|Social Artistry™ In Action
Over the years social artists have created and facilitated projects that have changed lives and contributed to cultural transformation around the globe, through the emerging discipline in leadership development founded by Dr. Jean Houston. Below are several stories of this work.
Zambia Social Artistry™
Social Artistry™ in Nepal
Making a Difference for Young World Leaders
Green Justice Project
The Train Station and Tree of Reconciliation
Safeguarding Non-Licensed Counseling in Washington State
Diabetes In Teenage Youth
Additional Social Transformation Projects
In 2008, using grant money from the Jean Houston Foundation, MariElena Granger taught a dynamic three-day workshop to thirty enthusiastic adult men and women in Zambia. She reports: “There were school teachers, people from the community, youths, an HIV counselor, and the director of Bumi Bwesu Youth Centre, which literally translates to "Our Health.” The students were a courageous, intelligent, well-educated, and sophisticated group who have lived through bleak times in Zambia.”
By 2010, the students were ready for the eight-day “Training of Teachers” course. Seven of them graduated as teachers and thirteen as assistant teachers. MariElena explains, “I am so excited that, after three years, the outreach teaching has begun. In February of 2011, four basic outreach classes were taught to eighty students - taught to Zambians by Zambians.”
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SOCIAL ARTISTRY™ IN NEPAL
Nepal recently emerged from ten years of violent political conflict during which more than 14,000 people were killed. Many people gave up hope. Tatwa Timsina, head of the Institute of Cultural Affairs Nepal (ICA Nepal) and Social Artistry™ Leadership Trainer explained, “Many other NGOs’ ways of working were not inclusive of our own cultural and traditional practices. But Social Artistry™ principles are quite simple and related to our own context. Social Artistry™ gives hope to people with difficulties.”
Nepal, one of the least developed countries in the global community which suffers from devastating poverty, hunger, and HIV/AIDS, is engaged in a critical transition period where there is serious need to grow leadership for social development. Tatwa described his vision for the future of Nepal through the use of Social Artistry™. “Because of this political movement our political leaders have grown up very quickly and not all of them probably have training that would be helpful. Social Artistry™ could train them enabling them to take their responsibility in an efficient way, as they don’t have much time to go back to school and start studying. This can be done in a nominal time period if Social Artistry™ is applied. Social Artistry™ can enable them to develop knowledge, skills and attitudes that can help them build the nation.” The Social Artistry™ project in the village of Devdaha in Western Nepal is one example of the social transformation that has occurred with this approach.
In 2005 a Social Artistry™ project was initiated. Although funds were lacking in the beginning, within 3 years the village showed dramatic systemic change. Tatwa described what happened: “People were disconnected. Nobody talked to each other in the beginning because most of them were migrants from a remote area and they did not know each other much. Also, they belonged to different ethnic groups. We started forming groups, applying SA concepts, developing the plan and implementing the activities. Now they have strong groups. Resources were scarce. They created a system of resource generation. Many people were illiterate. Now the literacy rate is improved from 30% to 60%. There was no market in the area. Now there is a market. Unemployment was severe. Now it is much reduced. This is the social regenesis that we can see in this village because of the implementation of Social Artistry™.” As a seasoned leadership trainer Tatwa described his surprise about the outcome of the use of Social Artistry™: “People can transform their own lives. They don’t wait for the government. They start doing their own development. There is so much participation and enthusiasm.”
Tatwa stressed the importance of the process: “We didn’t do it all at once. We did orientation and formed the groups of the community. We did all the Social Artistry™ concepts. The community met and made a plan for the community based on Social Artistry™. Then they made the committees and started implementing the activities mentioned in the Social Artistry™ whole systems plan. Our role was facilitator and human capacities building. ICA started helping in generating resources and there was strong communication between the group and ICA. For me, it looks like a model of development at the micro-level by applying Social Artistry™.”
In 2004 Tatwa participated in Social Artistry™ Leadership Training Programs. In 2005 he started an innovative Social Artistry™ Program in Nepal. Since that time he has been doing Social Artistry™ training through the Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA). Tatwa described the difference between the ICA training and the Social Artistry™ approach: “The ICA approach is focused on the external side of the community. We use a formal agenda and have a participants share ideas through brainstorming processes using markers and meta-cards. Sometimes this looks more mechanical rather than emotional. Social Artistry™ uses a whole systems approach. It is more about human capacities–our psychological, mythical and historical dimension. That part is more internal. In Social Artistry™ we incorporated our Nepali songs, stories, games, dances, and our internal dimension to the ICA training. That helped make our program more lively, results-oriented and closer to our culture. In Social Artistry™ we used our own body, history and story more. Learning has become more effective. Social Artistry™ benefited our work in Nepal.” Tatwa concluded “What a good mix! We have definitely benefited a lot from both approaches. After two large trainings we are supporting Social Artistry™ in several training institutes here.”
