Dancing on the Dunes – an excursion in Egypt’s Western Desert

This piece is reprinted with thanks from the new book by my old friend and ICA International colleague John Burbidge, titled “More Than Halfway to Somewhere: Collected Gems of a World Traveler“.

As I wrote for the cover, in this book:

Burbidge leads you on a whistle-stop world tour of travelers’ tales rich with exotic locations, colourful characters and often extraordinary adventures. These are gems indeed, mined from a life lived as journey and sparkling with compassion and humour!

The book is now available, just in time for Christmas, from John’s site wordswallah.com.

I was not involved in the writing of this, but I was very much involved in the adventure. I first visited Bahariya probably in the first of my six years in Egypt with ICA MENA. After befriending Reda (aka ‘Desert Fox’) early on, we led a series of jeep trips together from 1993-95 for groups that I recruited from the lively social network of the Cairo Hash House Harriers

The ‘never-ending book’ that John was editing at the time of this, my last trip in 1996, was “Beyond Prince and Merchant: Citizen Participation and the Rise of Civil Society”. John and I had been corresponding extensively on this as I was writing my own masters dissertation at the time, “Building Civil Society for a Humane and Sustainable Future Toward a Global Role for the Institute of Cultural Affairs in the UK”.


Do not take this trip…

  • if you prefer things to go according to plan
  • if you don’t like sand in your food, hair and underwear
  • if you object to going unwashed for days on end
  • if you’re overly sensitive to heat and sun or local food
  • if you’re not prepared to dig jeeps out of sand, or perhaps wait until dawn to do so
  • if being thrown around in the back of a moving vehicle is not your idea of fun
  • if you’ll be upset when, after three days in the desert, you get back to your oasis hotel to find there’s no water in the bathroom…

This was the disclaimer that trip organizer, Martin Gilbraith, offered those contemplating the five-day excursion in Egypt’s Western Desert following the ICA International 1996 international conference in Cairo. It was enough to turn away most conferees in favor of trips down the Nile or snorkeling in the Red Sea, but for 20 adventurous souls — young and old, men and women from 10 countries — it was just the turn-on we needed.

Were we disappointed? No way. Not only was the disclaimer fulfilled in detail, it was surpassed on several fronts. But the lure of the desert’s ever-changing landscapes, the warm and generous welcome of its inhabitants, and the unputdownable spirit of our Egypt guide team made the disclaimer fade into insignificance.

Before we headed out of Cairo in two minibuses we picked up our last but possibly most important passenger, Reda Abdel Rasoul.

“I am Reda, zee Desert Fox,” exclaimed this vibrant young Egyptian with the most engaging smile and thick black moustache. His exuberance masked the fact that he’d been in Cairo to visit his seriously ill brother and had only just decided to make the trip.

Reda was the local organizer of our desert safari. His slick, photographic business card described him as a ‘histary’ teacher but like a number of other educators in desert oases he turned to tour guiding to supplement his meager income. He lived in Bawiti, the largest town in the Bahariya Oasis with a population of 18,000.

Having a history teacher as our guide was an unexpected and valuable bonus. Egypt’s ancient roots as a land of pharaohs, pyramids and the fertile Nile Valley is well documented but the vast Western Desert that occupies much of the country is less well known. Its harsh terrain is not conducive to human settlement but people have managed to eke out a living there for eons. It’s a place where myth and history have intertwined, such as the puzzling disappearance of the 50,000-man Persian army under Cambyses II, son of Cyrus the Great, in a sandstorm in the 6th century BC. No trace of this massive force has ever been found.

Throughout the 365-kilometer journey to Bahariya our minds were on more immediate things, as Reda patiently answered our endless questions. Why don’t those telegraph poles have wires connecting them? Why are there railway stations in what appears to be nowhere in particular? Where do all those vehicle tracks into the desert lead? What is the Arabic word for…? And more frequently as the hours progressed, how far is it to the nearest rest stop?

The answer to the latter was simple. There is only one stop between Cairo and Bahariya, almost half way. As we entered the cavernous refreshment room we were greeted with ecstatic cries of “Martin! Martin!” Recognizing our British expat leader from many previous trips, the operators of this lonely outpost were effusive in their welcome. Clearly we were in friendly territory. The cold drinks and snacks were delightful, the chance to stretch our legs most welcome, and the toilets were, well…better left to themselves.

