The Joys of Organizing and Leading Small Workshops

Many of us who have been primarily to Regional RC workshops may have unconsciously adopted a particular mental model of workshops as large events, that are done in a particular way in a particular kind of place. We may even think that the measure of success for a workshop is how many people come to it. These are premises that need challenging!

The Goal of Workshops

There is one overriding goal for any workshop: to assist a group of people to re-emerge. This needs to be thought about flexibly in each and every situation. Who are we trying to help re-emerge? Around what issues? How do we make a workshop accessible-through location and schedule, for example-to each person we are trying to reach? What are the circumstances of the lives of the people in our Community, and how can we think about organizing workshops that will be accessible in particular to people of color, low-income people, disabled people, etc.?

Thinking Freshly About Workshops

Workshops do not necessarily need to be weekend affairs which start on Friday evening and end on Sunday afternoon. One can hold a wonderful day-long workshop at someone's house with a loaf of bread, a jar of peanut butter, a bag of apples, and some juice, and only a handful of people in attendance. The goal is to think freshly about what we're trying to accomplish in our Community. Who are we trying to reach and what are the needs of that group of people? Under these particular and unique circumstances, how can we best get the job done?

The Advantages of small Area-based Workshops

Small Area-based workshops can provide unique opportunities for re-emergence and leadership development, not only for the workshop leader and organizer but also for members of the Community who can't manage the logistics of a larger workshop or who might get "lost" in a large workshop setting. They generally cost much, much less than larger workshops and can be organized to accommodate unusual schedules. (Have you ever been to a twenty-four-hour workshop that went from 5 pm Saturday to 5 pm Sunday? It is possible to get many of the advantages of an overnight and still leave much of the weekend available!) Small local workshops are easier to lead and organize and hence are a good training ground for up-and-coming leaders/organizers.

People can come into a small Area workshop already closely connected to each other, which means they can spend more discharge time on the topic of the workshop and less on the restim-ulation of being around strangers. There are fewer logistical challenges, and this also allows for a higher percentage of the time being used for discharge. (I find that people get three to five times more session time at small workshops than at the larger ones.) Small local workshops provide a great opportunity for people in a Community to see each other in new contexts and to develop more solid, close relationships. They are also great places to try things out. Since people usually know each other pretty well, there is a lot of safety which can be used to experiment and figure things out together.

The Advantages of Day-long Workshops

Day-long workshops offer many advantages over weekend workshops in terms of logistics and accessibility. People whose lives are otherwise full of real responsibilities and challenges are much more likely to be able to set aside a day for their re-emergence than an entire weekend. Day-long workshops can provide a good chunk of time for people to get to notice each other, have long sessions, build relationships, and think and discharge about the workshop topic. Costs can be minimized by having people bring bag lunches and/or potluck suppers. Sites for day-long workshops are also much easier to arrange.

Example of a Small Area Weekend Workshop

I held a weekend workshop in my Community for three people around a particular liberation topic. I wanted to see how far we could move this constituency's internalized oppression if we had the opportunity to do a good chunk of heavy, hard work together. The results were extraordinary! We met at my house starting at 9 am on Saturday morning and ended at 3 pm on Sunday. By the end of the workshop, people had gotten as many hours of discharge as they would have had at a large five-day workshop. Each person had had several long sessions in front of the group, and because of the safety of being with people they are in class with twice a month, they were all able to tackle very challenging distresses. As leader of the workshop, I got to experiment with counseling them in these challenging areas with the security of knowing them very, very well.

Regional Workshops Are Important, Too

There are also many important things about Regional workshops. Some of the strengths of Regional workshops are exactly due to their being larger and bringing together people who know each other less well and who are from different Communities with different strengths. Regional workshops allow members of a local Community to have access to the sharpest Co-Counseling leaders in the Region or the world and to hear these leaders talk about their picture of re-emergence in a particular area. People can get their first experience of being counseled in front of a large group. Up-and-coming leaders can "try their wings" as support group leaders and see themselves as "bigger" than ever before. Regional workshops also play an important part in the development of Regional and International leaders.

Make Use of All Kinds of Workshops

Both kinds of workshops can play a critical role in people's re-emergence. It's useful to try to figure out how to make all kinds of workshops accessible to everyone.

Thinking freshly about Area workshops increases the chance of developing leadership among more and more different populations in RC. By taking a good look at the situation for each group of people, we can figure out precisely the kinds of settings that will work best for developing new leaders and giving everyone access to decisive counseling.

Barbara Boring
Natick, Massachusetts, USA

(Present Time No. 110, January 1998)

Last modified: 2016-08-22 02:11:22-07