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has committed to develop millions of skillful leaders all over the world. Social Artistry™ is one of the approaches that can contribute to developing capable leaders globally. Tatwa stated “As part of this global movement in Nepal we want to apply Social Artistry™ in a mass scale demonstrating visible results of systemic change.” Email: Tatwa@ica-nepal.org. To learn more about the projects in Nepal go to http://www.globalgiving.org/4319.
MAKING A DIFFERENCE FOR YOUNG WORLD LEADERS
“As leaders, part of your job is to inspire those who may not be inspired. When you inspire others you offer hope, possibility and new ideas.”
Young world leaders gathered at the UN March 2006 for a conference organized by Dr. Anele E. Heiges, O.P. The Young World Leaders Conference (YWLC) provided Social Artistry™ education and tools to prepare the youth for their part in world leadership. It was springtime--a season of freshness, renewal and awakening. Twenty-seven people from 6 continents, 12 countries and many cultures gathered. Participants were mostly in their 20’s. The youngest member was 20 yrs old from the Aeta peoples of northern Philippines and eleven others were from indigenous cultures. Here’s one story of conference results. This is just the beginning!
“I am Doreen Onsarigo from Mombasa, Kenya. After meeting with YWLC leadership I created a business plan to set up my own wedding dress sewing business and took classes in accounting and marketing before leaving USA. With a grant from Anele in August 2007 I bought an excellent sewing machine that works both with electricity and manually. Electricity shuts off frequently in my poor section of Mombasa. So now I am pedaling to success. At this time my small wedding dress sewing industry is underway as a direct result of YWLC. With my flourishing business there is too much for one person to do alone so I will soon become the employer of more seamstresses. My next plan is to obtain a university education and later work to be elected to the local government in Kenya. I also intend to create women’s circles and teach the YWLC tools in South Africa.”
In December 2007 when Mombasa “blew up” Doreen was robbed of much material and supplies. She saved the sewing machine by quickly carrying it into hiding. Anele found another small grant to help Doreen rebuild her business that is now doing even better than before. During the terrible troubled weeks of late December 2007 and January-February 2008 she was often trapped at home without food but was encouraged by cell phone calls from Agnes Ndetei and Anele. Agnes Ndetei is a Parliamentary re-election candidate, Kibwezi Region and was a member of the YWLC core planning group. The community they created during the YWLC was a lifeline for Doreen during those harrowing days. Email Dr. Heiges: firstname.lastname@example.org
GREEN JUSTICE PRISON PROJECT
Marguerite Shinouda founded the Green Justice Project (GJP) with applied processes learned in both the Mystery School and Social Artistry™ programs. The Green Justice Project is a non-profit prison program that weaves together “green-collar jobs” and human capacities trainings. The goals of the project are to teach inmates a meaningful livelihood, assist them in obtaining these professions as they re-enter society, and educate society on this program’s value.
The benefits are multi-layered. Studies show that job training can reduce recidivism as much as 67%. This is a two-fold benefit to communities: they become safer with the reduction in crime while simultaneously reducing the taxpayers’ burden by $40,000 per inmate per year. With “green jobs” the Green Justice Project aims at another two-fold benefit: as ex-offenders engage in a meaningful profession they will also contribute to the health of the planet.
The least quantifiable but perhaps greatest benefit is retrieving the creative human potential that dwells within our society’s forgotten members. At this moment nearly 3,000,000 Americans are incarcerated--almost 1% of our population. But imbedded in this tragedy is an opportunity unique to inmates: they have the time and lack of distraction to delve deep within; to transform the dark night into their own “Hero’s Journey.” Gandhi and Mandela emerged from their imprisonment with profound insights that changed their worlds forever. What artists and visionaries might emerge from our prisons if given just a sliver of a chance?
Marguerite’s passion for this work ignited as she watched an innocent friend tried and convicted for murder. During this challenging experience Marguerite utilized her Social Artistry™ training to call upon a powerful archetype, the Hindu Goddess Durga. With the aid of this fierce, protective Warrior-Mother Marguerite was able to take greater leaps of courage than ever before. Now she brings that courage to an even larger vision.
