Volendam, 26-29 April 2011

Click for images contributed by Theo Van Den Eijnde, Akkie Okma, Renate Reijmers, Leif Josefsson.

Reporter: Mark Van Duin


We bicycled from Volendam to Edam where we gathered by the church.  After coffee and biscuits Cora Reijerse delivered the welcoming speech.

Wim Runderkamp welcomed us, an alderman from the Edam-Volendam community, dressed in traditional costume.. He built his speech around the theme of resilience, which is the main theme of our network meeting. He started off with a few examples of hardships in his own family and how they were resolved.

He then went on to mention the 2 most important features of Volendam, religion and fish. He explained the importance of religion to the community by illustrating the difficult situation of the village before the construction of the Afsluitdijk in 1932, when it was still on the sea shore. Floods were more frequent back then, so all the villagers could do was pray to the lord for their safety. The importance of fishing to the community has always been evident(especially the eel catch), but has experienced difficulties in the recent past due to the fact that the eel migration from the south to Volendam is being intercepted by French and Spanish fishermen. This has led to a scarcity of eel in de Ijsselmeer, but the people of Volendam have found a creative solution for this problem. They bought a scientific project from the University of Leiden that enables eel to reproduce itself in fish tanks and release it in the Ijselmeer afterwards, so that they are not dependant on the eel migration anymore.

The eel lab with the fish tanks are placed on a special location, in the remains of café ‘t Hemeltje where a terrible fire cost the lives of 14 young people on New Year’s Eve 2001. This is an example of resilience, bouncing back from a disaster by finding a productive purpose for the same location.

After 5 minutes of thinking time there was a thought sharing session. The importance of the internal cohesion of the Volendam people to their ability to show resilience was acknowledged. Also their willingness to protect the past identity (for example the eel story) was mentioned. Their strength seems to be fueled by drawbacks (the fire).

Stories told by participants

Nursing home Berkenstede
Ann, Geoff and I went to Berkenstede, where 2 managers and 3 staff members were waiting for us.They had an urgent question: how to deal with expectations (of family of the clients) that can never be completely satisfied.
The mere fact of having time and space to talk about this question was very inspiring.We noticed that you can always make time and space for questions to your colleagues. The format of questioning we offered was an eye-opener for the managers and the staff. We didn’t solve their problem, but they found out that asking the right questions can be helpful.I called the manager a few weeks later, and they were still enthusiastic about the visit.The way of asking questions gave them inspiration they could still be aware of. They will ask me to come back for a similar session soon.Karin van Kesteren.
Primary education “Passend Onderwijs”
I accompanied a visit of a group of European AI consultants to our community of practice about Fit education. This community of about 10 people consists of teachers at a primary school, students who wan to become a teacher en two supervisors.Subject of the meeting was on one hand the question how to react on a Dutch law that has the purpose to strenghten primary education to become fit for more (special)children. More important however was the need of the community to involve all of the teachers in this part of Amsterdam.The program of the meeting consisted of  several little meetings in couples around questions that came up in the minds of the participants. In an informal atmosphere this led to a vivid workshop where the sparkling of the energy was visible. No discussions but several interesting dialogues.
The consultants were curious and they often surprised thecommunity members with questions from unexpected viewpoints. The community members were very committed to and enthusiastic about the job that has to be done.The meeting was really a literally example of an inquiry (with no easy and dead answers) and appreciation of ‘what is’. Not only the meeting itself was energizing, we as a community are still fed by it. There emerges even an answer on the question of  involvement of more teachers: approach them in the same way as the  consultant approached us.
Kees van den Berg
Joris ( the campaign director) and me looked back at our ai network/ Greenpeace campaigners session on the 28 th of april.He is  happy with the process and the results. We wondered together about the interesting and exciting process of connecting and the time it took. It seemed necessary to accept each other first in all our differences and getting clear expectations about what we had to offer to them.He said we gave Femke ( the campaigner with the fishing project) new ideas and new perspectives on her project. Pavel ( coordinator sea campaigns) and himself think the ai approach is useful for the enhancement of their creative thinking. They liked the best stories interviews and experienced that it gave the right energy for thinking about new possibilities.I offered him in the name of Bernard more guidance from out network when he can get a big group together to work on creativity.He could come back to us after the summer to help the international Greenpeace project team that will prepare the fishing project of Femke.Cora Reijerse
Fairfood International
Frank, the exec. Director of FFI looked back with great pleasure to the visit of our ai network team.He liked to see that the people of FFI really were willing to be positive and appreciate the organization and their work.Frank had a difficult time as director lately and he decided last week to move on and make space for a new director.He leaves the organization behind in an financially healthy condition and  with a lot of talented and energetic young people as some of you have witnessed yourself.Additional news: June 23 I had a meeting with Kerena Lam the HR manager of FFI.
She told me that FFI is very enthusiastic about using an AI approach for their Quality management. The new Quality manager embraces AI and read a lot about it on the internet after the visit of our EU AI team on the 28 th of april.
They are talking about working with “AI monitors”, people who are responsible for keeping the conversations alive about the quality projects and efforts ( big and small) in the departments.
Kerena ( who was not at the meeting in april) is very happy about:
• The spotlight on the positive. Because as an organization, with their exec. director leaving they were engaged in a lot of conflict and tension lately and they really need to look at what is going well and appreciate the improvements they deliver together.
• The co-creation and co-responsibilty for the topic Quality. That is no one woman show for the quality mananger.Cora Reijerse

