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The ‘We’ is Expanding – How a Vision Can Produce Networks

In the first volume of the Many Peaces Magazine, Mayme Lefurgey reported on the meeting of alumni from all over the world in Innsbruck, in July of last year. She shared the story of the birth of the First Academic Festival of Many Peaces, which will take place in August 2015.

Since then, a collective vision has been created to facilitate the making of this project. This called for a cooperative, consensus-based decision-making team structure, as well as for a clear allocation of  responsibilities. This structure is held together by the core planning team which includes Cándido Cabana, Egidio de Bustamante, Lina Eraso, Sophie Friedel, Adham Hamed, Rosalie Kubny, Mayme Lefurgey, Atefeh Sadeghi, Amy Strub and myself. This team has carried forth the ideas of the larger group of alumni who attended the first meeting in July 2014. The core planning team is currently subdivided in smaller teams: organizers, finance and public relations along with reviewing teams for the submissions in the different tracks.

From the day we met for the first planning meeting, what caught my attention was the collaborative process involved to create the project. It was great to experience a group of adults come together with motivation and curiosity to discover and concretize a shared vision. As this vision is inseparably linked to a way of relating with one another, it is not surprising how the process proceeded in such a peaceful way. In this sense, I would say that we were and continuously are using an ‘elicitive’ framework and approach in how we share knowledge and ideas with each other.

Of course, right now we are not just busy with pulling ideas out of each other’s noses – which is a hard thing to do via email and skype. Our current work also entails organizational tasks such as fundraising, translations, creating flyers and reviewing proposals. Even though many of us are busy with one or more occupations at the same time, we have managed to dedicate extra hours to the festival preparations with enthusiasm and positive energy! Beside the efforts people are making on different levels, one thing that keeps the team together is the shared background of Peace Studies in Innsbruck. The aims of this project also hold us together, even though neither the core team, nor the larger group who met in July has a definite consensus on that, but more of an overlap that gives us a common force of motivation. However, I would be idealizing if I did not also point out that not everyone who was involved in the initial idea agrees with the path the First Academic Festival of Many Peaces has taken since the beginning: concerns have been raised in the integrative seminars, initially active alumni have taken a step back and we have also received criticism from an alumnus who is not in the core planning team.

It is hard to say whether online integrative seminars and email communications are a sufficient way of conflict transformation for this project. For me personally it is okay how it is, firstly, because I cannot dedicate more time to the festival planning than I already do. Secondly, I am comfortable within the team structure because I feel that decisions are actually taken on a consensus-based level, if everyone is ready to invest the time that it demands. Being active with the team and in my field of responsibilities co-designs the path.

Now, after this team has formed and transformed, what happens is a shift away from this team towards a larger network. The festival focus is shifting from the organizing team towards the wonderful submissions that we get from the people who thus fill the festival with life. We have announced a protected area for rare peaceful species and now the wild animals are starting to move in! A glimpse on the variety of creatures – with their own cultures, minds, embodiments and souls of peaces – is reflected below this article, sketching some stunning submissions for the different tracks. In all their diversity, they share something which is worded in the conference call, but cannot be reduced to words.

These ideas, visions, methods, studies, experiences and spaces by unique people will be shared mainly in afternoon sessions on the first festival days. In the mornings there will be contributions in the form of lectures by the faculty, namely by Wolfgang Dietrich, Norbert Koppensteiner and Josefina Echavarría Alvarez. Definite schedule points are also a panel discussion on Tuesday evening, an integrative seminar on Wednesday evening and an open space for exchanging, sharing and networking in various ways on Thursday, which I am especially looking forward to. On this same day, alumni-run workshops are open for participants. On Friday, all participants are invited to be part of the workshop ‘Elicitive Motion’ facilitated by Rosalie Kubny, as an invitation to move our bodies with all the experiences made in this more than five-day-long festival – to make it a dance. Of course, the event will be opened and closed by welcoming and concluding ceremonies with an open end for passionate dancers and celebrators. The highlights of these events will yet be announced.

As part of the organizers’ team I am glad and somehow proud of what is happening. My motivation is not to maintain a ritual or a concept, but to offer a space that is alive, a space where it is welcomed to be wild. At the same time, it shall be a space that is held by care and by careful reflection, action and planning. I am happy, because the group of people who is appreciating and enhancing this space is growing – and this is only one of the transitions towards a further opening to come.


A glimpse of what Participants will be offering

Jenny I Jin Jang from South Korea will share her elaborations on postcolonial literature narratives in the Theorist Track. She will discuss how those narratives can be an opportunity of (re)living through marginalized subjectivities and thus a chance for preparing potential elicitive conflict transformation workers to experience energetic and transrational interpretations of peaces. She will particularly focus on the works of Hanif Kureishi’s, Toni Morrison and Park Wansuh, delighting us with her perspectives on these authors.

For the Practitioners Track, Alejandra Barrera Guzmán from Mexico will share her way of using painting and poetry as instruments and artistic expressions of Transrational Peaces. Alejandra has been working with this toolkit in order to support people in finding out some personal deep traces and deep words that emerge from themselves. She believes that on this way people can discover personal aspects at the individual and collective level.

Jana Hornberger from Germany/Ecuador and Julia Metzger-Traber from the USA will offer a “living-metaphor-exercise in creative coexistence” within the Practitioner’s Track. It is called: Living Room(s) – Imagining a shared home of multiplicity. It is based on a six-month-long project that will take place in Berlin and grapples with the questions of belonging, identity, borders, safety and citizenship in Europe.

Matthias Scharpenberg from Germany will enrich the festival with a ‘Talk-Shop’ on empathic mindfulness in conflict transformation. Drawing on Buddhist practices as well as on humanistic psychology, Matthias outlines how beneficial a practice of insight meditation, connecting body, mind and psyche, can be for transforming the relations with ourselves and people around us. With many practical examples he will guide the auditory to possible insightful encounters on the four dimensions of the Theme-Centered Interaction model: I, You/We, It and the Globe.

Paula Ditzel Facci faced the challenge of introducing the idea of many peaces, transrational peace and conflict transformation in very modern and moral surroundings, when she was invited to conduct a training about culture of peace for a NGO. For this purpose she developed a training for educators and students, using an innovative combination of methods. She will hold a peace talk about these experiences, considering the different perceptions and opinions raised during the meetings and will thus help deepening the concepts of peace and conflict in the setting of schools.