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Review: Oasis Learning Village

1 July 2019

From dream
to reality on two weekends, this challenge was presented to the residents of
Bad Gandersheim in Germany and guests from 6 EU countries. Many said the first
it is not possible – and were quite surprised what power arises when many
people of different origins and ages tackle a common challenge.

Participants of 6 Eu Countries coming together

After a
first day of arrival, getting to know each other, basic introductions and
teambuilding of the community of players from the different EU Countries, the
challenge of the oasis game started to invite and mobilize the community to
dream together and co-create. In the spirit of learning by doing the
participants were challenged going out looking for beauties and resources and
as well to get to know the people around. For the residents of Bad Gandersheim,
the oasis game began at their doorstep or on the street when an oasis player
spontaneously addressed them to ask you about the beauties of Bad Gandersheim
or asked them for their talents and invited them for one of the public
community meetings to participate in the oasis game.

The first
public self-organized meeting by the oasis players with the neighborhood was a
talent show. The oasis players are the hosts; prepare the program, decoration,
atmosphere and place. Everyone is invited to share his or her talents. At first,
shyness and disbelieving comes up by the question what is your talent – or what
can you do well? Then a colorful entertaining afternoon ensues and the stage
fills with songs and music, artisanship, arts, sports demonstrations and much
more. It shows everyone has talents, the collective appreciation of these feels
good. Surprisingly new talents in the community were discovered and the basic
ideas of ​​the oasis game were introduced to the community. Followed by time to
get to know each other and exchange first ideas about dreams of the community.

Celebration of the Talentshow

The search
for the dreams and even more after the collective dreams of a neighborhood is
central to the oasis game. When people are asked about their dreams for their
immediate living environment – time, space can stop for a moment, and a special
space of opportunity opens up. People grow larger in response for a moment,
growing beyond themselves – dreams give wings. By intensive dialogs far more
than 100 dreams, ideas and wishes of residents were collected. The challenges
for the oasis players to deal with the diversity of the place and capture it as
far as possible: young / old, people with a refugee background, people with
migration history, longtime residents and newcomers and how do host a good
authentic dialogue about dreams.

Searching for dreams

By getting
know the dreams, ideas and wishes of the community, the oasis game does not
stop- it really starts. The challenge for the neighborhood to choose one or more
collective dreams together and to realize them together in the shortest
possible time on the following weekend, with the power of many hands and with
the resources that could be mobilized in the neighborhood.

Procject meeting with the community

For the
next meeting with the neighborhood on Tuesday, the collected dreams were
evaluated and categorized to introduce them to the community. During the meeting,
3 dreams were favored out of the many by the community: to build a community
garden, benches and seating with the project name “optimist benches”
and as a third project a new space for culture and music. Together models were
made of the projects to get an idea of ​​the possible implementation and to
include the exact design ideas of as many as possible. Local gardeners and
local residents, due to the question if the project could be realized in 2
days, gave advice.

Designing together

Presentation of the design

model of the community garden

After the
first intensive days in Bad Gandersheim, the participants of the EU Youthworker
Mobility had time to take a deep breath and reflect on the experiences and the
methodological background of the Oasis Game, Community Entrepreneurship and
Facilitation.

Then started
Thursday the planning and resource mobilization phase, starting with the search
for the required resources and talents in the neighborhood. Who has wood,
earth, plants, tools, shovels, screws, nails, paint and much more to realize
the dreams? Who could actively support with his talent on the weekend? What are
the places, areas, spaces where the dreams could be realize? The participants
of the EU Youthworker Mobility together with the community planned strategies
of how to organize the structure of the collective hand-on, how to mobilize the
community and how to ensure that the different needs of the community are
represented. Everyone ´s help is welcomed and the invitation to help for a
specific activity or to help with materials is opening many new contacts in the
community. Thus, the number of people involved grew constantly to much more
than 100 people who shared their ideas, actively help or gave their tools and resources.

