The #CoLab489: A Global Citizenship Road to Action
20 participants from 11 countries joined the call to action and participated in the Global Solvers Co-Lab: 489 UN-limited, held from 22 - 27 September 2018 in Aubervilliers (France). Co-organized by the Melton Foundation and the Ernst-Abbe-Stiftung, the #CoLab489 created space for emerging leaders from across sectors and geographies to learn, collaborate, and co-create meaningful solutions to advance sustainable development.
Here is a day-to-day account of what happened, narrated by the participants themselves ...
Day 1: Saturday, September 22nd
The #CoLab489 kicked off on Saturday the 22nd of September with an opening evening session.This session allowed for the participants to gently get introduced to each other through a serious of name games, icebreakers and team building activities such as ‘Where in the World’ where participants were challenged to create a map of the world using tape. This allowed the group to identify which areas of the world were represented at the Co-Lab and to highlight which countries could not be there for a variety of reasons including visa issues. Following this, the Melton Foundation Program Director Lars Dietzel formally welcomed the group to the event. Lars reiterated the aims and purpose of the program and introduced the partners/trainers involved. The evening session came to a close by the group being invited to create their intention for the Global Solvers Co-Lab: 489 UN-limited.
Day 2: Sunday, September 23rd
The first full day started with an atmosphere of curiosity and expectation, to learn about each other, problem solving and the community that is around us.
We began the Co-Lab day with an amazing energizer activity that helped us to get to know each other better. We held an icebreaker activity where we got together in pairs sitting back to back. One person had to describe a picture while the other person had to draw according to the description, without knowing what was on the picture. This activity focused on teaching the Global Solvers about intercultural communication and showcased how sometimes various lines of communication can get misinterpreted. We then teamed up in groups of 5-6 with the task to explore the host community Aubervilliers through the lens of SDGs 4, 8 and 9. Following our debrief using the iceberg model, Stephanie Kirwan from Development Perspectives introduced us to the Bennett Model of Cultural Competency to reflect our position when faced by a different culture.
In the afternoon, we took part in a session to unpack the interconnectedness between the SDGs, learned about changing systems, and reflected on our role and responsibilities when we need to solve a problem. We then were introduced to foundations and their role and relevance in Germany, coupled with insights about the work and impact of the Ernst-Abbe-Stiftung, one of the Co-Lab sponsors. Next, some solvers presented their work using the Pecha Kucha style, a unique way of presenting a topic through storytelling and images. Coupled with a poster showcase, we had the opportunity to explore the various SDG projects that each Global Solver is working on back home.
Day 3: Monday, September 24th
We moved to Villa Mais d’Ici, a local arts project with a beautiful garden and a stage room, which was perfect for our sessions. The day started out with an icebreaker to energize and excite the group. Service and Care was next, where we split into three groups to help set up the room, mapped out a communications plan for the day, or seized the opportunity to wind down in a self-care space. And then, the work for the day began: Project Visits in and outside Aubervilliers to learn about local initiatives, the work they do, and the challenges they face. In preparation for the visit, we were briefed on the two organizations we would visit later and discussed possible questions we would ask to deepen our understanding of their work and their impact on the community. During the discussion, we actively recalled the previous day’s session about interconnectedness of the SDGs and how they influence each other.
Armed with curiosity and wonder, we set out at 11:45am to our respective destinations: Les Poussières in Aubervilliers and Konexio in Paris. We picked up lunch on the way …and it was delicious.
The team visiting Konexio met with the CEO and Co-Founder Jean Guo. She happily welcomed us and after a short introduction round, she took us through the nuts and bolts of the work her organization is doing. Konexio offers ICT and computer literacy trainings to migrants and refugees and thus empowers them to be self-sustainable, gradually accelerating their long term inclusion and integration into society.
At Les Poussières, the team learnt about how art can be used to empower youth and further civic engagement in local communities. An annual lantern festival is the largest and most popular event organized by Les Poussieres, which connects the Aubervilliers community in an intimate manner.
After the field trips, the teams headed back to the hotel to enjoy their well-deserved free evening. Of course the main attraction was to visit the Eiffel Tower and the Louvre. C’etait fantastique!
Day 4: Tuesday, September 25th
After three days full of activities and learning, our energy levels descend a bit. Or maybe more than a bit: It becomes a little difficult to get up, some of us even skip breakfast just to stay a few more minutes cozy in bed. But as we get accustomed to a new day, see other participants’ faces, or engage in a conversation, the energy was up in no time. It is impossible for us to not become inspired with all the motivation that the Co-Lab’s environment offers.
On Tuesday, we took a nice morning walk to Villa Mais d’Ici, which maybe was not so nice for our Global Solvers from Ghana, because it was quite a chilly morning. At Villa Mais d’Ici we had a feedback session around our field trips the day before. We shared in groups our main take-aways from the inspiring conversations and the thoughts that we will take home with us. Then at lunchtime, the community of Villa Mais d’Ici surprised us with organic food. To accompany our meal, a teacher from Aubervilliers joined us and shared her experiences with the project Anthropology for All that she initiated, as well as the challenges that teaching in a school with children from more than 70 countries present.
In the afternoon, the Design Challenge was on: By creating wallets and purses for each other, we got into the depths of Design Thinking and Human Centered Design. It brought many laughs, but also many learnings on the process of designing anything, from wallets to projects. To close our day, we had our much-awaited Cultural Night with guests from Villa Mais d’Ici and Aubervilliers joining us. We shared food, music, dances, and stories from our countries, and Co-Lab participants from Ghana, United States, and Peru were brave enough to stand on stage! And like that, our fourth day in Aubervilliers came to an end.
Day 5: Wednesday, September 26th
It was time for the global solvers to move from their idea stage to prototype stage. The solvers spent the day being hard at work designing and demonstrating how their project would have a sustainable impact in their community. Through the use of an empathy map, the group explored their ideas at their current stage. This was necessary in order to scale their ideas going forward. Following many hands on activities, the group finished their afternoon activities with a road map, a plan and a commitment to action upon return to their home communities. In order to achieve the SDGs, action is necessary, and this was highlighted throughout the sessions.
Following the commitment to action, the group took part in one final activity for the evening: A Hero’s Journey. This allowed us to reflect on their journeys as active citizens to date. It also allowed us to reflect on the process of the Co-Lab and look forward to what steps they will take as they continue their journey of activism.
Day 6: Thursday, September 27th
As our #CoLab489 was slowly coming to a close, we spent the final morning reflecting on the program and evaluating the activities. The group session took place in a local park close by our accommodations. We opened the activity with a group reflection whereby each global solver had the opportunity to express key points of reflection from the week. Then, the group was invited to individually spend some time in nature and bring back a representative ‘gift’ which they would like to leave with the group to offer support and solidarity. This was followed by an evaluation session in order to determine key learnings for the team going forward
The session was closed with the distribution of certificates to all the global solvers for taking part in the program.
The Co-Lab may be over, but the journey continues …..