Our first clue we were approaching landfall in this endless sea of sand and rock was the police checkpoint near the mining town of Managum, site of Egypt’s main source of iron ore, which is transported to Cairo by rail. Some ore never made it that far, given the number of damaged wagons that littered the tracks along the way. We saw our first vegetation in five hours at Managum when we entered an avenue of oleander bushes and eucalyptus trees so reminiscent of Australia. The entire landscape had a distinctive ‘outback’ feel to it, especially those parts of the land down under that are sandy desert. It increased the sense of connection I’d already begun to feel with this vast, seemingly empty terrain.

Shortly after Managum we drove through a gap in the escarpment and descended into an oasis. For the first time I began to understand what an oasis is. Far from the popularized Hollywood image of a cluster of date palms around a spring and a pond, oases are vast depressions in the desert plateau formed as a result of the combined action of wind, tectonics and water. They are near or at sea level where the massive reserves of underground water flowing north from central Africa come to the surface. The 2,000 square kilometer Bahariya depression is the smallest of the four major oases in the Western Desert. It is surrounded by several tiers of high escarpment which enclose a valley full of hills and mountains, some conical, some mesas, and others folded like the layers of an ancient garment.

One of the most dramatic parts of the Bahariya oasis is the White Desert near Farafara. Entering this area was like walking into a Salvador Dali painting. The numerous bleached, wind-eroded limestone sculptures gave the appearance of a bizarre collection of pieces on a gigantic chessboard. Arriving late afternoon, we were fortunate to experience the White Desert at three of its most enchanting moments — sunset, moonlight, and sunrise. Wandering among this surreal setting, I found a flat-topped piece about waist high and long enough to accommodate my body. I stripped to my underwear, hoisted myself atop the rock, and after checking for scorpions and other creatures, lay down on my towel. As the sun dipped below the horizon, the evening star appeared in a seamless transition. I wanted to capture and hold on to this precious moment but that was not to be. The air temperature quickly dropped, reminding me it was time to get dressed and rejoin the group.

While the days were a test of endurance with long drives in intense heat, the evenings were like a reward for our labors. Our first night in the desert we camped at Bir Ghaba, the Well in the Forest — ‘forest’ being a highly relative term. Situated on the old caravan route to Cairo, this popular well was shrouded in a grove of eucalyptus trees adjacent to a campsite operated by Bawiti’s ironically named Alpenblick (view of the Alps) Hotel. Later that evening when the buzz around the campfire had died down to hushed whispers, I grabbed my towel and swimsuit and headed to the well. It was empty and silent, except for the torrent of water gushing out of the massive pipe at the deep end of the pool. As I lowered myself into the 38°C water, the moon appeared over the horizon in the most star-studded sky I had ever seen. The desert breeze, an ever-present companion, wafted through the trees. As I floated in the highly mineralized water I unloaded the six-day conference I had just come from, the never-ending book I was editing, and the long drive from Cairo.

We had two other opportunities during our trip to explore desert springs and wells. Although there are hundreds scattered throughout the oases, most are known only to locals and used by them for bathing and washing. Although some springs have cool water, many are hot, often severely so. One spring in Dakhla Oasis is said to be able to boil eggs. We tried our own egg boiler in Bahariya Oasis on our last night in the desert. With water at 45°C, Bir Ramla is the hottest spring in the oasis. While most of our group decided to pass, a few daring souls put their toes in the water to test the temperature. Shrieks filled the air. It reminded me of the copper cauldron in which we cooked crabs in when I was a boy. I took a deep breath and sank into the steaming water. While I’ve always handled hot water better than cold, this pushed me to my limits. After the initial shock my body adjusted to the intense heat, but I soon joined the others on the sidelines. I didn’t want to become like the proverbial frog that boils itself to death while gradually adapting to the rising temperature.

Another spring captured my imagination in a totally different way. Known as the Magic Spring, it was identifiable by a lone clump of palm trees in an otherwise barren landscape. Our arrival at the Magic Spring came after a particularly harrowing ordeal. When we arrived at Bahariya, we transferred from our two minibuses into three Toyota jeeps to go on off-road excursions. A fourth jeep was our supply vehicle. On our second afternoon we were behind schedule and keen to arrive at our destination before sunset, so two of the drivers entered into a friendly race. The lead driver tried taking a short cut and strayed off course. As he started to descend a steep dune he lost control of the vehicle. It plummeted down the slope and rolled over before landing on its side. The other jeep arrived at the top of the dune seconds after, and seeing what had happened its driver managed to bring it to an abrupt halt.

