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Learnings from the “Embodying Collective Transformation” Residency

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I spent November 2022 in Bergerac (France) at the “Embodying Collective Transformation” residency. The purpose of the residency was to deepen our practice on the inner, interpersonal, and systemic dimensions of collective transformation. It was the best month of my year and I am massively grateful to the hosting team (Karl Steyaert, Jocelyn Ames, Catherine Tran, and Nadine Helm) for making this happen and to everyone else who was there, for making it the deep, engaging, loving, fun and – dare I say – a transformational experience that it was!

Initially, my intention was to publish one big blog post with my takeaways, but as I started writing more and more relevant things popped up. As off now this will be a 5 part series (with potentially more to come). In this overview article, I want to talk about, what actually happened, some high-level takeaways, and give an overview of the topics I will dive into deeper.

Hard Facts – What Happened in November?

The first week of the month was a training in Internal Family Systems (IFS), Non-Violent Communication (NVC), collaborative decision-making, emergent strategy, 1-1 Feedback, peer-therapy, and lots more. The rest of the month was a residential co-living experiment, with a shared backbone structure of home care, meals, emotional and conflict transformation support, and a co-created open space agenda. In the first week, we were 20 people and for the rest of the month between 15 and 10. We stayed at the beautiful Life Itself Hub in Bergerac, France. Thanks to Life Itself for providing this amazing space and making experiences like this possible!

Embodying Collective Transformation – What does that mean?

The way I’ve come to understand it, the idea behind embodiment is, to stop trying to fix the world with our heads, but to tune into the deep wisdom, that each of us carries in our bodies. This can literally mean noticing physical sensations in response to a question and basing your answer on that. The collective transformation part speaks to the idea, that the state of the world is reflected in each of our relationships. We can not change ourselves, without engaging in collective processes and we can’t change the world without changing ourselves and our relationships. So to summarize: embodying collective transformation speaks to me as an attitude toward life. It stands for a deep commitment to connection, care, and compassion, regenerative practices, collective action, conflict transformation, overcoming polarization, and ultimately thriving together.

High Level Takeaways

  • Overcoming polarization in ourselves and interpersonal is probably the most essential skill to learn in the year 2022 if you want to be contributing to a world where every being can thrive (that’s why I talk so much about conflict in these articles, it’s not that we had particularly much conflict, it’s just that the conflicts I was involved in where the greatest moments of growth)
  • Community is in itself healing. Being close to others who share similar values daily creates a sense of safety and wholeness. Deepening healing, learning, and growing can happen from this place.
  • Looking inward is just as much (if not more) „the work“ as going out and engaging with the world.
  • Dancing with power and leadership is a growing edge for most of us.
  • Transformation is possible, but it takes its time – no magic bullets after all 😉

Deep Dive Topics

Container Design for Psychological Safety and Trust – in this article I get into the nuts and bolts of transformational event design and explore what contributed to a feeling of trust and safety at the residency.

Engaging Interpersonal Tension and Conflict for Connection – in this post I talk about the power of consciously engaging tension before it turns into conflict, describe one case in which I had a tension with someone and how I engaged it, what I’ve learnt to be valuable practices, and some more reflections.

Dancing with power and leadership – this article will explore the potential that might get unleashed through truly fluid and transparent power dynamics and some reflections on the role of a leader. I’m still writing this and will link it once it is done (subscribe to my newsletter, if you don’t want to miss it!).

The difference between green and teal – reflections on inclusion and exclusivity, community boundaries, communities of cohesion and inclusion, and what might become possible if we dare to be clear about which offer is for whom. This too is a work in progress.

Transformative justice – a case study of transforming a boundary crossing in a community. Also still baking.

Acknowledgements

A lot of what I am describing in these articles is probably not my own original thought. It rather is the result of a web of people, passing on their wisdom through trainings, books, stories, poetry, songs, conversations around bonfires, art, and probably other ways. As far as I’m concerned I am at the receiving end of a big funnel and am nothing but the final processing unit through which all of this wisdom percolates before I write it down and pass it on to you. It is hard to tell where the knowledge originated, where my teachers got it from, and then where their teachers got it from, and so on. I will do my best to give credit where credit is due. If you find yourself quoted here, if you feel I’m misrepresenting your perspective or that I got it wrong – please do reach out, I would love to engage in aligning perspectives 🙂

For this event I’ve received most of the content, choreography, and cultural knowledge from Karl Steyaert, Jocelyn Ames, Nadine Helm and Catherine Tran. They are all highly informed by Richard Schwartz’s Internal Family Systems and Marshal Rosenberg’s Non-Violent Communication. Both they and I are also drawing a lot from Richard Bartlett’s microsolidarity framework. I personally feel like adrienne maree brown’s work on emergent strategy and holding change also influences everything that I write. There are probably many more that could be named, but this is what’s most present at the moment.

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