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26 July 2016

“To dream means to provide the appropriate space and relationship for the expression of the best and deepest aspirations in us all.” (Elos philosophy)

For the last two weekends of February we experienced the Oasis game in Belgium for the first time. A group of volunteers from Act4Change in collaboration with Ghent University and Vzw Jong have adapted the Oasis pilot project to the community of De Muide, a neighbourhood in the  Northern area of Ghent.

The plan was to gather a group of youngsters from De Muide and an external group of students to create a dream together. Creating dreams? We did not have a clue what would  happen! We wanted to find ways to empower the community to give them the right atmosphere to connect with each other and become self-reliant.

As outsiders, we cannot decide what a community wants. Even the youngsters who live there cannot decide for the rest. To mix them with students from the outside was a challenge and an exercise of interaction.

On the first night all participants were receptive and curious, they got to know each other and connect with their surroundings. The next day it was difficult to energise them. There is a point at the beginning of each learning process when the commitment is not strong yet strong enough and attention decreases. However, by reflecting on this as a group we were able to identify reasons why the energy was low and it soon picked up.  Core to Oasis philosophy is that solutions to problems can be found within our own communities, and here it again was proved!

Our task was to inspire participants in how to connect with others in their community. We asked:

  • What are their talents?
  • Why do they live in this way and not another?
  • Who are we as a group?

Having a diverse group of locals and outsiders has its advantages and disadvantages. On one hand it is inspiring for them to learn from each other and their very different perspectives. On the other hand it may be difficult to synthesise these into a common dream.

The group got really empowered when it to the brainstorming and dreaming phase. The process of developing the project is a struggle that strengthens them. Empowerment is a social process, one that the group itself must lead.

By the end of the first weekend we had created a dream to create a social event  from and for the community with food, a workshop, movie night, decoration, promotion and interaction. This dream was relatively small in scale but through building it the community develops trust in working together to realise more ambitious, longer term projects. As we will see this is exactly what happened!

We learned that the way the group is composed is of vital importance. Besides the community itself, the outside participants are key in catching dream. At the end of the game they all have proved to be committed and involved. We were happy to see how readily they took on  responsibility and leadership for the project.

In the end, the group came up with other three different and larger scale dreams to develop afterwards: a street workout space, a talent show and an exchange of services within the community. We are fascinated to see how this will continue and how these three big dreams will link together. A particular test of strength is to see whether the group stay strong and independent enough to take things in hand from now on.

celebration in Muide

One of the great strengths of the Oasis game in community work is that it advocates anappreciative approach. We have witnessed how important is to consider the value of everybody’s different capacities, and how building feedback based on strengths has a bigger impact than criticism.

We all hope we will continue working together throughout the year, having at least 2 or 3 workshops, coming up with new projects or following the dreams we already have.  Through frequent contact we hope to create the conditions for more wonderful surprises.

Ana Díaz – Act4change volunteer

This Blogpost is written by one of the partners of the CEAL-network. CEAL is supported by the Erasmusplus program (find out more here). Want to find out more about the initiatives, CEAL-programs and how we host Community-based Entrepreneurship Action-Learning programs?