A front-seat passenger, our oldest member, suffered cuts and abrasions to his head but others escaped injury. Built to withstand this kind of treatment, the jeeps came through in better shape. I was in the third vehicle, considerably behind the other two. We knew nothing about the accident, but when the faint sound of a horn kept repeating in the distance our driver sensed something was amiss. He entered into an intense discussion in Arabic with his companion but  didn’t divulge anything to the rest of us. When we joined the others and learned what had happened, a dramatic change of mood came over the whole group. After a brief discussion, the Egyptian crew decided to put 19 of us into two vehicles, while the supply truck went ahead to set up camp and the other jeep was retrieved from the bottom of the dune. By now it was pitch dark but remarkably the drivers managed to find the Magic Spring with nothing but headlights, their memory and instinct to guide them.

There was none of the usual singing and dancing that night, although a hearty meal of roast chicken and rice, along with an extra ration of beer, helped raise our spirits. The mood was subdued as we nursed our wounds and reflected on what we’d been through. We had just had a hard lesson in the dangers that lurk just beneath the surface of this beguiling place. As we huddled together under camelhair blankets beneath a blazing sky, the silence of the desert enveloped us. Conversation died away as the last embers of the campfire glowed in the dark. Fennec foxes, hedgehogs and other animals that frequent this place stayed away that night. The Magic Spring cast its spell over us and sleep became our welcome friend.

Most evenings weren’t so restrained. Reminiscent of scenes from the film The English Patient, we would gather after dinner around the campfire, sip mint tea or down a mildly warm beer, and let the show begin — the kind of show in which we were both audience and actor. To loosen us up, our Egyptian friends would ply us with rousing renditions of local folk tunes. The real act began when Mohammed, alias Baghdadi, took centre stage. With black, loose-fitting, drawstring pants and buttocks made for hard seats on long trips in fast-moving vehicles over rough terrain, he demonstrated the art of male belly dancing. Pounding the sand with his bare feet, he could move his middle body in gyrations that would rival those of many a professional female dancer.

Once Mohammed led the way, Reda and others followed. First among the foreigners to shed his European reticence was Cristian Nacht, who in his other life was the president of one of Brazil’s largest steel construction companies. Clad in a flowing gray galabiya, Cristian tossed propriety to the wind, and with his feet and hips in sync, shuffled around the campfire like an old pro. After he’d broken the ice there was barely room to move, as the more timid among us took to the sand and made it sing.

While some found a way to escape this public celebration-cum-humiliation, there was one occasion when this was not possible. It was our last night in the desert before returning to Cairo. We had traveled all afternoon, run out of fuel, and arrived at Bawiti tired, dirty and starving. After freshening up at the Hotel Alpenblick — where the water was running this time — we headed to the home of our host, Mohammed Ahmed el-Bayumi. El Bayumi was the proprietor of one of Bawiti’s most popular restaurants, El Ghash (the Little Donkey). El Bayumi’s reputation extended far beyond Bawiti or Bahariya Oasis. We had been warned that before entering the hallowed halls of his mud-floor establishment, we should be able to count to ten in Arabic or expect a clip over the ears. Should we master that feat we would be prime candidates to marry his sons or daughters, most of whom were in his employ.

But we had not been warned about El Bayumi’s habit of blowing a shrill whistle to command the attention of his customers, like a sergeant-major drilling new recruits. Was this some ancient Bedouin custom or El Bayumi’s way of asserting his dominance over this corralled band of foreigners? We first encountered this practice after our long drive from Cairo when we had lunch at El Ghash. Seated on the floor, we were eating and chatting among ourselves when El Bayumi strode into the room, let forth with his whistle, and asked in brusque Arabic, “Do you like my food?” Under the circumstances there seemed only one possible reply. We all agreed it was terrific.