“We’ll bring our first training to a New York prison and measure our success with the reduction of recidivism in our graduates” states Marguerite. “Then within five years GJP will expand to other prisons nationwide. I’ve already had invitations to bring this program to Oakland, Nashville, and Vancouver. I’m thrilled but first we must demonstrate the success of our pilot project. My passion is to help people who have been outcast to find new purpose while contributing to their communities and the planet.” To become a GJP team member contact Marguerite at email@example.com.
THE TRAIN STATION AND TREE OF RECONCILIATION
In April 2005, sixty years after WW II ended, many articles and programs described what happened to concentration camp prisoners at the end of the war. The SS and Nazi soldiers in their panic emptied the camps. Many prisoners were piled into a few cargo trains and sent off with no destination. For almost thirty years Judy Grosch and her husband had been living in a small village in Bavaria. When she realized that these transport trains had passed through her village she felt shocked and ashamed and decided that she needed to do something. Using her Social Artistry™ skills and extensive background in creating rituals, she organized a Train Station Ceremony in which people from diverse backgrounds came together to share their stories. For the past four years this ceremony has become an annual event.
In 2008, Judy’s planning team approached the town council of Bernreid with the suggestion to plant a tree as a memorial. The council chose to plant an apple tree that was secretly cultivated from smuggled apple seeds by a priest while imprisoned in Dachau. Dr. Max Mannheimer, president of the Dachau Society who had been interned in Auschwitz and Dachau and had been in the train that had stopped in their village for 48 hours, conducted the ceremony. During the ceremony, an 82 year-old woman who had been ordered to work at the train station when she was 19 became overwhelmed by her emotions as she shared her story of seeing hundreds of ravaged prisoners. When Dr. Mannheimer stood up to thank her for telling her story his words were choked by his feelings. In this incredible moment of utter compassion it was as though time stood still and all ill feelings one had ever harbored were swept away.
Grosch reports: “We as a group became pure presence. After having walked up and down the entire length of the track we spread out and together placed our flowers and candles on the ground. Then we stepped back opening ourselves to a beautiful embracing silence. Many wept but very quietly. It was the first time that this village had wept together. Men and women, young and old wept for all the suffering that had been covered so many years with a thick and silent blanket. We picked up the candles and flowers and lined then up along the station building and went around to the small meadow in front to plant our tree.”
SAFEGUARDING NON-LICENSED COUNSELING IN WASHINGTON STATE
Miriam Dyak and Kate Abbot used their Social Artistry™ skills to find an innovative solution to a critical local issue: safeguarding non-licensed counseling in the state of Washington. Their work resulted in systemic change in state government and sourced deeper levels of their human potential in the process. In 2007 they created the Washington Professional Counselors Association as an organization of private practice registered (i.e. not licensed) counselors. Working through this organization they succeeded in stopping a bill, which was based on sloppy journalism and distorted statistics. The bill was considered a bullet train and would have completely eliminated ethical counselors providing service to roughly 200,000 people a year.
They went into legislative battle with about 14 active members and a credential title that had been destroyed in the press leaving people with the idea that none of them had any education and that they were all essentially dangerous crackpots. In the process of facing the culmination of a ten-year effort to put registered counselors out of business they kept focused on creating a workable bill that would raise standards and safeguard the services provided by non-licensed counselors. On March 25, 2007 Governor Christine Gregoire signed that bill into law.
In reflecting on the value of Social Artistry™ in working with the legislature Miriam states “Social Artistry™ gave us a new more powerful range of gears to shift into. We continually discovered new ways of viewing, voicing and embodying our position. As a result of the innovative leadership training we had access to much deeper wells from which to draw our nourishment. When we defeated the bill last year there were lobbyists and staffers who had been watching us and expressed incredulity at how effective we had been while continuing to be nice…and standing our ground without going after anyone else’s. We genuinely saw ourselves as seeding a new consciousness in how to affect state government. We kept hearing from people how we were restoring their faith in the political process…The amazing transformational processes of the Social Artistry™ trainings were the nourishment and jet fuel that helped propel us to this success!” www.thevoicedialoginstitute.org
DIABETES IN TEENAGE YOUTH
In 1987 Diabetes Nurse Educator Janice Luckenbill, RN., CDE who initiated and managed a diabetes program in a general hospital for over 25 years, applied her training in The Cultivation of Human Capacities (a precursor to the Social Artistry™ Program) to her work with adolescents living with diabetes. She explained “…my hope was that by using the Hero’s Journey and developing processes for the teenagers they could begin to see the disease as a call to being a hero rather than placing them in the position of being a victim.” For ten years Janice used a week-long camp for children and teens with diabetes to create an innovative program that enabled participants to transform their experience of and attitude toward their disease. Using stories such as The Secret Garden and the Star Wars Trilogy she showed teens how they could understand their disease on the mythological level—the storytelling level. “The sense of wounding, victimization and isolation continues to perpetuate itself. When there can be a connection with a larger story–I am not the only one–this was really helpful for the teenagers.”
