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.