This training process guide is an excerpt from Building Power: A Guide for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders Who Want to Change the World. You can download the full guide from Original Power.
To identify local stories, people, experiences, values, skills and knowledge that have made a contribution to positive change in the local community.
40 mins to 2 hours depending on the facilitator and the group.
A Note to Facilitators
Here’s an alternative to lecturing about a topic when you want important information to be transmitted: have people find their own successful experience! This tool uses individual work, small groups and then large group to help the group access its own wisdom about a particular topic (you decide the topic based on the eliciting questions you use: fundraising, carrying out a successful protest, leading a group, overcoming a challenge).
It is validating and empowering to learn from our own experience. Most people can re- member a positive experience from their own lives and use it. The learning becomes reinforced by sharing it with others (reflection) and by being anchored in a larger framework (generalisation).
The timing of this exercise important. Because it involves closing eyes and relaxing doing it after a big lunch or at night may not be the best time. Morning is good.
When speaking slow down. Speak with a clear and even tone of voice, not too soft nor too loud. During the relaxation and recall section use repetition and silence to give people time to recall an experience.
Visualisations can be used either at the beginning, middle or the end of the experiential learning circle. They are very effective for recalling a previous experience, for imagining a new experience, or as part of a process of anchoring learning – connecting new theory to their own reality. Visualisations can also be used powerfully as a way for supporting people to imagine how they might practice a new behaviour.
How it is Done
- Explain that the focus of the closed eye exercise will be about identifying the local stories people, experiences, values, skills and knowledge that have enabled or contributed to positive change in the local community.
- Ask “how many of you can remember a local person, they might still be alive or they may have passed on, who acted powerfully and something changed as a result? You might have known that person or you might have been told stories about them. They might be well known or their story might be an example of hidden resistance. It might be one person or it could have been a small group of people. The most important thing is that they acted powerfully and something changed as a result. It could be a big thing that changed or it might have been a small thing.”).
- Don’t announce you will do a visualisation or closed eye exercise. Announcing the intention to do a closed eye or visualisation exercise beforehand may alienate those who have not come across the technique before. Instead simply do it without naming it as a visualisation exercise.
- Form sharing groups (3-4 in a group, maybe 5). But don’t start sharing yet. First we will recall a story we will share with our group. Ask groups to decide who will share first, second, third ….
- Before we tell our stories ask people to get comfortable, we are going to do a small relaxation exercise (deep breathing, letting go of tension in body). Make sure there are no distractions and ensure there is sufficient time. “Find a position that is comfortable, sitting or lying down. “If you feel comfortable doing so…” (depends on participants and context – see below) “you may wish to close your eyes. Now draw your attention to your breathing. Focus on breathing in and out. Listen to the sound of your breath. Notice the sounds around you but one by one let it go. If you find yourself distracted return your attention to your breathing. In … and out…. In … and out…. In … and out…. No need to control your breathing, just observe it. In … and out…. In … and out….”
- Body sensations. “I am now going to ask you to be aware of certain sensations in your body that you are feeling at this present moment, but of which you are not explicitly aware…. Be aware of the touch of your clothes on your shoulders …. Now become aware of the touch of your clothes on your back, or of your back touching the back of your chair you are sitting on…. Now be aware of the feel of your hands as they touch each other or rest on your lap…. Now become conscious of your thighs or your buttocks pressing against your chair…. Now the feel of your feet touching your shoes…. Now become explicitly aware of your sitting posture….
“Once again: your shoulders… your back… your right hand… your left hand… your thighs… your feet… your sitting posture.
“Again: shoulders… back… right hand… left hand… thighs… feet… sitting posture.
“Continue to go round by yourself now, moving from one part of your body to the other. Do not dwell for more than a couple of seconds on each part, shoulders, back, thighs etc…. Keep moving from one to the other, noticing any tension and seeking to relax by tightening the muscles and then letting go…
(Option: count down 1 to 10). “As you bring your attention to different parts of your body I am going to count down 10 to one. 10, 9 – becoming slowly relaxed. 8,7,6 – becoming more and more relaxed. 5,4,3 – relaxing more and more. 2,1 – now you are very relaxed. (Remember to count back up to ten when you bring people back. Always bring people back out the same way you take them in).
- Recalling. “I invite you to remember a time when a local person, or group of people, acted powerfully and something changed as a result ….” (Give people some space to recall an event or to imagine something). “If you find yourself remembering more than one time like that, choose one for this exercise”. Bring this image / event it as vividly to mind as possible” Use all the senses: What did you see? What did you hear? What sensations of touch do you remember? What did you feel? What did you taste or smell?”
Repeat a few times to give people time to recall or remember something. Allow silence and space between each repetition.
Now for the punch line: “What qualities or characteristics of that person, or group of people, enabled them to do that?” “What lessons did you draw from that experience for your own learning?”
Invite people to reflect on this silently by themselves for a few moments. Repeat the instruction again.
- Bring people back the reverse way you took them in. Conclude with “Now when you are ready open your eyes and re-form the circle.” Wait till everyone is back before commencing to the next process. If someone is taking a long time, gently ask them to come back and to be present by opening their eyes.
- Allow a few minutes of quiet time – writing, drawing or sitting silently – in order to accept and integrate what they have experienced.
- Small group sharing. Walk them through this, announcing amount of time per person. The larger the workshop, the more important to be formal and insistent on this. (It may not be culturally appropriate to walk them through individual time limits; in that case, tell them how much total group time they have and announce “You’ve used one-third of your time,” “You’ve used two-thirds of your time.”)
- Whole group sharing. Use newsprint to “harvest” from individuals. Identify the story as well as the skills and knowledge implicit in the story. It may be necessary to say that we don’t need agreement at this point; the main thing is that there’s a chance for individuals to put forward their perspective. This is a good chance for the facilitator to frame (or add context) to what people have shared, in order to anchor it more securely for learning. It might be worth lifting up the fact that people have made change, or resisted, and that people’s lives have changed for the better as a result. That change might not have been sufficient to turn the situation around but it is always significant. They are seeds of fire. Whenever possible, connect people’s comments to general principles, or to emerging themes in the workshop. A brief story or anecdote may work well here. Often it’s possible to describe briefly a resource, like a book or an article or a hand-out. In conclusion, be sure to invite people to study the list of skills and knowledge, including values or principles that the group has identified. Perhaps read the list out loud…. For the musically and artistically inclined you may want to write a song or paint a picture based on this list.
- From here there are a number of options – to look more at tactics/activities/what people do to bring about change and then explore strategy. Another option is to move into an exploration and analysis of the problem in order to devise a powerful strategy. It all depends on where the group is at really.
Download the full Building Power guide from Original Power.
- Aboriginal Australians
- Capacity building
- Indigenous peoples
- Movements_Campaigns - Self determination
- Movements_Campaigns – Racism_Racial justice
- Torres Strait Islanders