The dance of equals: park it, zone it, equalise it

noelito
2 min readApr 5, 2024

On the fifth day of my South African trip, we flew into Johannesburg and went to the green quarters of the British Council to learn about their Interaction Programme. As we entered the room, it was revealing to see the open space layout, felt very much “in the zone”.

Anyway, they run programmes right across South Africa which begs me to wonder what image does the Council represent to a community with such a dark history of colonialism?

The workshop they had prepared for us was truly amazing. The theory that underpins this is experience, reflect, theorise, experience, but enough of the words here comes the action. We were asked to think of an animal and introduce ourselves as that…animal. It was like a zoo, we had eagles, ostriches, cameleons, tortoises, hares and elephants — that’s my people.

For example, the tortoise felt they weren’t as politically aware as everyone else, but they’ll get there in the end with the rest. The elephant felt part of a matriarchal society and wanted to get people to new pastures. The zebra was attached to her cultural identity as black and white and was happy to work it out in the background.

We were then encourage to think about what excited us and what got us angry. Slightly perplexed, we did the “dance of equals” — would love to show you how it goes, but we were all too embarassed to capture it on tape.

Something I was thinking about around youth leadership, which may sound controversial, is how we can we mobilise gang leaders — who are trusted by their peers and reference points in the community — to turn on the social change?

Well, the discussion brought out that we should make it comfortable for young people to join in and use their energies, but also acknowledge and invite the gang leaders to the workshops. One of the facilitators related how in Tennessee, they identified gangs and encouraged them to develop their own security companies — creating something for them to do that mobilises their skills and enthusiasm.

“Energies create realities so let’s zoom into the positive and ignite the flames of positive change.” was what I head one of the participants say…

At the end of the day, it’s about creating the spaces to listen and let people open up and explore their insecurities which may be crystallised through prejudice, such as racism, sexism or ageism.

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noelito

Head of Policy Design, Scrutiny & Partnerships @newhamlondon #localgov Co-founder of #systemschange & #servicedesign progs. inspired by @cescaalbanese