A few months ago, I started some conversations (which some people might call ‘work’) with 14 multi-cultural community leaders in Sydney who are seeking ways to collaborate and learn from each other plus, share their strengths with the broader community. For example, one of the Afghan leaders told one of the African leaders that he would love to learn how they pull such big numbers of participants together in their community work!
One of the most interesting parts of the first evening together was “check-in” – it’s something we do, in place of introductions, but responds to both by asking people to share, around the circle/table; their name, where they’re from and how they are feeling today… depending on time, we sometimes add a 4th question to set the scene, like ‘Share something you are passionate about…’ or ‘When was the last time you saw your community at its’ best and what was it?’
From my experience, “check-in” with a group of approximately 20 people would take about 15 mins and is a great way to get conversations started, note how someone is feeling for group dynamics (tired, happy, sad etc) and start to hear the diverse range of individual passions…
I have had experiences through check-in that have been profound and moving, for example, when facilitating an ABCD workshop for the Department of Primary Industries with farmers, local shop owners, men’s shed volunteers and teachers, they spoke of how their communities have come together around drought and supported each other in a powerful way and how bitter-sweet this type of engagement can be – there were tears, tissues, laughing, hugging and support, all before the workshop even started!
Although, check-in with the multi-cultural community leaders was something quite inspiring and different… and it took almost an hour! They spoke their name and (for some) the history of their name, they shared where they were from but not only geographically (we heard about where some people were born, the countries they have moved to, getting to Australia, living in detention camps, immigration issues, lost family, found family, settling issues) and finally, how they are feeling today which was a mixture of excited, tired, inspired, hopeful!
When it came to my turn, I did check-in, but also reflected back to the group how wonderful the last hour had been and shared with them some thoughts that have been mulling away in my mind, for quite some time, which are; 1. some communities need some time and attention spent to the issue of healing, before launching into capacity building and 2. there is a culture of care, amongst community members, that is not as strong as it used to be – it’s still there, but not always as visible…
Not long after this experience Jack Pearpoint from Inclusion Press posted a video to Youtube and lo, and behold, it was John McKnight’s opening address to the Toronto Summer Institute where he talks about the Culture of Care and shares a wonderful childhood story which responds to how it once was and how we can all be part of real change!
In reflecting on John’s address, I realised that I regularly emphasis the session on “Discovering Care” when delivering ABCD workshops, thanks to my good friend and colleague, Mike Green who says, “When we discover what people truly care about, we can mobilise communities to action!”
If discovering care is key to community action, then deeply listening to what people care about is the best way to start re-building a Culture of Care!
Each month, I look forward to the gatherings in Sydney with these amazing community leaders and I’m listening intently! There is a rich diversity coming alive through the storytelling and each community member is there to co-create a new way forward. They are discovering a new Culture of Care through the ideas and initiatives they are building together!
We now have 7 different cultural groups, from across the Sydney area represented and we have started planning a large-scale community conversation for November! Based on an exercise borrowed and adapted from the Tamarack Institute which I’m sure will provide a whole other level of diversity to the conversations, the check-in should be astonishing!
Yours in Community,