In 2009 -2011 RSPOPUK has received European Union funding Grundtvig as part of the partnership project “Learning at the Gates of Diversity”. The partner organizations were two processwork schools POP Ireland and IPP Poland, and a processwork institute POPI Slovakia. The main aim of the partnership was building process work community on European level, to create opportunity for learners to experience diverse learning environments, sharing projects and learning experiences, exchanging examples of good practice in education system and work with adults who apply their facilitation in the various fields. This was achieved by “cross boarder exchange” and active participation of adult learners and teaching staff in activities of partner organizations, being it seminars, workshops, training days or staff educational meetings.
For RSPOPUK students this created an opportunity to regularly share their learning and experiences with people from other parts of Europe and to think of themselves as part of a wider European Network of people learning about Process Work and facilitation, as well as learning about other cultures and nationalities in Europe and within the UK. Our learners travelled to study in Ireland, Poland and Slovakia, they have participated in non English events and used translation to do so. This has provided very rich additional learning, and encouraged more ease among individual students to travel abroad for their learning. Through the exchanges there have been many personal outcomes, strong relationships formed and some people are continuing to visit each other after the project has ended.
Staff have benefitted immensely from working with colleagues from partner countries and there have been strong bonds formed, this has been across all partners and is particularly moving as the partnership has led to a different level of cooperation between the UK and Ireland made more possible by the involvement of Poland and Slovakia.
There has been number of training events across the partnership the themes focussed on conflict facilitation, group facilitation and deep democracy, leadership, project development and creativity and facilitation skills in relationships. Developing awareness and addressing issues of diversity, cross cultural communication, rank differentials, dynamics of marginalisation and learning skills and metaskills to facilitate these dynamics in various contexts was part of each of these themes.
Activities in a nutshell
- 16 learners travelled to partner countries to meet others engaged in the same area of study.
- 4 faculty members travelled twice each to partner countries to teach or for educational meetings.
- Additionally this grant have supported 21 people attending learning events in the UK from other European countries, but not partner organization. This has contributed to further interest in cross boundary collaboration
- 9 meetings were hosted in the UK some for dissemination of learning, educational discussions, others for partner meetings to study and learn together.
- Grant supported 8 training events - seminars and workshops (between 15-160 attendees) that were organized by RSPOPUK, and attended by local learners, partner organizations and learners from other European countries.
Not speaking the language or knowing much of the culture, invited me to awaken all my senses awareness much more than I would normally. The communication happened in a much more attentive way. We worked on East and West issues, and been in Poland made this work much deeper and real. Also the experience supported me on the better understanding about diversity and privileges, like being minority, speaking or not the language and its challenges, appreciation, trust the translation… But the main learning I think was the witnessing of the process in a country and its people so shaped and affected by the war and communism. For me a Brazilian woman, living in the north of Scotland and in my thirties, these was an amazing experiences.
I live in a very diverse community in the UK and the rules and regulations of the country have been adapted to accommodate this diversity. The individuals attitudes towards diversity are still to improve, and this will only happen if we as individuals accept to accept this diversity and recognise that “the other person is me” even though they might look different, do things in a different way eat different food,etc. In Poland I haven't seen much diversity but I felt that the diversity can also be an issue in relation to the country's past history.
The biggest challenge for me was to take ownership of the colonialist past of my nation, how this is reflected in my attitudes toward peoples of other nations and my lack of awareness of the resulting privileges that I continue to take advantage of. Voicing my feelings around this issue was helpful both in my own development and for the understanding and compassion of the whole group.
When in another country I feel a need to understand and be accepted by its culture, in a way that is never necessary in my home country. This was important in making me aware of the perception of my British nationality and how this affects my relationships with other Europeans in many subtle ways. Experiencing the struggle to speak in an unfamiliar language was also important.
It was a great privilege to assist at this training, to unfold my own facilitation and teaching skills as part of a team of 5 diplomates from 2 schools. Having had this experience and support of teaching in a team, it has given me such a delight and confidence in my skills.
Apart from the seminar itself, it was a great experience for me to meet and learn with Irish and Slovak students that I didn’t know before. It’s always a great asset to learn from each other and exchange experience.
The seminar was about leadership and management and my learning will benefit me and my organisation. My employer was interested to read my notes from the course.
As a leader learning to look at own personal psychology in relation to the outer environment is useful. As Mindell said “a leader must be able to give up her position and admit defeat and her fault, but he/she must also realize that he/she is an important and inconsequential to the entire development of the group”.
My dream is about building strong communities around me and in the world. I have now made contacts within the Irish school, and I will definitely have an opportunity to work closely with them.
I think I will be more sensitive to such cultural issues when working with groups or relationships between people of different national origins. It will affect how I perceive my own cultural background and reactions.
It was unexpected for me to meet a personal connection in Bratislava to my own background in that the seminar was being held on the same street as the only working synagogue in Bratislava and the seminar was being held on a high holy day. Witnessing the persistence of the Jewish population in Bratislava even after oppression during second world war and the communist era helped me appreciate the importance of being free to choose our personal path of self-learning and having support to follow those paths and be grateful for the support I received from Grundtvig.