Although we were now primed to expect the unexpected, none of us quite anticipated what El Bayumi had in store for us on this last night. The feast on the rooftop terrace of his sprawling home was a much grander affair than our earlier restaurant meal, with endless plates of barley soup, vegetable stew, roasted chicken, rice and hummus, along with plentiful supplies of beer. Our Egyptian guides decided it was their last chance to put their captive foreigners through the hoops. One by one, Baghdadi chose each of us to join him on the dance floor and get our bodies moving in time with the Bedouin music booming out of a ghetto blaster. Now and again a donkey would join in the festivities by braying loudly.

Next day as we contemplated our return to Cairo and our different countries, each of us reflected on this five-day excursion into what the Greek historian Herodotus called the ‘Islands of the Blest.’ Indeed, we had been blessed in a number of ways — the rich variety of time-tested landforms, the ever-welcome presence of water in the most surprising places, the engulfing silence of the starry desert nights. Most of all, we had been blessed by the effervescent spirit of our Egyptian colleagues. One experience captured this for me more than all others.

On our second day in the desert, after a quiet lunch in the shady palms of Ain el Ris (Spring of the Source), our convoy headed up the escarpment that marks the southern boundary of Bahariya Oasis. Although dunes cover 40 per cent of the Western Desert, they are not dominant in this oasis. This was our first encounter with these deceptively picturesque but potentially destructive desert landforms.

Of the four vehicles, the one I was in was the Cinderella of the group. Since it lacked a radiator cap, we had to stop frequently to let it cool and refill with water, which it consumed in endless quantities. On this occasion, the other three vehicles had reached the top of the dune and were watching us flail away in the sand. I couldn’t tell whether their intermittent cheers were urging us on or lording it over us. Mahmoud, our driver, would thrust the gears into four-wheel drive, stomp on the accelerator, and let it fly. In Sisyphean style, we would make it almost to the top of the dune, peter out, and roll back down, only to have to repeat it.

At our fourth attempt we made it. Without hesitating Reda grabbed his drum and Mohammed his flute and goaded this motley group of sunburned foreigners into action. “Dance? Did you say dance?” It was Zorba the Greek, Egyptian-style. It was time to rehearse that great Islamic expression, insha’ allah — if God wills it. Clearly, Allah was willing a little celebration.

Some say the people of the Western Desert have a greater sense of humor and a more light-hearted spirit than inhabitants of other parts of Egypt. Those we encountered during these five days certainly possessed that and more. Their willingness to embrace life’s mysteries and intrusions, its highs and lows, its blessings and curses was something to admire and emulate. It has, no doubt, enabled them to survive in unbelievably severe conditions for tens of thousands of years. It is not surprising, perhaps, that several of the world’s religions emerged from places like this. If only a little of their spirit rubbed off on us during our brief encounter with the Western Desert we were so much the richer for it.


See also about mehow I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies, and please contact me about how we might work together. Please do not delay before contacting me – the earlier I hear from you, the more chance that I will be able to help and the more helpful I may be able to be.

Register now on Eventbrite also for my regularly scheduled ToP facilitation training courses in London and Brussels, and now also online.

A welcome opportunity to pause and reflect this summer

This June completed my fourth year in business as Martin Gilbraith Associates Ltd, and in October it will be 5 years since I went freelance from ICA:UK. Following what has been a bumper year for client work, for the first time in probably 15 months I am looking forward to several consecutive weeks of desk time, free of delivering client contracts – and a holiday in August after that!

In the last 12 months, it turns out, I have delivered 26 contracts for 18 clients in 9 countries, involving 32 face-to-face and 3 virtual events and 24 facilitated processes and 11 facilitation training courses. That has involved 73 nights away from home, 18 in the UK and 55 abroad. No wonder it felt like a bumper year – that represents an increase of around 70% in client work compared to my first four years of freelance practice, and the contracts on average were larger too.

I have been fortunate and grateful to enjoy a diverse and stimulating, often inspiring, range of groups and contexts to work with this past year. Recent client contracts for facilitation have included large and multi-event, multi-stakeholder strategic planning processes with international NGO networks such as ICUU, Girls Not Brides and Eurochild (above), and smaller, relatively simpler strategy and planning retreats such as with CENTR, Wells For India, Lorensbergs and the Peel Institute. Also large and relatively complex and challenging international team meetings such as with Amnesty International and Oxfam OPTI, and a small but complex and challenging closed Ministerial Forum with the International Union on Tuberculosis and Lung Disease. Also a conference of activists on refugee and migration issues with Amnesty UK, and facilitated leadership development labs, face-to-face & virtual, for managers of Astra Zeneca. Facilitation training has included courses with civil servants of Ofgem and the Care Quality Commission, for agile finance software project managers of Santander and bereavement counselors of the Dove Service, and for diverse groups on public courses in London, Brussels, Geneva and Moscow. I lost some bids for work, and had to turn down some opportunities as well, but I wouldn’t have wished for any other workload.

