Over the last few weeks the idea of running a Street Feast/ World Café mash-up emerged, getting some people together, over food, for a ‘People’s Picnic- A Feast of Ideas’.
Given the themes of picnic and pies going on, we thought it appropriate that our own metaphor also follow a culinary tract, and so we stirred up some questions : What are the ingredients for positive social change in Ireland right now? And what do we need to cook up change in Ireland. When Sunday came and we put out the call across the Electric Picnic, laid out some blankets, rustled up some pies, and watched as people gathered for conversation as the world café commenced.
Our first step was to enquire into the ingredients already in the pot: What does Ireland have? What change is already taking place? The groups starting throwing out ideas and ingredients already there- from education initiative, eco/ sustainability projects, to innate Irish capacity and creativity.
The next stage was to probe into the possibilies that exist for change and then come up with three main ingredients needed for change in Ireland. The ingredients were written on roughly shaped pieces of pie and then brought together to create our masterpiece!
The words that emerged were beautiful: ‘PMA- positive mental attitude’, creativity/ imagination (which came up a number of times), initiative, interdependance (skill sharing/ resource sharing), socially conscious education, vision, talent, tenacity, confidence, community, participation.
Interestingly there was no mention of money, or physical infrastructure, or buildings, or bank guarantees. There was no sense that Ireland does not have the capacity and talent within it already- you just had to look around.
The Electric Picnic is a microcosm of the resourcefulness and creativity of the people in this country. There was fun and vitality everywhere. There was colour, imagination, music, poetry, ideas, friendship and abundant creativity.
Everywhere I turned I just saw amazing people and beauty (and I was a drug-free zone!) The pie in the people’s picnic gave some voice to that, naming some of the potential that is already there. This was just a short event, trying to forge some connections and experimenting with a format. I’m glad we did and I even had some of my own personal take-aways from my own involvement in it. A few here:
Collaboration through Chaos.
Admission one: Come Sunday afternoon of the Electric Picnic, what with the ultra stimulation of the few days and the lack of all things sleep and rest related, I was feeling scattered. We were still pulling threads of ideas for the event together, and I was finding my ends a little frayed- collaboration brings its own challenges. It requires active and engaged listening, an ability to sift through what is been said to elicit common themes and ideas, and then an ability to synthesize the collective sense into action. What is also brings however is a team, who can take the reins when needed and help take turns to steer things. So even a few hours beforehand it seemed a little messy and unclear to me as to how this little experiment would work- and I just had to trust- to let go of the need for clarity and to turn to the people around me and let them steer for a while. It worked.
Food will get people there, and make them stay.
The allure of free food got some belly’s into the space. A welcome and a friendly greeting made some people stay.
Food is a great leveler. It is common to all. It is sensory and experiential. It is essential. Breading bread together is a long held tradition in both social and spiritual realms. Sharing food together is an entry into conversation, connections and building blocks of community. Around the picnic blanket, as the metaphorical pie was been cooked up over the edible ones, I could see new connections being made- this brought a smile to my face…
Perfection is over-rated.
Pieces of cut-out pie don’t need to be perfectly shaped and formed. They just need to be there. (I was getting a bit caught up in how the pie would look!). They say the devil is in the detail and small things matter and that is true- but they don’t need to be absolutley perfect to make it work, and to make it beautiful. So what if the pieces of pie were different sizes and the edges didn’t match- it came together in the end!
My recent collaborations have brought up lots of new learning for me- about how I work in teams, what I bring to the equation and how I can learn from others. They have not always been easy or fluid, but they do bring their own richness. Experiment and collaboration need to be on the agenda. And so with that I’m off to cook up some more plans.