The facilitators’ collective met to discuss and imagine the possibilities of various themes that emerged from the reading of the two articles: ‘Meeting Otherness’ and ‘The Path to Practice’. The discussion was a space of ideating, listening, imagining and acknowledging. Amongst the various topics that were spoken of, key highlights that I could gather were on the themes of: ‘other-ing and otherness’, ‘care’ and the way we, as facilitators, can be self-aware for every diverse group that we interact with.
As a new member to a space, I was curious to hear everyone in the group, waiting in anticipation of what each member contributes. This anticipation was met with warm and comforting greetings from everyone, to everyone. The form of the discussion was democratic and the approach was to unfurl the two texts as the participants shared their interaction with the text. I was surprised, initially, for I anticipated that we would start with a magnifying lens into the text and swim to the deepest of points through the crutches of guiding questions. Luckily, the discussion was steered by the group with their own experiences and dilemmas, leading to the unfurl approach that I felt.
We realised that ‘Meeting Otherness’ is a topic that doesn’t have demarcated borders in reality, even if it does in a book called dictionary. The definition of such a term meets a fork on the road from which one must select what path they wish to walk. To give an example, I felt a part of the group in this exercise and by the end of the discussion, I felt connected to the group. Yet, just before entering this space, I was the ‘other’ — by gender, by being new to the facilitators' group, etc. Here stood a shift of my definition of feeling as the other and soon watching that label disappear. How does it even come to be that we consider each other strangers?¹
Meeting such questions along with our explorations as facilitators brings to front the need to address an important question.
How can we be facilitators and not explicators; where the former is meeting the other/otherness and the latter showcases the othering? The need to holistically engage a group with our practice, while simultaneously reflecting on the actions of the self, allowed me to think of the ways in which I can work towards creating a fertile and comfortable ground for the people that we work with.
The thought of this question makes my mind turn into an onion with multiple layers to peel before I get to anything. The practice of facilitating involves chalking out of roles and responsibilities, not only for the self but for the judgement of the group. How then can the facilitator reveal the information that must be hidden till the end of the activity? And if she/he hides it, what sort of autonomy does this brain hold? Who gets to decide what is a wrong concept and not an alternative concept? I believe these are the ways we can nurture the seeds of becoming and extending the space to become democratic deliberators. “Democratic deliberators are individuals who are well-informed, willing to revise their opinion in light of reasonable arguments and evidence, and capable of listening to and learning from diverse perspectives.”²
This ‘Let’s Read a Little’ email and discussion was truly exciting to be able to understand the nature of work and the path to practice that we as facilitators wish to carry out, not just as Aagaaz but as the practice that we wish to create, observe and also engage with.
Kanishk is an applied arts practitioner, facilitator, and educator. Integrating social, emotional, and political fragments through his practice, he envisions to build emancipatory spaces of exploration and learning. He wishes to craft safe and creative spaces while nurturing the diverse skills that the interactions in his journey bring along.
Illustrations by Devika