Background to the Far In Far out Programme
We’re delighted about each of the extraordinary projects underway in the ‘Far in Far out’ programme. Each is deeply personal and far-reaching.
The key contribution of CFOR has to do with supporting project leaders in facilitating inner work and team relationships while designing and implementing community interventions, exploring this continual link of ‘far in’, ‘far out’.
All of the project leaders will also gather in Symposia, and pull together our learning from these different contexts and regions of the world, and so contribute to the broader field of transitional justice.
That it might be possible for individuals and whole communities to become (more) conscious, and so transform our violent history and find pathways forward, has been inspired, again and again, by participants in our forum and training events in different places in the world.
As a way of introducing the Far in Far out projects and the project leaders and teams, I want to first mention and appreciate participants from our forum activities in the Balkans where we worked for many years; our Europe Matters programme, and our ongoing work in Rwanda.
In the Balkans, activities took place in Croatia from just after the war in 1996 – 2001, and from 2006 – 2012, the latter period linking facilitator training with economic project development. Four-day forums were held twice a year.
Each participant was deeply impacted by the war. As Serb, Croat, Muslim, and from mixed families and other ethnic / national backgrounds, they’d found themselves on opposing ‘sides’ of the violence and ethnic cleansing. Together, using methods of ‘worldwork’ we engaged with the ‘hot spots’ and strong polarizations, in a way that honored the possibility of working directly with acutely sensitive issues while taking care of one another.
The participants were from a wide range of small and large organisations and associations, related to education, social work, counselling, and mayors or local authorities of villages. They showed up – with war trauma, with profound loss, with desperation and hopelessness, but also with their dedication to community and finding a way forward. Ready – when the moment called – to change their lives, all or our lives.
All the while, an idea is taking root. Can we sit together and process what we’ve lived through? When we carefully facilitate the ‘hot spots’ that terrify us, they become doorways to possibility, to transforming our relationships. Can we grapple with community-wide trauma, by witnessing and reconnecting to one another? Can we deal with both the fear and the gnawing need to face one another, and grapple with questions of accountability?
Can we become aware of the dynamics that push and pull us, rather than replay them? And if this is possible, can we dare to dream what might have happened had we had such interactions before the war?
Over several years in our ‘Europe Matters – You Matter’ programme, we coordinated and facilitated forum gatherings with hundreds of participants from 30+ countries in Europe – to grapple with our colonial history; the legacy of Stalin; World War I; World War II; and the Holocaust; working on issues of asylum and migration; dynamics of structural racism; attitudes towards Muslim communities; attitudes between east-west, north and south; working with issues of the economy; the environment; and LGBTQ+ issues and gender.
How do we reckon with the impact of history, that history is not in the past? And how to grapple with the fact that we are each part of this perpetuating history, in the way we impact on one another at any moment? Do we give a damn? And how, by way of more conscious interaction, might we change history. Might our inspiration and learning from such interactions take root, as we go on to work in our communities?
Since 2016, working closely together with our Partner organisation, GER, we are deeply involved with the coordination and facilitation of the ‘Beyond Conflict’ programme. We have facilitated many hundreds of people gathered in large 3 day community forum interactions, and provided modular training to a smaller group of 60 local facilitators – Then supporting local facilitators to initiate their own community projects.
This work has had profound meaning for hundreds of people dealing with unthinkable loss and trauma, and has had a significant impact on whole communities in Rwanda, supporting the national reconciliation process. This work is continuing and thriving.
Youth – Stopping the replay of history
While each situation is unique, there are patterns that link us. And lots we can learn from one another about what it takes to work with collective trauma and issues of accountability. What it takes to ‘stop the world’, stop the replay of history.
In South Africa, in a township of Durban, the community grappled with internalized oppression, and discovered an extraordinary energy, and resilience, with grassroots ripple effects.
In Zimbabwe, being able to talk for the first time, about political and tribal polarisations and the legacy of colonialism, was an extraordinary step in the work towards reconciliation and honouring and accessing the vitality in community.
The forum in Zimbabwe touched especially on the profound drive and capacity among youth who called for answers about the past, in order to find their way to the future. Their conversations held similar lessons to what we had repeatedly learned from youth in both the Balkans and Rwanda.
Again and again, we would hear from the elder generation that they thought or assumed the youth just weren’t interested.
Again and again, this was simply untrue. When youth witness that it is in fact possible to transform the polarisations they have inherited, they stop in their tracks. They are inspired; they demand; they insist; they engage; they show profound generosity and kindness; they lead the way; knowing this is it, our one chance – to bring awareness and humanity back into our interactions, that we don’t fall asleep and replay the nightmare.
For Jean-Claude and me (Arlene), as practitioners, and as Founders of CFOR – we would always ask ourselves, what are we learning and can we pass it on? Questions over our daily coffee… and in our conversations on Jean-Claude’s very last day.
Jean-Claude aways said ‘You Matter’. Maybe you’ve taught someone to drive a car, or bake bread. Or the iterative process that my sister-in-law described, helping her children learn to tie their shoes. Now think about what it takes to pass on what matters most, and the skills that we can’t yet say we’ve mastered.
What I get, more and more, when it comes to facilitating situations of high tension, is that it’s the underlying spirit that people feel and remember.
When someone sees what’s possible, their eyes widen.
When they see communities transform in a way they never dreamed possible, this brings a fundamental shift in outlook.
The ‘Far in Far out’ programme is built upon this spirit
JC was a very rare bird – known for turning himself inside out. If called to facilitate a difficult situation, he’d find the whole problem inside of himself, as a pathway to be able to directly address and facilitate the outer situation in all its complexity. ‘Far in, Far out’.
Each of the projects in the ‘Far in Far out’ programme has been born out of the life experience, professional experience and passion of the project leaders, and their very personal process of turning ‘inside out’ as they develop and facilitate their important work.