In Hotel Spaander the meeting was opened with a brief evaluation of the day before. What can be done with the experiences for the project? The topics for the day were established:
– Reflecting on network and project. Establishing values for future projects (the one in Belgium).
– What moved our clients and us yesterday?
– What is the connection between resilience and the afternoon project?
– How do we go from inspiration to impact for future conferences?
– What is the active European participation in the world summit? What do we want?
– What makes AI work in new organizations in a short time?
– Reflect on the sustainability of the network.

After this people were divided into the project groups to reflect on these questions and the experiences of yesterday afternoon.
I attended the Fairfood group. Positive experiences were mentioned: The openness of the organization was noticed, they treat you as a human being and not as the position you have. The use of teamwork to improve the world. The use of resilience to overcome the lack of funding. The possibilities for leadership education, giving young people the space to learn that. A creative use of social media, that offer more possibilities then in the old days because you can’ t keep anybody out of the room.

Exchange of the morning conversation in the form of a short presentation delivered by each project group.

The Fairfood group reported what I just mentioned above, adding that they noticed the energy in the room. The goal must be to overcome the discrepancy between the high goal(improving the world) and the ‘small’ work.

The Foundation 180 group reported that appreciative auditing of the method of working can be used to improve the organization, focusing on:

– strengths and resources.
– pride and success
– good reasons
– dreams of possibilities
– looking ahead

The organization is the result of a merger, the goal must be to bring the merging parties closer together using the AI method.

The nursing home Berkenstede group reported that they found that being resilient is a choice. The biggest incentive among the staff is the desire to give good care. Despite the target culture the staff is still very caring. The clients also cheer up the caretakers when they are in a bad mood. This is a fine example of co creation. The goal must be to create the willingness to find micro-moments in order to provide better care, even if there is no time due to the target culture.

The group of Wick van der Vaart and his students reported on a worldwide summit of virtual and physical inclusion. How can you keep a virtual community alive? That question evoked a lot more questions than results.

The Greenpeace group started off with the image problem the organization has, they are old news. Goal must be improve the quality of their campaigns. They also noticed that it was difficult to connect with the staff because they see themselves as warriors and as a consequence they don’t accept other opinions. They found that silence can be used as an ally to improve the quality of the conversation. Another finding was that dividing them up into small teams is useful. A goal must be to help them see themselves as persons who are more than just their work. Taking a bit of distance will improve the quality of their work.

Reflections from the networkers after sharing stories of the project visits
Shared by Anne Radford

  • 5 strangers working together: inspiring could work together whenever we like
  • “oldies” + newbies”
    sharing the values continuing them
  • Inclusive (network)
    mirroring what we do with our clients
  • Going to “real”stuff/projects was very powerful for me
  • Is it possible to be with different projects over several meetings?
  • Impact≠skill, feeling the Network
    it is so much more ∕
    mythical sense
  • Shared values /ground made it easy to go to the projects and go into action
    go into action on my own AND had the energy of human beings connecting a sense of wholeness
  • The setting up of the projects – inclusive strategies ↓
    basis of inclusion
    constructing trust + individual freedom
    acting together for free
    having no choice of who you can work with is paradoxically liberating
    attitude as volunteers
    importance of framing of projects is it bestowing as learning with each other
  • Situation/location was great
  • Paintings-wonderful
  • Time to prepare for the projects was important
  • Experiencing the Network@work
  • New insights etc were coming out in each step of the path → not waiting for a destination on the end point
  • Wider ( societal, /environment/etc) implications of our projects. what does that mean for what the Network does + its role in the world, + how being committed but mot attached?
    ……more space on the website for further comments

Volendam network meeting April 26-28 2011- List of participants (1)