I miss you! Are you coming next week to CIVICUS’ Civil Society Week in Bogota’? I so want you to help me untangle all the clues that I am collecting on the puzzle of youth civil society in Medellin.
This week I kept thinking about the interview we did that Saturday morning two summers ago. As always, you were celebrating drinking your morning coffee. I remember feeling we were up to something that felt so vivid. Our conversation was mind-blowing and it tickled me…I ended up quoting this in my paper:
‘We need to redefine our social contract away from the single variable optimization (of greed) – I think we are working towards discovering ways of living that allow us to embrace happiness, openness and well-being, instead of fear’ (Liam O’Doherty, TakingITGlobal)
I can’t tell you how much this quote is resonating with what I am hearing here in Medellin.
Last weekend, I hosted the first meeting of a ‘cooperative inquiry’ that I am coordinating for my PhD research. The term sounds kind of pretentious, but it is something very simple, and a very intuitive way of doing research. In short, I am bringing a group of 9 leaders of youth organizations together to do research on their organizational culture. In my PhD, I am studying the links between funding mechanism and organizational cultures in youth organizations in Medellin.
I called the research ‘Plata, Cultura y Cambio’, which translates to ‘Money, Culture and Change’. The morning of the first meeting with the group I felt as excited as during my first day of elementary school.
I woke up early, I picked out the coolest outfit (I was wearing a blue vest!) and I prepared coffee and tea. I hosted the meeting in my apartment. I set up the space so that there would be two main working rooms. One was arranged with a carpet on the floor, and small coloured pillows to sit on. The other room was mostly empty, with a big whiteboard that I made with transparent plastic and yellow tape.
I thought I had considered all details but I was still feeling freaking nervous. At 9.00ish (30 minutes before we were supposed to start!) someone shared an audio message on our Whatsapp group saying ‘today is not a good day to go out, stay at home’. Apparently a paramilitary group had caused civil unrest the day before in Medellin, and there was much fear for further violence in the city.
As a response, someone shared this poem:
Es urgente el amor
Es urgente un barco en el mar.
Es urgente destruir ciertas palabras,
odio soledad crueldad,
Es urgente inventar alegría,
multiplicar los besos, los trigales
es urgente descubrir rosas y ríos
y mañanas claras.
Cae en los hombros el silencio y la luz
impura, hasta doler.
Es urgente el amor, es urgente
Urgent is love
Urgent is a boat in the sea.
It is urgent to destroy certain words,
hate loneliness cruelty,
It is urgent to invent happiness,
Multiply the kisses, the wheatfields
it is urgent to discover roses and rivers
and clear mornings.
Light and silence fall on the shoulders
impure, it begins to hurt.
Urgent is love, it is urgent
Eventually people did arrive, and the day was a lot of fun. I asked participants what their organization works towards. Check out this answer:
‘We work for a more affectionate world. A world in which we prioritize relationships between people and not economic relationships. On in which nature is respected as an integral part of who we are. One in which other ways of living become possible’ (Ximena Quintero, Corporación Casa Mia)
There is something here that is moving me.
Then we talked about organizational histories. I created a graph on the plastic whiteboard showing time (x) and funding available (y) and I asked each participant to graph the history of their organization based on these variables.
Here it got messy.
Ups, downs, resource problems, change in directions because of donor requirements. DE TODO.
How does funding change our vibe, our soul, our culture?
I interviewed Robinson few weeks ago. He told me about his experience working in the youth sector in Medellin over the last 10 years.
‘Young people start to work in the social sector to find a meaning to their life. Then they feel the need to move on with their life, move out of their parents, to have a family. Money is indispensable. Otherwise organizations fail. Those that don’t fail cannot live outside the logic of the market. Organizations go from dreams to economic logic like boyfriend and girlfriend go into marriage’, he told me.
So what’s the solution?
‘Well, you resist in your free time’.
So my question is, can we resist in our free time? And what do we do in our full time?
Last week I went to a talk by Antonio Lafuente called ‘The promise of amateurs’ part of a series called ‘Wisdom, knowledge and resources as a common good’.
‘Amateurs’ are people that do things for love, he explained. They work at the frontier of space and time. They are motivated by curiosity and they are truly innovative, because ‘innovation is not something you plan for. Innovation includes everything, it is an art, it is a social process.’
‘Amateurs don’t need to earn income out of their experience, so they have the opportunity to create new stories. They have the opportunity to unlearn’
Jonas, Kirsten and I sit around our table made of wood pallets for hours working for Recrear. With passion, unpaid, on Macbooks. Are we amateurs? Can you resist from a MacBook?
I wonder how everything aligns, because I want to change the world full time.
Today I read this article and it ends like this:
‘The NGO-ization of politics threatens to turn resistance into a well-mannered, reasonable, salaried, 9-to-5 job. With a few perks thrown in. Real resistance has real consequences. And no salary.’ (Arundhati Roy).
Lots to digest, so what do ya think?
Let’s see what Medellin organizations teach me. I’ll keep you posted.