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OASIS a action-learning journey

14 October 2019

I exercise my appreciative gaze in my neighbourhood, looking at the things around me andtrying to discover beauty. It strikes me, as I didn’t notice some of the beauty before. Tree trunks, flowers, the sparkling of the river, even bridges hold beauty when you take the time to discover.

The appreciate gaze is one of the seven steps of the Oasis Game, a methodology to engage a community in a collective dream. The gaze was one of the first preparatory exercises we were given before participating in the Oasis Learning Village, a 10-day training that gave space to youthworkers from all over Europe to play an Oasis Game together with the local community of Bad Gandersheim, Germany.

I was attracted by this seemingly playful method to build communities. I deeply believe in the role of communities towards a more sustainable society and this methodology seemed to have a very action oriented approach. I wanted to experience an Oasis Game myself to see how I can learn from that and build upon the experience, personally and professionally.

Step 1: The Gaze

Shortly after we met the participants from Bad Gandersheim, we walked blindfolded in pairs through the streets of the town, allowing each other to experience the city from a non-visual perspective. It gave me a very positive first impression of the town. The sounds of birds, the smell of flowers everywhere, feeling old stones from the castle, the sense of quietness in the city, the sensations made me feel happy and relaxed. I enjoyed how my companion, Bad Gandersheimer Ralph, enjoyed discovering the town with ‘new eyes’.

The unusual walk created a kind of togetherness, which of course is a foundation of a community feeling. During the first days, we took the gaze to our conversations with the locals, sharing our appreciation of their town and inviting them to see the abundance of beauty and ‘wealth’ you tend not to see anymore after a while.

Step 2: Affection

During the affection phase we were sent out to build genuine relationships with the locals and take time to connect. Initially I felt a conflict between going out with the goal of community building and being authentic and in the moment. But as conversations passed, I felt empathic and listened to – sometimes touching – stories and got to know people’s talents. It felt good and normal to take time for this. In hindsight, this is maybe the phase that taught me the most. Feeling the collective power of so many different people by getting to know them is an eye-opener.

Step 3: Dream

Gradually we started working towards the collective dreams of Bad Gandersheim, by inviting people to share theirs. Surprisingly enough, people’s dreams seem to have a lot in common. Most of the dreams have a vision of coming closer to each other, whether in gardening, events or talking on a bench. We, the group of trainees, too did an exercise to share our dreams. Also during that exercise, the result was a common bigger dream. People share dreams and collectively want to build that dream!

Step 4: Care

Next step was to take care of- and cherish the dream by discussing, planning and collecting theresources. Suddenly Bad Gandersheim felt like a huge depot with unlimited resources. Amazing what people had been collecting and were willing to contribute. But even more amazing was to notice that the impact of the game had grown by now and that, together we had reached a lot of people.

Until now the game was played rather individual or in smaller groups. And that made it hard forme to trust the process. I had no overview, I was a gear in the radar work… As a project coordinator, I’m rarely in that situation. This is where I saw everything coming together. It was very learnful to me to see this kind of group process started to show results.

Step 5: The miracle

I still remember, when the layout of the Oasis Game was presented, I could not imagine how a miracle would look like. Did I witness a miracle? Yes, and that started already during the care phase.

During the game, 3 dreams were conceived. I helped out to build a community garden. That Saturday, when the real work began in the community garden, many people showed up. Some of them had been involved before in the game, others were new. Lots of hands joined to build a community garden, offering a place to enjoy together in Bad Gandersheim. The garden was constructed in 2 days and it looked amazing. A miracle did happen.

Step 6: Celebration

I got to know about The Oasis Game during a workshop were we did some of the celebrativedancing. This methodology emphasizes the importance of celebrating every achievement, every step that has been made. So, everyday you saw us doing a big circle dance in Bad Gandersheim. The importance of this step can not be underestimated. Leaving the scene with a smile, a heart full of joy, allows you to connect again with the intentions and each other. One of the many learnings I took home.

Step 7: Re-evolution

As a final step, everyone that worked on the dreams is gathered to discuss new steps. The purpose of the re-evolution is to keep the initiative alive after the Oasis game ends. I remember the night we left, I passed by the garden to have a last look and saw a group of residents discussing next steps in the garden. Many months later, we are still sent photos showing the evolution of the garden and how it’s being used to enjoy each other’s company.

Heart warming!

Retrospective

The Oasis Learning Village had an impact on me. Besides the Oasis Game, we went through some pretty intense personal and group processes during the training. It has not always been easy to find the space for processing and self care. I also felt that, during these confrontations, I stepped into the learning zone, changing how I look at things and giving me new tools to use in my day to day life

by Dieter (Participant Oasis Learning Village)

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