theme running throughout the course was sharing experiences to increase facilitation skills and refine nonviolence trainers’ toolkit of exercises by adapting tools to their local context of peace-building. Only four days remain, so today, a Monday, we jumped in deeper and continued this way until the end.
8 September, discussions that involve movement and (hopefully) mind-changes
The most common group-working tool participants reported using was ‘group discussions’ so we spent a lot of time digging into understanding different learning-styles and why and how to use different approaches in group-learning. We also explored different group discussion tools that vary from merely sitting and speaking/listening. One of these is spectrum disucssions, where you mark the ends of a spectrum with polar opposites, whether that’s — yes/no, agree/disagree, 0%/100%, easy/difficult, or whatever. The facilitator then reads a statement and people place themselves on the spectrum in a place that represents their opinion. Then people discuss why they have placed themselves where they have. If anyone says anything to change your mind, you change your position to show that. Studies show that body movement can influence our openness to new information and likelihood to change our opinions, so by including movement and using space to map opinions facilitators create conditions which invite people to expand their perspectives.
9 September, re-charge with candles and get ready for the ‘real world’
Day 9, nearly done and what a lot of work we’ve done and what a lot of new stuff to remember and to mix in with what we already know. We also did a lot of practice facilitation during these last days and finished up day 9 with an exercise we call ‘re-charge with candles’ so participants can focus in on what is important to them to take their learning forward into the ‘real world’.
10 September, celebration of our learning
Day 10 our last training day, and because of the compressed training schedule, in the evening we also did the closing ceremony, the ‘graduation’ where we celebrate the connections we’ve made and lessons learned. And while it was unintentional, the group demonstrated learning, skill and capacity with one of the course mantras — ‘the plan is to change the plan!’ A small group was scheduled to perform a skit about peace-building for the invitees, and when some of them got cold feet, two participants stepped in and led the audience in doing a short peace-building exercise. I didn’t know what had happened to change the plan (at that time) but I was very proud, amazed and happy to see these two colleagues jump into the void in a replacement activity that clearly demonstrated what they had learned and was wholly appropriate to the situation.
11 September, a wholly free day and special day
Big sigh: the doing of the course is done. Now we focus on the de-brief, wrap-up and reporting. But before that (important but dull work), on this day we were invited to a friend/colleague’s house for lunch. She and her family are refugees from the Nuba Mountains, a region in Sudan which borders South Sudan. Sadly this family, long time peace-builders and community workers, are also refugees themselves, fleeing bombs, fighting and unrest which has exisited in the region since 2011. Despite their own challenges many in the family, like our friend/colleague continue to serve others in finding their way to peace in times of war.
12, 13, and 14 September, wrap-up and good bye
Another part of my self-care routine to help me be my best for groups during these intensive courses is to read a book set in a totally different time/place than I am working in. This year’s book was Haruki Murakami’s ‘The Wind-up Bird Chronicle’, a bizarre but mesmerising book. It perfectly filled my need to temporarily be taken to a different zone at times during the course. Also during these days we said good bye to those who dropped in to see us, giving a welcome break from our wrap-up work. Thank you for visiting!
The other days we did as much as we could and we are still steeped in the reporting, but now at least are in the final draft stages. We’ve pulled together the daily agendas, the manual (compilation of exercises we used), an appendix with the stories shared, summarised the written evaluations and now are waiting for feedback from colleagues in South Sudan before submitting everything by 31 October.
a picture speaks a thousand words
A picture speaks a thousand words, and this post is long enough (thank you for reading so far), so I’ll finish with some images to fill in the blanks.
Many thanks to those near, far and in unnamed, and sometimes unnoticed ways who made this training a success. We had a designated interpreter, a documentation team of two, impromtu translators in the Sudan helping us translate hand-outs, and the love and support of friends, family and colleagues during the course. Thank you, together we all made it a success.
And to close, Joan Boaz’s ‘Bread and Roses’ sent to me by a friend to encourage us during the course. As well thank you to Martin and Joseph (and anyone else I’ve forgotten) for your photos.
want to know more?
Here’s the exercise the group adapted at the graduation ceremony that we had done in the course.
Handshake win-win or Tug-of-War (win-lose)
Purpose – to discuss cultural norms about how we approach daily life, and learn violence and nonviolence.
How to do it – During the exercise, make sure to wear ‘your facilitator’s face’ (a neutral, open expression). Tell the participants we’re going to do a short exercise (don’t mention the name) and then we’ll talk about it. Invite them to stand up and form two lines (parallel lines) facing each other, reach out and shake your partner’s hand to ensure everyone has a partner, greet them.
Tell them, ‘when I give you the signal (let’s begin or something like that) reach out shake your partner’s hand and then you’ll have about a minute get him/her on to your side’. Run the exercise, probably 30 seconds or less. Observe what happens. Stop the exercise, and de-brief while people are still standing in parallel lines, this way people stay with their feelings and thoughts. Moving to their seats, they may lose some of this energy or thoughts.
There are lots of questions you can ask, how do you feel? What happened, who succeeded, how? What can we learn from this? Try to ask questions that build on each other to pull out learning for the group.
The learning points are –
- Did people assume a ‘win-lose’ attitude (use the game as a tug of war), meaning it was a competition to get the other person to their side, or did they assume a win-win attitude, (hello, first you come to my side, then I’ll come to your side, Hurrah! We both completed the exercise).
- This simple exercise is particularly powerful in nonviolence trainings where people are learning about nonviolence, speaking about it everyday, but yet, we can see how deeply our learning of violence goes when we are given a simple exercise like this, and still many or some of us, immediately approach it from a point of violence, win-lose