She took the Star Wars Trilogy and put it into one journey so that teens could begin to be aware of what was occurring at the time that they were diagnosed—the call to be a hero. Using a variety of exercises teens recalled and explored the time of their call. The refusal of the call examined all the ways they couldn’t see any good coming from the diagnosis. The process of gathering both internal and external allies included working with an intense obstacle course that provided the teens with a direct experience of their physical capacities and their ability to work through difficult places. Janice worked with The Lay Diabetic Society—an organization in her community that was started by people with diabetes—as well as nurses, doctors, dieticians, parents, the camp staff and staff from a local pharmaceutical company. Janice described some of the results of her work as “…they stopped seeing themselves as being victims. Many of them—as they moved into adulthood—took on professions. They seem to have chosen professions of service…” Now more diabetes educators are starting to look at the need for different ways of doing things. At the time she was doing her program it was too far removed from the traditional medical model. Janice stated “Last summer at the National Diabetes Educators Meeting I had a lot of people wanting to see [my program] in writing. So this may be the time for it to be written.”
Joy Jinks and Karen Kimbrel are social artists who have created a national model of community development through arts, culture and heritage. In their small town of 2,000 people in a rural county of 6,500 located in Southwest Georgia, they have created a cultural tourism initiative that brings 40,000 visitors to town. Swamp Gravy, Georgia’s Folk-Life Play was an idea birthed at Mystery School in 1990 when Joy Jinks met Richard Geer, a visionary theatre director. Over lunch Joy told Richard "Our community has always wanted to do a play". She talked about how she wanted to preserve Colquitt's heritage and record stories about the community. Richard responded, "Let's do it."
A team of volunteers led by Charlotte Phillips and Sara Ann Keaton began collecting and recording stories from the people of Colquitt, GA. After many stories were gathered they were passed along to Jo Carson who adapted a portion of the stories into the play format. Karen Kimbrel wrote the songs and with the help of Steve Hacker these were set to music. Richard Geer directed the play and before they knew it they had Swamp Gravy. In 1996 they were chosen as a Cultural Olympiad Event and performed at the Centennial Park during the Olympics in Atlanta, Ga. That same year they were picked to perform at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., but no performances can compare to the effect that Swamp Gravy has in its "home" at Cotton Hall.
A new production, a ritual of community celebration, is mounted each year based on the oral histories of area residents. The plays are professionally written, directed and designed, and one hundred volunteer actors and musicians create a never-to-be-forgotten performance. Swamp Gravy is presented each March and October for four weekends. The Cotton Hall Theatre, vintage cotton warehouse, houses professional plays in the summer and Christmas. Spin-offs have been a children’s arts and tutorial center, a Victorian Bed and Breakfast with 17 rooms and restaurant, and a marketplace for visitors to shop. Creativity attracts creativity, so Colquitt now houses the largest movie soundstage in Georgia, Florida and Alabama, the JoKaRa-Micheaux production studio. Economic development in a rural area is important and Colquitt has demonstrated that the release of the human spirit to creativity, risk taking and celebration is key to the future. www.swampgravy.com
ADDITIONAL SOCIAL TRANSFORMATION PROJECTS WHERE Social Artistry™ IS AT WORK IN THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA:
Environmental protection of the watershed (Wisconsin)
Environmental education for youth (California)
Community development through the arts (Georgia)
Uplifting news media (Tennessee)
Peace initiatives (Colorado)
Youth health education (Missouri)
Community development with at-risk youth (Indiana)
Innovative approaches to native housing (South Dakota)
Governance and policy issues (New York)
Literacy to overcome poverty (Colorado)
Adult education curriculum in Ojibwe native community (Canada)