It is no wonder then that I have spent less time on other things. My volunteer time has reduced since I completed my four year term as ICAI President in December, although since then I have somewhat increased my time growing IAF England & Wales‘ activity and leadership team and partnership with IABC.

Readers may have noticed that I have managed fewer blog posts (only 20 this past year from an average of 32 the past four), and only one of my “bi-monthly” free facilitation webinars – plus in May What does it take for people to align behind change? with Michael Ambjorn, published today by MILE Madinah on YouTube.

So, what do I hope to make of this opportunity to pause and reflect?

Mostly, I hope to take the opportunity to reflect and learn from this recent experience, and share some insights here on my blog – so watch this space!

I hope to review my recent years’ ToP facilitation training end-of-course participant evaluations, and launch an online survey to invite past participants to share something of what they have applied of their learning and how, and what difference their training has made to them and the groups they work with. I hope to draft and begin to post some more facilitation case studies from my facilitation work of this last year, and request further client feedback.

I hope to schedule one or two more free facilitation webinars for the autumn, and share a recording of one already scheduled for this month with IAF India – with Martin Farrell of IAF England & Wales, on the topic of co-facilitation (below).

I hope to catch upon some reading – next up after Penny Pullan CPF’s Virtual Leadership, Responsible Facilitation by Jim Campbell formerly of ICA Belgium.

Also, I have some advance preparation to do for delivery work in the autumn, including for my new IAF-endorsed Meetings That Work courses in London & Brussels in September, with Bill Staples of ICA Associates (book here). And I hope that my calendar for the autumn will continue to fill itself – so do feel free to contact me if you’d like to help with that!

In the meantime, I am hoping also to enjoy some more summery good weather, and all that goes with it – at home in London, at the WOMAD music festival later this month and in Sitges in August.

Wishing you an opportunity to pause and reflect as well when you can…


For more on my work, and what others have to say about it, please see how I workwho I work with and recommendations & case studies – or view my profile and connect with me on LinkedIn.

You can connect with me also by joining my free facilitation webinars online, and IAF England & Wales’ free facilitation meetups in London and elsewhere.

Looking back and forward

1611-ww-cover-thumbnailWelcome to this November 2016 issue of Winds & Waves, the online magazine of ICA International, on the theme “Looking back and forward”.

As editorial team member Rosemary Cairns writes in Behind the Scenes, Winds and Waves is taking this opportunity to look back at past issues and articles as it looks forward to a new life and look from next year on the blogging platform Medium. This is also a timely opportunity for me and ICA International to be ‘looking back and forward’, as I and others complete our 4-year terms as members of the ICAI Board and new Board members are elected.

Seventeen representatives of 11 member ICAs of our global network participated in two online General Assembly meetings on October 20, and 16 of 24 current statutory member ICAs voted in the online GA poll over the following ten days to 30 October. We are grateful to all who participated.  As a result of the GA we are pleased to congratulate Archana Deshmukh of ICA India and Gerd Luders of ICA Chile, who have been unanimously elected to serve from January (2017-20), and Seva Gandhi of ICA USA who has been re-elected to serve another two years (2017-18). Lisseth Lorenzo of ICA Guatemala has accepted the Board’s invitation to succeed me Martin Gilbraith (ICA:UK) as President, so Gerd has been invited to succeed Lisseth as Vice President Americas and Archana to succeed Staci Kentish (ICA Canada) as Secretary.

