This week I was in Jajce in Bosnia Herzegovina to work with Cultural Heritage without Borders and about 50 heritage professionals from different countries in the region. My task was to plant a seed for a platform for Balkan heritage activism and maybe give it some initial clout. I’m a big fan of CHwB’s work and I love the Balkans, so obviously I felt both honoured and worried by this opportunity. After all, how does one build a platform in 2,5 hours and a country so different from home?
I decided to ruthlessly steal the best ideas I’ve been exposed to in recent years and to pick the brain of a highly experienced facilitator who also happens to be my partner, which spared me what should have been a rather significant bill. All this in the long tradition of the digital revolution, as I understand from Isaacson’s The Innovators, from which I understand innovation in essence is stealing and picking people’s brains.
Based on the stealing and picking, I opted to approach the challenge with ‘network learning’. Network learning untaps the potential in any group to learn from each other’s knowledge, experiences and skills. Add Google and overflowing LinkedIn groups and the pool of potential learning in any network is virtually unlimited. My own network pointed me to a toolkit about network learning (in Dutch, sorry) and great warming up exercises.
What we ended up doing was start with an exercise called ‘tangle of wool’. In it, the participants built a quick network with woollen connections around shared interests and passions. The idea is that if you can talk about literature or dancing or Ottoman architecture you can talk about everything.
With close connections in the woollen networks we then organised a market place. A market place is an exercise where you match expertise with challenges in a game of supply and demand. In Jajce, first we mapped all available expertise in the group of participants, and then connected their challenges with the right expertise. It literally took less than 2 minutes before the first new connection (and an idea for a project!) was made. Many others followed rapidly and with some extra help within 20 minutes all challenges were connected to people able to address them. I have to admit I was blown away by the result and speed.
All experts provided their email address, allowing for next steps regardless of whether the full network would become a reality.
Lastly, we touched upon some ICT and digital media to facilitate the follow up. I purposefully left this for the end, and kept it limited. After all, a platform is not built with technology, but with people. A cliché yet again confirmed by the energy and initial feedback of the participants in Jajce.
We didn’t necessarily build a platform in Jajce, but I think we definitely planted a seed. Considering the many great things happening in the region, I’m almost certain this seed will grow in one way or another and I hope to keep you in the loop about this.
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