The first day of The European Way working meeting in Pisa was all about evaluating the successes and challenges of the last months. Of the 11 participants of the meeting, 7 had been in Heidelberg already and 6 are even members of the current moderation team. 3 participants though had only joined The European Way during the last few weeks. Still, everyone has put intense effort into the growth and development of The European Way.
In the first evaluation round we collected our own experiences with the work in The European Way.
We could easily agree that the greatest advantage of working within The European Way is the outstanding atmosphere among the team members. “I am amazed by the optimism you have, despite everything going on”, concluded a new member of TEW who has only recently joined the circle in Vienna. The “feel-good environment” was also applauded by members who have contributed to The European Way for several months now. We have been harsh on ourselves though – more than two third of the feedback was criticism of our own work.
Especially the ineffective decision making procedures, a lack of transparency and a deficient (digital) communication structure were at the center of criticism. Knowing this before, we had planned an entire day (tomorrow) to discuss exactly these issues in group and plenary sessions. But also fundamental questions about our own self-understanding and identity were raised.
Who are we and what makes us special?
As a young and growing organization which is yet on its exciting journey towards maturity, questions about identity are a pressing issue. Keeping all points about organizational structure for tomorrow’s session we picked opinions on our values and principles to discuss in smaller groups.
We all agree that we want social and political change in Europe. There is no need for us to discuss that our principles of equality, participation and non-violence are crucial for our work. We know that we not only want to promote our ideas, but rather want to implement them through our individual activism and thinking. The unbelievably difficult task though is to elaborate how we distinguish ourselves from other European organizations. “How can I not only spark a friend’s interest for TEW’s ideas, but make sure he’ll stick to The European Way?”, wondered one of us. He pronounced what we all have in our minds. After 90 minutes of intensive brain storming we did manage to concrete many of our ideas. Together we figured that we might want to redefine our values and must specify the idea behind the complex concept of non-violence. We came to terms with the idea that we might actually not focus on changing Europe, but on changing societies and relationsships instead. We also realized that we need to express our values more explicitly in our work processes and that generally we have to rethink our responsibilities and hierarchies. To visualize our ideas we came up with the “square metaphor”: we all are on the same square and we all are there with one function, our task must be to figure out what function we have – and how to make sure everyone gets to unfold their entire potential.
At the end of the day we had brainstormed and clustered a lot. It was not a day for solutions. But, we are very positive that our results from today will lead towards concrete solutions tomorrow.
The atmosphere makes it all
After the first day in Pisa a participant said: “The goal of all our meetings must be that we all leave more relaxed than we arrive.” How is that possible with a work load of ours? It is simple in a way. We create an environment which makes everyone feel welcome. Where we care for each others. Where we give time and space for breaks, deep breaths and sunny walks through Pisa. And where we serve extremly well-prepared food – cooked with love, obviously. It is our aim to promote a culture of support and of comfort – and how would that ever be possible if we would not start right in our own meetings?