In pursuing our mission of ‘Advancing human development worldwide‘, ICAI has been through some developments of its own in recent years. In 2006 we relocated from Belgium to Canada and expanded our Secretariat team and its role, and in 2010 we closed our office and Secretariat and embarked on a new and largely virtual ‘peer-to-peer approach.  Since 2012 I am proud that our membership has experienced a resurgence in numbers, with many long-standing members returning and no less than 9 new Associate members welcomed by the General Assembly – including at the October GA Focus Homini Poland.  The membership has experienced a surge in peer-to-peer activity as well, with face-to-face regional gatherings becoming an annual fixture in all 5 regions and new global task forces taking on roles in global conferencing, co-ordination and collaboration on ICA’s ‘Technology of Participation‘ (ToP) facilitation methodology and exploring collaboration and partnership with the International Association of Facilitators, as well as global communications and publications including this magazine and our monthly bulletin the Global Buzz. It has been a privilege serving as President these past four years, and I look forward to taking a new relationship to ICAI from next year and to continuing to contribute to our mission in other ways.  I am excited and grateful to be able to leave such a strong and capable Board with strong and capable new leadership.

In this issue you will find a diverse collection of new stories and stories from the archive, illustrating how ICAs and colleagues of our global network are themselves ‘advancing human development worldwide’, often in peer-to-peer collaboration with each other.  This issue includes stories from Australia, Canada, Chile, Congo (DRC), India, Taiwan, Ukraine, UK & USA. It includes stories on recovering indigenous language and on fostering creative action on climate change; on profound personal reflection and on imaginal education; on addressing exclusion of people with disabilities and on building capacity for emergency medical care; on comprehensive human development in village communities and on transformative facilitation through ToP; on cross-cultural mentoring and on applying systems and complexity theory.

Thank you to all who have contributed to this new issue of Winds & Waves.  Enjoy this issue, and please share it and encourage others to do so.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
hyperlinks are to the regular online version

• President’s message

Winds & Waves Masthead

Behind the scenes

Facilitation

Cognitive Complexity by Bhavesh S Patel

Reflection on Facilitation by Larry Philbrook

Transformative Facilitation by Larry Philbrook

Truth about Life Experience by Richard West

The Environment

New Story for New Times by Nelson Stover

Going Green in Taiwan by Gordon Harper

 Volunteering

Finding Community Amoung Strangers by Kay Alton           

Missions 

Rhumba and Resuscitation in the Congo by Dr Vera Sistenich

Learning from Bonobos by Isabel dela Maza

Hits and Misses in Maharashtra by Dharmalingam Vinasithamby

Helping Disabled in Chile Get Jobs by Ana Mari Urrutia

Collaboration

Whole Systems Approach Gets    Communities Buzzing by Bill Staples

Empowering Chicago`s Community    Leaders by Terry Bergdall

A System That Works by Jonathan Dudding

What’s on

Education

Recovering Indigenous Languages by Miiam Patterson

Imaginal Education by Randy Williams

Book Review

Telling the Stories of Manilamen

 

 

 

This post was first published in Winds and Waves, November 2016. For past issues, please visit our Winds and Waves archive.

ICAI welcomes a new Associate member in Poland!

ICAI Global Buzz, October 2015
This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, November 2016.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs is a global community of non-profit organisations advancing human development worldwide. The ICAI network comprises member organisations and related groups in over 40 countries.  The role of ICA International is to facilitate peer-to-peer interchange, learning and mutual support across the network, for greater and deeper impact. ICA International maintains consultative status with UN ECOSOC, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO & FAO.


anna-zaremba-1200x900Seventeen representatives of 11 member ICAs of our global network participated in two online General Assembly meetings on October 20, and 16 of 24 current statutory member ICAs voted in the online GA poll over the following ten days to 30 October.  Thank you again to all who participated!

As a result of the GA we are pleased to welcome another new Associate member to ICAI, nominated by ICA:UK with the support of ICA Ukraine & ICA Netherlands and approved unanimously by the GA – Focus Homini Poland is a newly constituted group of five ICA colleagues working to establish ICA in Poland – the photo shows Anna Zaremba facilitating at one of the group’s Warsaw facilitation meetups.

Also as a result of the GA we are pleased to congratulate Archana Deshmukh of ICA India and Gerd Luders of ICA Chile, who have been unanimously elected to our global Board from January (from 2017-20), and to Seva Gandhi of ICA USA who has been re-elected to serve another two years (2017-18).  Archana and Gerd will succeed Martin Gilbraith of ICA:UK and Staci Kentish of ICA Canada, who will complete their terms this December.

During the GA meetings members also received brief narrative & financial reports from the Board, and deliberated on the ICAI 2017-18 budget, the Board nominations process and options for a future ICAI global conference.

