OPEN FORUM and TILDE TRAINING in ITALY 643 482 TILDE Transformative and Inclusive Leadership from Deep Democracy

In the first week of February 2023 two different trainings on Conflict Facilitation have been held in Italy within TILDE project, one addressed to refugees and another one to social workers. Finally, an open forum took place on the topic of “Finding Home – The difficult access to Housing for foreign citizens”. The location of both the training and the open forum was Castle Episcopio in Grottaglie, Apulia Region. This city also hosts the headquarter of the Local Association that has been collaborating throughout project TILDE: “Associazione Babele” manages in those surroundings a few hosting projects for asylum seekers and refugees, some dedicated to single adults or families and others to unaccompanied minors, as in the case of the project in Grottaglie.

The weekly program that has been imagined and then developed by the two Italian partner organizations, COMUNITAZIONE and XENA, is explained here after. 

The first training addressed to 20 minor refugees had been stretched into 4 half-day sessions and it comprised two artistic workshops and two training sessions on conflict facilitation. The artistic workshops have been conducted by the artist and ethnologist Rachele Venturin, president of another local association involved in project TILDE, “Tessere Culture Onlus” from Pontassieve, Florence. 

This workshop has been conceived and led as an integral part of the overall training. The objective was to help the very diverse group of minors (in terms of countries of origin and command of the Italian language) to create a sense of a group, to explore and find ways of communication beyond the use of verbal means, for example through body movement, or by singing, drawing, painting, or creating artistic objects using recycled materials and simple tools. The focus of all activities was the dynamic representation of the possible ways a single individual relates to barriers, obstacles, conflicts, and the communication of how and when each person feels or doesn’t feel at home. 

The artistic workshop addressed to minors has therefore supported a lot of the training on conflict facilitation that has been conducted to the same group by the two facilitators Beatrice Leone and Sergi Barrientos in the other two days. Once the concept of conflict had been clarified and understood, the participants in small groups have chosen some conflicts that were really happening in their daily life and they were facilitated to better understand and become more aware of what was happening in those conflicts, to express fully their position, and switching from their own side to the other, while framing temporary resolutions.

The effectiveness of the training for the group of migrant minors can be best described by the words of Angela Todaro, from Babele: “The thing that most excited me is seeing the change in the boys: we have boys who perhaps have difficulty speaking and communicating and who instead have proposed to go to the center,  who have brought not only their body in a more conscious way, but also the word, the content in a very significant and profound way”. 

Beatrice and Sergi also facilitated a second separate TILDE training specifically addressed to a group of 30 social workers coming not only from the Babele Association but also from a few other organizations dealing with migration. This training has lasted two half-day sessions. 

The participants had an incredible chance to get to know and catch a great part of the core concepts of Deep Democracy philosophy and the Process Work methodology of facilitating conflicts. They have learned to identify privileges within themselves and in the context and to recognize different types of rank (spiritual, social, psychological, structural) that can be exercised by individuals, consciously or unconsciously. The participants have been working on identifying roles and voices who are accepted in certain cultures and those with whom nobody identifies (ghost roles). This understanding helped a lot to bring more awareness about what is happening in their own working context and how to deal better with the complexity of the system. 

Marta, a participant of the training, confirms the need by social workers to have tools that help framing situations in their complexity: “The people who do this job need to name the processes, identifying what happens emotionally, cognitively and in the relationship as well, and to open the words to restore meaning to them”. 

The words of Carmen remark the overall appreciation by many other participants for the way the training was conducted: “Somehow, the non-formalness of these workshops was very beautiful because it was experienced for the first time and above all because it gave way to get away from those technicalities with which we are confronted every now and then and therefore I felt much freer to get to the heart of the workshop”. 

Finally, on Saturday afternoon, an open forum took place inside the Castle Episcopio, seeing the participation of local citizens, migrants, and participants of the training, all of them conversing in a facilitated manner around the topic of the difficulties of renting a house in current days, especially for migrant people. 

During the forum, many migrants spoke up sharing their wish to create relationships and widen their social network in Grottaglie. They showed great skills in relating and communicating about themselves and their condition. Also, in some moments some of them took temporary the role of teaching others what it means to host and how this happens in some African countries such as Senegal. 

Another interesting moment happened when a man spoke very personally as someone who has many difficulties in approaching migrants and connecting to them, because of the culture he has grown up in. Usually, this kind of voice is not very well accepted in the context of social activism and social work. Temporarily, this was the role that suffered the most for not being seen and accepted by other people in the forum who were trying to convince him to change his position. Lately, a cool spot has been reached when this kind of closeness got some deeper acceptance and understanding from the other side.
“Such kind of training is essential. It is essential that it is also repeated over time since we always need to return to reflect and restore new meaning to things, otherwise, the words we use, and the actions we perform risk becoming invisible.” Marta, social  worker.

Beatrice, Sergi, Giancarlo and Emiliano – Tilde team ITALY