‘The world is on fire and that fire is also here in the room. When groups of 25+ people work together, the larger field in the world is directly impacted.’ The words of Gary Reiss, author of the book Healing History, hit home at the start of an 2-day training called Sitting in the Fire in Amsterdam last weekend amidst the heat of the Coronavirus reaching the shores of the Netherlands.
Dancing with fire
Just one day before the start of the training, on facilitation of heated conversations and conflicts in organizations and communities, the Dutch government announced new strict measures which impacted the preparations of the training. Events with 100+ participants had to be canceled, but we had 40 (local) participants. As organizing team we found ourselves in the fire of decision making. We soon found out that decision making is one of the hot issues at the moment: what is the right decision?
Working with polarization as a team
As a team, working with the tensions, uncertain and polarization in ourselves, the group and the society. Checking in with each other and sharing our feelings and perspectives. In Deep Democracy we give space to the marginalized voices and feelings in ourselves and in groups. Unpopular opinions are invited to the table in order to make better decisions. ‘Sustainable change only happens with the consent of all parts’, Arny Mindell said once. Working with the polarization around our decision to move forward, we arrived at to opposing 2 sides: Side 1:‘yes, continue, don’t give in to the fear so easily’ — versus — Side 2: ‘no, cancel, take your responsibility’. We found a way to flow between these polarities and managed to offer the training for almost all participants, online and offline with extra precautions on site.
Feeling through the screen
Not knowing how many participants would show up and if it would be worthwhile to participate online, we started the training on Saturday morning. 25 participants came on site and 15 joined us online via Zoom. Working with 2–3 camera’s (iPad/iphone/laptop) we managed to give the online group view from different angels. We had the online group on the big screen and would be in touch with them via chat. The person managing the chat would bring in the online questions as they came in. During exercises for subgroups, the online people also went into digital ‘breakout rooms’. Using our devices in the room, on site people could also join in the online breakout rooms. When we came to a large group dialogue, the online group members brought in their voices, stories and showed their positions. Although the experience for online participants is different and has a different energy, we were surprised that almost all participants stayed engaged during the whole training. One participant reflected: ‘I was surprised that I could actually feel through the screen’.