What’s possible for our bushfire impacted communities
if we work together like never before?
at The Crossing 2022
NOTE: The Gather Round 2022 program has now finished. We are currently working on our harvest – making sense of all of the data, information, and stories we’ve collected over the year. We hope to share this with you very soon. Keep an eye out! Or, if you sign up to our newsletter we’ll keep you updated. If you’d like information about any future programs, please get in touch.
Our communities have experienced huge shifts during the past two years. The impact of bushfires, Covid-19 and floods have left us with a compelling need to recover and rebuild and to do that in a complex and changing environment.
More than ever, we need collective and compassionate leadership from all of us. How can we individually and collectively learn to navigate big challenges and at the same time, strengthen and heal our communities?
Gather ‘Round is a year-long shared leadership program building capacity for connected, adaptable and resilient communities. It is a partnership between Campfire Co-op and The Crossing Land Education Trust, jointly funded by the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Government under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.
Forty people from bushfire impacted communities in Bega Valley, Eurobodalla, Shoalhaven, and Queanbeyan-Palerang regions are spending a year in a mix of in-person residential learning at The Crossing, Bermagui (15 days), an online coaching and mentoring program, and working on projects in these communities.
Throughout 2022, participants are learning and practicing the foundations of the Art of Hosting and Groundwork, and other collaborative and personal leadership practices that contribute to peaceful and cohesive communities. The program is equipping us, individually and together, with the capacities and skills to host our own communities, addressing challenges and moving forward together when there are many questions, and no right or easy answers.
How do we ‘do’ community-led? How do we find the courage to be and act differently in these times? How can we keep energised and keep showing up for our communities? How do we learn to listen to different perspectives, and create solutions together for our communities? These are just some of the questions we are exploring together.
"The world asks that we focus less on how we can coerce something to make it conform to our designs and focus more on how we can engage with one another, how we can enter into the experience and then notice what comes forth. It asks that we participate more than plan."
Margaret Wheatley and Myron Kellner-Rogers
We acknowledge the custodians of these lands in the south east - and those of The Crossing - the Djiringanj people of the Yuin nation. We acknowledge that these lands were never ceded. We pay respects to elders who have gone before, who are with us now, and those yet to come.
We acknowledge that many of the patterns and practices in this program come from the natural world, Indigenous knowledge and traditions, combined with new understandings and knowledge. We are grateful for all of those who have contributed to this work.
1. Introduction to the Art of Hosting
The Art of Hosting and Harvesting Conversations that Matter (also known as the Art of Participatory Leadership) offers simple and powerful participatory practices, patterns and processes to host generative conversations that can lead to coordinated action and positive change.
These approaches have been used effectively in diverse contexts worldwide to harness collective wisdom, encourage compassionate leadership and collaboration, and create better social and environmental outcomes.
It's an opportunity to slow down, connect and explore the questions that we are passionate about in our own local contexts, and develop new ways of working together to create the future we need.
The quality of our conversations matters. It determines what we pay attention to, how we engage with each other, and where we direct our time, energy and resources. The Art of Hosting invites us to consciously create and host spaces for collaborative conversations, where we can address challenges and take positive actions.
Over 5 days participants had the opportunity to practise hosting various participatory processes and methodologies. It supported them to host more effective, purposeful meetings, help groups navigate complexity and develop clear direction, and greatly assist people to work together to create impactful projects. All of this helps build capacity for community leadership and community-led recovery.
2. Collaborative practice
So many situations in our lives and communities demand that we collaborate, and do it well. Never before have our collective efforts been so needed or the outcomes so critical.
Building on module 1, we learned about Groundwork: a framework and practice for strengthening collaboration. We built our individual and collective capacities to collaborate more effectively and with powerful results. We did this by applying Groundwork to new or existing projects and initiatives in our communities.
3. Working with conflict
Conflict is a natural part of everyday life. For most people it can be stressful, frustrating or anxiety-inducing. It can also provide opportunities for healing and learning.
The ability to navigate conflict is an essential human skill which can be learned. We explored the nature of conflict, our own responses, practical skills and processes for limiting opportunities for conflict, and for responding and supporting others in conflict situations. We also learned and practiced our own strategies to keep calm and steady when things get a little hot.
4. Practising for Peace
How can we use our power consciously for meaningful action? How can we restore balance and centre to act wisely and courageously in the world?
In dealing with the challenges, complexities, and demands of life, this weekend offered an opportunity to explore ways to work from a place of peace and strength: that is balanced, calm and clearly decisive when action is needed.
This weekend was an opportunity to be of service to ourselves – to refuel and strengthen clarity of mind and heart, to continue our good work in our communities. We bring together the principles and practices of Aikido basics as a way of focussing on our internal capacity, and applied the Flow Game to seed wise action.
5. Embedding learning and taking it back to our communities
In these four days we revisit and refine community collaborative projects, and strengthened connections across communities. We spent time reflecting and integrating what we’ve learned axcross the program, addressing what’s needed and discovering what’s next. There was time to connect with ourselves, country and community.
For this module, we bring half of each circle together with the other, to cross-pollinate and learn alongside other people from other communities.
6. Finishing and celebrating together
We gather everyone together, along with program partners and supporters, to reflect, share stories, connect and celebrate.
Online and other support
Before, during and after the residential sessions, there is a strong container to hold questions, challenges and learning, with these online sessions.
Welcome and Orientation session. For program orientation and preparation before we started
Learning circles. 5 sessions in between modules for connection, sharing and learning
Reflection circle. Final session at the end of the program
Community circles. Additional coaching support for each community team
Peer mentoring. Participants supporting each other across communities
The hosting team is a group of experienced Australian hosts and stewards of these processes and practices, includings south east NSW residents Mel Geltch and David Newell. A growing and diverse group of experienced and emerging South Coast practitioners also joined the team to host and deliver some modules.
We worked with Australian and International stewards and co-founders of the practices in each module, local Aboriginal elders, and the natural world to learn and explore the challenges and possibilities for each community.
Gather ‘Round is part of the larger project to establish a community-led recovery and regeneration education hub for South East NSW at The Crossing Land Education Trust.
The Crossing Land Education Trust develops leadership in sustainable design and has been assisting South East NSW community members with bushfire preparation and fire retardant landscape design.
The Crossing Land is an environmental education camp located on Djiringanj country of the Yuin Nation, just outside of Bermagui in the Bega Valley. It is a permaculture camp, a home to co-learning for young people and adults for more than 20 years - a perfect place to host us in this program.
Dean and Annette Turner founded The Crossing almost 25 years ago. Thousands of young people and hundreds of volunteers have contributed to the construction and conservation of this special place.
The Crossing is on the edge of farmland, river and forest. This sustainable site is off-grid, low-impact, solar-powered with dry composting toilets, and no wifi. There is a community hall with a kitchen, comfortable indoor and outdoor spaces and modern bathrooms. There is river access, an outdoor campfire, permaculture gardens, chickens and sheep onsite. It’s pretty magical!
This residential program offers an opportunity to live in community with fellow participants, to rest, slow down, experience time in nature - all as part of a deeper learning experience together.
This Local Economic Recovery Project is jointly funded by the Commonwealth and the New South Wales Government under the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.