ICAI General Assembly welcomes new Associate member in India

HCDI CFCDP
This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, July 2016.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs is a global community of non-profit organisations advancing human development worldwide. The ICAI network comprises member organisations and related groups in over 40 countries.  The role of ICA International is to facilitate peer-to-peer interchange, learning and mutual support across the network, for greater and deeper impact. ICA International maintains consultative status with UN ECOSOC, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO & FAO.


Twenty-two representatives of 14 member ICAs of our global network participated in two online General Assembly meetings on June 23, and 17 of 22 current statutory member ICAs voted in the online GA poll over the following 10 days to 3 July.  Thank you to all who participated!

As a result of the GA, we are pleased to welcome another new Associate member to ICAI, nominated by ICA Japan with the support of ICA IndiaICA Bangladesh and the Asia Pacific region and approved unanimously by the GA – Holistic Child Development India (HCDI) is a long-term partner of ICA Japan in Bihar.

During the GA meetings we heard updates from ICAI and from the regions, and from those members present. We deliberated on recommendations of the ICAI Global ToP (Technology of Participation) policy working group – to establish internationally recognized ToP trainer competencies and criteria, to build ToP trainer training capacity globally, to develop global ToP resource repositories and to set up a global ToP co-ordination structure. We also deliberated on options for a next ICAI Global Conference, and we heard of strengthening relations between ICA and Initiatives of Change as a potential conference partner, particularly in Asia and in Europe.

The Board consulted with members on options for the 2017  ICAI budget, and on plans for ICAI Board elections at the next GA in October. Nominations to join the Board elections & nominations committee are now invited from members.

Excellence in facilitation

W&W April 2016 cover image 900x600Welcome to this April 2016 issue of Winds & Waves, the online magazine of ICA International, on the theme “Excellence in Facilitation”.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs (ICA) has for decades employed facilitation as a core strategy in our mission of ‘advancing human development worldwide’. When I myself first trained with ICA in the UK, as an international volunteer to a Human Development Project of ICA in India in 1986, a core element of that training was in what was then referred to as ‘ICA methods’ – what is now known worldwide as ICA’s ‘Technology of Participation’ (ToP) facilitation methodology. Facilitation remains central to our approach to doing human development, and to being ICA.

This facilitative approach is more critical today than ever in enabling the human family to address the great challenges and opportunities that are now facing us and our planet. We argue, in an ICAI statement submitted this month to the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration (CEPA), that facilitation has a key role to play in moving from commitments to results, transforming public institutions and leadership for the implementation and monitoring of the Sustainable Development Goals.

In this issue you will find a diverse collection of stories illustrating how ICAs and colleagues of our global network are applying such a facilitative approach in a variety of settings, from local to global, often in peer-to-peer collaboration with each each other.

A rehabilitation project of ICA Nepal brings hope to those affected by that country’s earthquake, supported by ICA Australia. ICA Taiwan builds a learning community through ‘Truth About Life’ dialogues. ICA Chile partners with the Ministry of Social development and with Global Facilitators Serving Communities (GFSC) in leadership development work with disabled people.  ICA Peru supports comprehensive community development programmes in high altitude mountain communities affected by climate change. Emerging Ecology USA and ICA India develop a capacity building curriculum, building on ICA’s original Human Development Training Institutes of the 1970s.

Ann Epps of LENS International Malaysia reflects on the Certified Professional Facilitator (CPF) programme of the International Association of Facilitators (IAF), founded in 1994 by 70 ICA ToP facilitators including Ann herself. Winds & Waves editor Rosemary Cairns reflects on the role played by facilitation in turning volunteers into a social movement, through a Community Revitalization through Democratic Action programme in Serbia following the NATO bombing of 1999.  I myself share a reflection on how facilitation, and ICA’s ToP Participatory Strategic Planning process in particular, helped Oxfam in Lebanon last year embark on a complex and challenging change process in the midst of a complex and challenging response to the unfolding Syria crisis (see also Facilitating change in complexity).

Meanwhile, ICAI members continue to step up their peer-to-peer support and collaboration through means of online and regional ICA gatherings, and ICAI global working groups as well.  ICAs in East & Southern Africa met in Zimbabwe in March, ICAs of the Americas are now preparing to meet in Peru in May and ICAs of West Africa, Europe MENA and Asia Pacific are making plans for their own regional gatherings later in the year.

