I am 1 and a half hour in my 17 hours layover in Kolkata, India. This first hour has been eventful, but I have the strong sensation things are going to slow down. To be sincere, I should be quite upset right now. I am in an absurd situation. First of all, I bought a flight with a 17 hours layover in Kolkata (yes, I know). In the rush of the last weeks, I did not make any plans for the layover, and I only realized yesterday that I actually needed a visa to enter India. So, I am now officially a transit traveler. Basically, I am here but I am not here. At my arrival I was welcomed by an ‘officer’ who went to pick up my luggage and brought me to the ‘transit area’ repeating at least 3 times that I am not supposed to leave it for any reason. For the next 15 and a half hours, this transit area will be the new home of my suitcase, my backpack and I.
Now, how is the transit area? Well, let me tell you! It is a very big and cold room, with bright lights and two TV loudly playing over-dramatic Indian soap-operas. There are maybe 10 people in total and they all seem pretty carried away watching TV. Beyond a water machine and a bathroom, there is absolutely nothing in my new house. In the transit area there is no wireless and no restaurant. The only shop is a little duty-free that accepts cards. I am hungry, and I bought some chocolate that I guess will be my dinner and my breakfast. On one hand I must say I am pretty frustrated with this all situation. On the other the whole thing is pretty comic and I feel I should capitalize on it. In fact, I think that this random ‘transit area’ dimension should be a requirement at the end of every Recrear project. Having some time to think is quite a luxury, so I have decided I will dedicate this transit lounge phase of my life to post project reflections. Hopefully, time will fly.
Wrapping up RecrearPartecipate in Chittagong…
Now that RecrearParticipate has come to an end, I am very fascinate thinking about how the workshop evolved since our first day in Chittagong. We started off with a big brainstorming exercise called the ‘idea wall’. In this first step participants write down on a white board the themes they would be interested in working on. We came up with a dozen key words and we asked each participant to comment and show support for those ideas. By the end of the exercise we had formed four groups working on very broad concepts: ‘women’s rights’, ‘disabled people’, ‘a financial plan for the poor’, and ‘environment’.
As we started working together, groups took a life of their own. Exercise after exercise, ideas became more defined, and talking and thinking about each initiative became easier. The energy in the room also changed. Before and after session we all took the time to joke, talk and laugh and there was a sense of pride and respect in the room. Everything happened very naturally, and while we were all working super hard, a growing friendship was lightening the mood.
Our last session turned out to be a good opportunity for each group to think their ideas through and show off what they started creating. Kirsten and I had discussed developing a theatre piece as a tool to highlight the challenges of presenting and marketing projects. We prepared this last session during a long all-nighter. While Kirsten has worked with development theatre before, for me it was the first time and I was very intrigued to see how we could ‘control’ our simulation exercises so to bring about specific reflections.
With an hour and half of sleep, I was put in the uncomfortable position of being the ‘boss’, basically the executive of an organization who could potentially support the group. Kirsten acted out the first meeting with the ‘boss’ for each group and then left the floor to the participants who ‘went to the meeting’ in pairs . Kirsten’s performance was designed with various ‘mistakes’ showing ‘missed opportunities’ that each group should keep in consideration when ‘rehearsing reality’.
As ‘the boss’, I was very impressed to observe the process that participants went through in order to present their initiative in a clear and convincing way. Each pair tried different techniques and approaches and their boldness reflected the hard work they put into this workshop. While the ‘meetings’ all had their strengths and weaknesses, they always showed a passion and a sense of ownership for their initiative that would touch most ‘bosses’.
Kirsten and I wrapped up RecrearParticipate in Bangladesh with a lot of satisfaction. But I really don’t want the work we have been doing to end today… Recrear will be very honored to continue providing support and assistance to this talented group!
Projects and energy flow.
A couple of days ago, as I was listening to Kirsten present the history of Recrear to Shubir (our local coordinator) and Makbub (YPSA’s Director of Field Operations) I felt deeply proud.
Just year and a half from Recrear.beta, Recrear has worked in 8 countries delivering 4 projects, launching 2 local chapters and organizing 2 international conferences. Most importantly, we have the confidence to be presenting our creation to a mature NGO with enthusiasm and pride. While delivering RecrearParticipate in Bangladesh, we have told our story to stress that, as Kirsten likes to say, young people ‘are the present of development’. We used this positive attitude as a tool to inspire confidence in the groups we worked with. I feel it is precisely this energy and drive the most valuable resource Recrear has to offer and that we need to cultivate. I am very confident that this enthusiasm, if preserved and reinforced within the Recrear team, can be the fuel that will make us grow and develop increasingly sophisticated projects.
Now, how do we keep this energy flowing? How do we make everyone in our team feel this thrill and contribute to it? Kirsten and I have been discussing this point a lot in the last week.
Taking part in projects, we both agree, is a very powerful tool to keep our enthusiasm high. There is something very magical about joining a Recrear project. First of all, every person engaging with Recrear should be able to take some ownership of the organization, because to fulfill our vision of being reflective we need to be constantly recreated! When delivering a project there is no option but to take ownership. As Nolan and Sasha will be able to confirm, even when delivering a signature project where activities are already outlined, every project is different and unique; to be successful it requires creativity, dedication and purpose.
Projects give also a tremendous energy boast. There is something beautifully hard to describe and extremely gratifying about working together with a group of young people. In addition to workshop and preparation time, delivering a Recrear project is a real full immersion; there are no breaks because pretty much everything is a source of inspiration. Moreover, to make a project successful trainers need to be in sink. To be in sink, in my experience, it is essential to make the time to share different perspectives and ideas – in short, all off time gets filled in with insightful discussions and sharing sessions of all sorts.
In my opinion it is very important that we discuss as a team how we can make projects an integral part of Recrear for everybody. In order to do so, one idea is to have mini projects during our annual conferences, so that we can all get some experience in the field. On the other hand, we need to develop new strategies to share the enthusiasm of projects beyond the people on the ground internationally. As chapters start managing projects locally, it will be easier for more members to take part in them more regularly.
At last, we need to encourage each other to shape and leave a mark in this organization beyond projects. I am personally so excited we are making such a good use of our blog to share the love. I am also sure that between our wonderful HR and Media team we will keep coming up with new ways to create enthusiasm, feel energized and maintain our commitment.
ah, and btw. I (barely) survived the 17 hours layover in Kolkata. I thought and slept a lot and the Indian soap-operas were my loud background for the ENTIRE time.