This was a very special Street Wisdom. First of all, the event sold out very quickly: 22 people signed up. My intuition had already told me I would have a bunch of people, but didn’t think this many, this was very new to me. I had also sensed something would happen, so I was kind of calmly alert. It was the first time I was facilitating in this location, so I put a lot of care preparing myself as well as the logistics. I ventured to the meeting point way in advance to check the café where we would hold the sharing. It was taken. I had chosen a B plan for the café which didn’t work either, so I found a third option and I prayed for it to work.
The participants arrived on time and we had a beautiful start. It was freezing cold. The participants noticed me shivering and offered me extra jumpers, a scarf, a warm drink, hugs… It felt more of a family rather than people that I had just met. It was very comforting.
Insights, smiles, connections, coincidences, surprises…the time for sharing arrived.
The plan C café I had chosen required people to have lunch, which didn’t suit us. We needed a new venue and participants were already coming back after wandering around in the cold. One side of me felt really disappointed with myself. After all my preparation and care, I was not providing the experience I wanted to provide. The other side of me was trying to calm down by realising unpredictability is a big part of Street Wisdom and part of the experience, for me as a facilitator and for the participants. Improvisation time! I already had checked other cafés in the area and they were too small for such a big group. I really had no idea where to go. Then, one of the participants suggested a café nearby, on a street I hadn’t considered. We all headed there and it turned out to be the perfect location for sharing: lots of space, quiet and even good quality drinks. Exactly what I longed for.
When reflecting on my role as facilitator, I realized that my responsibility has limits. I can provide the right conditions for participants to have a great experience: hold the space, provoke their thinking, support their emotional outbursts… but ultimately, the person responsible for their experience is themselves. That’s the beauty of Street Wisdom, we all go through the same process and each of us gets something different. When having to find a new venue for the sharing, the suggestion came from a participant and everyone took it on board. The solution came from the group, for the group. The group knows what it needs and where to find it.
I felt the power of the community: shared responsibility, shared care and therefore shared facilitation. I learned that when facilitating, once I set the guidelines for the experience, I can trust that the group will take care of itself, it will autoregulate. The challenge is to make sure I am providing those guidelines in an authentic way and I don’t interfere with what wants to happen, so that the group senses its ownership, takes the lead and acts accordingly. This is what enhances an experience.
I left the event with a feeling of relief and satisfaction. I felt that all my preparation and my care was rewarded with, what turned out to be, a beautiful shared experience. I felt beloved.
Written by Inés Alonso
Photo by Jean Sangale