Team Syntegrity 2017: edging towards a more liveable world

Is it really enough to ‘like’, ‘follow’, and ‘retweet’ each other’s posts and updates? Or do we need something more – co-produced meeting points and collaborative projects in our real/daily lives?

Armine Ishkanian
14 January 2018


Screenshot: Armine on her significant moments in Team Syntegrity 2017 in the final session at Artchimboldi, Barcelona.

In June last year I had the pleasure of being part of a Team Syntegrity conference hosted by openDemocracy. Until the workshop, I had heard much about the process from my colleague and openDemocracy main site editor, Rosemary Bechler. The main question addressed at the conference was: “In the context of several major interconnected global crises, how can civil society help to renew our democracies to rise to the challenge?” It is a question I helped Rosemary draft and one in which I am very interested.


What most drew me to the Team Syntegrity model was that it combines a non-hierarchical model of engagement with a well-developed system of facilitation and moderation. But before arriving in Barcelona, I couldn’t quite imagine how this system would work in practice. While I had been very much looking forward to the conference, due to some unforeseen complications, I could only join the workshop mid-way. By that time, the group had developed its own unique dynamic, so when I arrived in Barcelona two-days after the workshop had started, I felt as though I was stepping mid-way into an on-going conversation. I would catch snippets of past discussions and interactions and although the participants all welcomed me, I could not shake the feeling that I was more of an observer, rather than a full-fledged participant since I had missed out on the foundational interactions of the first days. Regardless, I could clearly see the earnest and honest discussions that were taking place and the strong connections that had been forged in such a short space of time.


The participants came from different countries across the globe (e.g., from Australia, Wales, and all points in between) and from very different walks of life (e.g., artists, politicians, and entrepreneurs). But once we were together in that space, they brought our energies together to  address not only the main question above, but also to start generating and thinking through various sub-questions including, how do we create safe and inclusive spaces in society and how do we reinvent politics.


In an era of ever-shrinking public spaces (physical and otherwise) and growing intolerance and hate, events which bring together diverse groups of people to debate, to think, and to come up with new ideas and ways of thinking and engaging with others are important. But being a realist (some would say pessimist…), I cannot help but wonder whether and how we can sustain the discussions, connections, and momentum beyond such organised events and conferences?


Some participants have already connected and continue to maintain links with others on social media. But these are individual connections, and is it really enough to ‘like’, ‘follow’, and ‘retweet’ each other’s posts and updates? Or do we need something more – such as co-produced, collaborative projects or meeting points and connections in our real/daily lives? And how can we make this happen when we are so geographically dispersed and immersed in our own work and projects?


Obviously, it is up to each of us to maintain the connections and conversations, to seek new collaborations with people we met through Team Syntegrity, and to show solidarity to one another. For me, openDemocracy is that meeting point, albeit a virtual one, through which this can happen and through which the participants of the Barcelona Team Syntegrity conference can stay in touch.


But ultimately for the process to be meaningful and sustainable, it demands action from each of us and a willingness to continue the conversations we started in Barcelona. So, let’s check-in every once in a while into this space and find ways we can create, what my fellow Team Syntegrity member, Joan Pedro-Caranana called, “a more liveable world”.


Cameron Thibos, Team Syntegrity 2017 photographer. All rights reserved.

Can there be a green populist project on the Left?

Many on the Left want to return to a politics based on class, not populism. They point to Left populist parties not reaching their goals. But Chantal Mouffe argues that as the COVID-19 pandemic has put the need for protection from harm at the top of the agenda, a Left populist strategy is now more relevant than ever.

Is this an opportunity for a realignment around a green democratic transformation?

Join us for a free live discussion on Thursday 22 October, 5pm UK time/12pm EDT.

Hear from:

Paolo Gerbaudo Sociologist and political theorist, director of the Centre for Digital Culture at King’s College London and author of ‘The Mask and the Flag: Populism and Global Protest’ and ‘The Digital Party: Political Organisation and Online Democracy’, and of the forthcoming ‘The Great Recoil: Politics After Populism and Pandemic’.

Chantal Mouffe Emeritus Professor of Political Theory at the University of Westminster in London. Her most recent books are ‘Agonistics. Thinking the World Politically’, ‘Podemos. In the Name of the People’ and ‘For a Left Populism’.

Spyros A. Sofos Researcher and research coordinator at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies, Lund University and author of ‘Nation and Identity in Contemporary Europe’, ‘Tormented by History’ and ‘Islam in Europe: Public Spaces and Civic Networks'.

Chair: Walid el Houri Researcher, journalist and filmmaker based between Berlin and Beirut. He is partnerships editor at openDemocracy and lead editor of its North Africa, West Asia project.

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