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TC «Reconnect and Transform», april, 2018, Georgia. Feedback

TC «Reconnect and Transform», april, 2018, Georgia. Feedback

„This training reminded me that it is not about being or doing, but about the balance of both: To reconnect to yourself, to look inside, and from there transform the world in a meaningful way. The training title became this powerful message for me.“ (Martina from Italy during the evaluation session)

The international training course „Reconnect and Transform“, a joint project of syn:format e.V., Academy for Peace and Development Georgia and six further youth NGOs from Armenia, Belarus, Hungary, Italy, Turkey and Ukraine, funded by the Erasmus+ program, was implemented in April 2018 in the beautiful national park of Lagodekhi, Georgia.

For eight days, 24 participants from these countries had the opportunity to learn about systemic and value-based activism, to strengthen their skills as youth workers and to develop their own project ideas for sustainable transformation in their countries.

On the foot of the caucasus mountain range, in the middle of the oldest protected natural area of Georgia, participants were invited to increase their awareness of the interconnectedness between humans and the natural world and to reflect on their own role in the process of socio-ecological transformation.

Applying experiential and non-formal education methods, the training course opened a space in which participants on the one hand investigated and understood the root causes of the current global social and ecological crises and on the other hand found a powerful personal perspective on their own ability to bring forward positive change in their local context.

While preparing the concept of the training course, facilitators assumed that in order to face the current systemic crises, it is crucial to empower young people to get active in a value-based and systemic way, but also to educate them how to deal with overwhelm, hopelessness and fear in the face of a seemingly unsolvable amount of urgent issues.

This assumption turned out to be true: While almost all of the 24 participants had been active in the social or ecological field before, in the beginning of the training course many of them expressed their feeling of disorientation, powerlessness and insecurity about the effectiveness of their actions.

Through applying the framework of „the work that reconnects“ by Joanna Macy during the 8 days of the course, participants learned to ground themselves in thankfulness for the things they value, to then express and share their negative feelings and see their negative emotions as data for their values, to thirdly look at the crisis with new eyes (from a systemic point of view on „the Great Turning“ and a concept of power in open systems), and to finally go forward by developing their own value-based ideas about their personal contribution to the shift from an industrial to a life-sustaining society.

„I did not think it was possible to contribute to the change I would like to see in my country – but now I have a clear idea on which project I would like to implement, I know which step to do tomorrow and I even have international support.“ (Nazar from Ukraine after the project planning session).

The highlights of the Training Course included a Silent Hiking Tour to reflect on speed and acceleration as part of the systemic crisis and participants relation to time, and a study visit to a local youth education initiative in nearby town Tsnori, which gave an example of a grassroot initaitive which developed and grew organically since it started with a small idea.

In the end, participants themselves on the one hand developed an increased awareness for the need to slow down, reflect, and regenerate themselves reguarly – instead of blindly exhausting themselves in short-term activism. On the other hand they also developed a wide range of project plans: Among them is e.g. a social media campaign on the question of „good life“ and sustainability in Georgia, a sustainable „sensory garden“ and an initiative on sustainable forest management in Italy, workshops on non-violent communication in German schools, and a cooperation of teachers and facilitators to provide education for youngsters in Armenian rural areas.

After 8 days of reconnecting with their own values and dreams, developing capacity to deal with challenging emotions, understanding systemic crisis and systemic solutions, re-defining power, the good life, and their own role in „the Great Turning“ and already taking the first steps towards implementing their own sustainable activities, participants left Lagodekhi with the courage to transform their lives, their communities and countries towards a more sustainable balance of looking inward and acting outside – thereby implementing the life-sustaining culture, which the world is thirsting for.


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