Place of the garden before

working toether in the new community garden

On Friday
afternoon, the hands-on (miracle phase) started in a large heavily overgrown
garden at St. George’s Church. Over the last night, the owners gave its last
minute OK that the future community garden of Bad Gandersheim can arise. With
the power of many hands, the work began to make the garden accessible again. In
a workshop that took place at the weekend instead of began work in Parallel at
another place with equipment to work with wood the work started to build the
optimist benches. Another team took care of the food and cooked for all helpers
this weekend. Another group continued to pursue the dream of creating a space
for music and culture. As it was not possible for this weekend to find a
suitable space, quickly as alternative to make the essence of the dream happen the
idea of ​​a “pop-up living room” on the cathedral square was
developed. An open-air living room where people passing by can talk to each
other in a cozy atmosphere. A special challenge to get to know each other was
the one-minute eye contact challenge.

constructing the optimist benches

Pop-Up Living Room event

The images
can give an impression of the transformation of the garden, where there was
still overgrown area, potatoes were already planted together on Sunday. Even
though to feel the atmosphere with which intensity co-creatively was worked
together and a lot of new ideas were added and realized during the process with
the participation of young and old as well as different cultures, is difficult
to put into words. Thus, the garden was redesigned with a cozy fireplace,
sandpit with Tippi as a playground for kids, wooden lounger as a quiet place in
the vinegar tree forest, a small stage for culture and music and the self-built
“Optimist benches”.

Optimist benches

Sandplace for kids

On Sunday
afternoon at the opening ceremony, the garden was filled with people. The aim
was to celebrate the joint achievement and to appreciate the contributions of each
individual. In a collective naming process the garden was named “oasis
garden”. The results went far beyond the notions of each one individually,
were surprising and let people not without a few tears of emotion recognizing
the power of the jointly achieved. A special touching atmosphere of community
was in the air, which was cultivated over the course of the process.

Opening celebration of the garden

In addition
to the visible material result that the oasis game leaves behind in a very
short time, the social dimension and collaborative learning experience have to
be seen as an invisible special treasure the process. Because the end of an
oasis game process marks only the beginning of new networking, connections,
cooperation, confidence building and cooperation to tackle other bigger dreams
of the community together in the future. The oasis game calls this final and
new starting point the phase re-evolution. Looking back together to appreciate
the common experience and the learned to appreciate and internalize.

The
participants now had time to look back on the learning experience, to reflect,
to develop ideas how the learned can be applied to their own context, connect
the learnings to current common challenges in youth work and social work in
Europe as working with diversity, inclusion of people with a refugee background
and revitalization of rural areas. Moreover, it was the time to dream together
about new Initiatives and bigger. The closure of the oasis game was a meeting
on monday night for the re-evolution with the neighborhood in Bad Gandersheim. Inspirational
stories were shared what happened in other places in the world where an oasis
game had taken place in the long term. Then it was time to dream new and bigger
and set up a plan with joint actions for the next month / in 3/6 months. Finally,
it meant farewell to the guests from 6 EU countries after 10 intense days.

The playful
and welcoming atmosphere, the short-term nature and the character of a
challenge is especially inviting young people to participate in an oasis game.
The vibrancy and spontaneity of the weekend by working together have surprised
many young people from their small town, which they described as sleepy at the
beginning of the project. The experience showed what is possible with a social
entrepreneurial attitude by just start doing and co-creating.  The oasis game can create an atmosphere and
opportunity to experience and make tangible our basic social values ​​such as
respect, empathy, helpfulness and solidarity. The welcoming and invitational
attitude of the oasis game, regardless of political, social, migration or
refugee background, age, disability and gender, to work together for a concrete
concern in the local context, can contribute creating new experiences beyond
the everyday barriers of group affiliation and prejudice and such strengthen
inclusion.

Each phase
of the Oasis game offers specific challenges, learning experiences, and new
perspectives for participants and residents beyond the daily routine, giving
the chance in testing and cultivating new attitudes and behaviors:

 1.
Develop an appreciative gaze of oneself, others and the environment.

2. To
recognize, appreciate and connect local talents, resources and potentials.

3. Hosting
dream conversations synchronize ideas and integrating different perspectives.

4.
Carefully plan strategies for the implementation of the dream while being attentive
with yourself, others and the collective dream.

5.
Co-Creative Collaboration: experiencing the power of working hands-on together
towards the realization of collective dreams. Achieving goals short-term
together in a spectacular and fun way.

6. Celebration
of the collective achieved and the contribution of each individual.

7.
Integration and internalization of new experiences and learnings. Realizing together
new and bigger dreams

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