In order to enhance the reach and impact of our ToP facilitation approach worldwide, the ICAI global ToP working group is busy developing proposals to support implementation of the global ToP policy agreed last year, drawing on insights gleaned responses to a recent global ToP survey. The ICAI Board is pleased to have agreed a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) to promote and support greater collaboration between our two organizations, our respective members and our local groups around the world.

Thank you to all who have contributed to this new issue of Winds & Waves.  Enjoy this issue, and please share it and encourage others to do so.


TABLE OF CONTENTS
hyperlinks are to the regular online version

President’s message

Winds & Waves Masthead

Behind the scenes

Polish your writing skills

Facilitation

Turning volunteers into social
movement
 by Rosemary Cairns

The truth about life experience
By Richard West

Designing a strategy  process
for Oxfam
by Martin Gilbraith

Setting sharp standards by Ann Epps

Training

Life skills for building communities by Nelson Stover                              

Education

Studying sports and mind-body
link in India
 by Nelson Stover

ICA Reports

ICA NEPAL

Rehab project brings hope to quake
victims
by Binita Subedi

ICA CHILE

Working with the disabled in 2016by Isabel dela Maza

ICA PERU

Economic plan inspires mountain towns by Gloria Santos and Jesusa Aburto

Perspectives

Being present to life (English) by Teresa Sosa Vegas

Estando Presente (Spanish) by Teresa Sosa Vegas

Poetry

Manilamen: the ‘Outsiders’ within by Deborah Ruiz Wall

The litmus test of Worth by Deborah Ruiz Wall


This post was first published in Winds and Waves, April 2016. For past issues, please visit our Winds and Waves archive.

ICA International Board update, March 2016

ICAI Global Buzz, October 2015
This post was written for ICAI’s monthly bulletin the Global Buzz, March 2016.

The Institute of Cultural Affairs is a global community of non-profit organisations advancing human development worldwide. The ICAI network comprises member organisations and related groups in over 40 countries.  The role of ICA International is to facilitate peer-to-peer interchange, learning and mutual support across the network, for greater and deeper impact. ICA International maintains consultative status with UN ECOSOC, UNESCO, UNICEF, WHO & FAO.


At our February Board meeting we were pleased to approve a request for financial support toward the cost of an ICA Americas regional gathering to be hosted by ICA Peru in May, and another toward the cost of producing three issues of Winds & Waves magazine in 2016.

We heard updates on prospective candidates for associate membership in India, the Philippines, Poland, France, Russia and the Czech Republic, and on the work of the ICAI Global Conference working group and the ICAI global ToP (Technology of Participation) policy working group.

We approved a Memorandum of Understanding with the International Association of Facilitators (IAF) to promote and support greater collaboration between our two organisations, our respective members and our local groups around the world. The first step toward implementation will be to establish a joint working group comprised of three representatives each of ICAI & IAF, to identify and follow up opportunities.

We reviewed and updated our Board plans for 2016 in light of developments since our 2015-16 planning meeting in Tanzania last May.  Now that there will be no Global Conference in 2016 at which we might also convene a face-to-face Board meeting, we plan to announce Board elections at a General Assembly in October instead of June (or December).  This will enable a two month induction period for new Board members before their terms begin in January. We will explore options and costs for holding a face-to-face Board meeting in conjunction with an ICA regional gathering during that period, for induction and planning as we did last year in Tanzania, and consider including that in a revised 2016 budget for GA approval.

We invited ICAI members to collaborate to draft a statement for submission to the 15th session of the UN Committee of Experts on Public Administration on the topic “Moving from commitments to results: transforming public institutions to facilitate inclusive policy formulation and integration in the implementation and monitoring of the sustainable development goals”.  ICAI is invited to contribute a statement on account of our UN Special Consultative Status with ECOSOC.

Svetlana continues to host weekly ICAI online dialogues in google hangout, including this month a session facilitated by Martin “What is Human Development?“.

We are grateful to the many ICAs that have renewed their dues to ICAI since the General Assembly in December, and those that have updated and completed their ICA profiles on the ICAI website. We are grateful also to the 64 ICA representatives and other readers who have responded already to our Winds & Waves magazine online readership survey.