Youth Community Leader Dialog

Since last August, I’ve been involved in a Tohoku restration project, “Youth Community Leader Dialog (YCLD).” This initiative is taken the lead by NPO Miratuku (meaning “Emerging Future”), the Berkana Institute, and KEEP Foundation as a result of 311.

YCLD aims to offer an opportunity for us who reside in Japan facing the gigantic crisis to co-create resilient community where we can lean to each other for today and tomorrow. We specifically focus on nurturing youth (but not excluded) leaders who are to take the initiative on the current challenges. Nonetheless, interestingly enough, a wide variety of generations gather to support the younger generations and mentorship is generated.

YCLD is a three-day workshop held in Kiyosato, Yamanashi Prefecture, the foot of Mt. Fuji. Our facilitator team (we call it a “hosting team”) consists of Japanese as well as foreigners. Amazingly, the foreign hosts fly all the way from the States, Latin America, Oceania, or Europe to Japan just for this workshop! Therefore, the workshop is conducted bilingual with excellent interpreters.

Participants have a series of intensive dialog that rarely happen in our busy daily life, revisit their fundamental values, become aware of who they are and how they are connected to society, and discover an elegant minimum action step to take from now on. We strongly believe that conscientious and deliberate communication is the core competence that today’s leaders must have because the leaders are required to form the new teams, organizations, and systems to respond to rapid social, economic and political changes. The workshop is designed in a way that the participants experience deep dialog to open up themselves and develop trustworthy and lasting relationships with others. It is stunning to witness how much we are able to accomplish and build rapport with strangers for merely three days. As long as we know how to liberate ourselves just a bit from our old nutshell and accept the way we are, others come closer to us automatically.

We, the hosting team, has very very intense meetings during the workshop because we improvise and decide what we do with the participants along the way. We roughly design the program (how the workshop flows throughout three days) in advance (the day before!) but continue to make adjustments and sometimes major changes as we listen to the participants’ voices. This design process isn’t a piece of cake, but enables me to develop an active listening skill and refine an ability to sense “ba.” A phenomenon arises and passes by at each and every moment. We can never anticipate things perfectly. Even if we design a beautiful program of three days, it might not simply fit the participants’ needs or particular situations where we happen to be. Therefore, we create a few plans, carry out one of them, sense the space (ba) to see if that works or not, and persistently revise it.

Another remarkable characteristic of the design process is that we use dialog as a method of planning. In general, dialog is considered to be unpractical so that time is wasted while nothing is decided. It’s true in many occasions. Nevertheless, once you learn how to get rid of your attachment to your “good” ideas but tap into your honest thoughts based on your intuition, dialog can be a powerful way to stimulate ideas and make a decision.

Many participants reach to striking realization of self and go through significant shifts in their mind and heart. Positive impact that the participants get seems to be much bigger than I imagine, even when I feel that I could have done differently. This makes me more humble, and more cautious about my behavior and words because I can’t expect how and when I possibly influence others’ life and because I can’t control whether influence is positive or negative. That’s all up to recipients.

We have hosted the workshop four times in 2011 (I missed the first one, though) and the fifth one is upcoming in March. I’m excited to plunge into the new community that will be presenting itself.

Dive into Your Deep Ocean

In Tokyo, Japan, I throw a workshop called, “Visualize Your Process.” It consists of three weekday evening classes. Each has three hours. In total 9 hours.

In my practice, “Communication Process Design,” it’s essential to explore deep inside of self and find out how one communicates with others as well as within oneself. In order to discover it, visualization is one of the powerful methods. The term “visualization” might remind you of drawing and painting. Yet, in my opinion, visualization includes simple thinking, as long as it’s consciously processed. Visualization could mean story-telling while imagining its scenes in your mind. Visualization could refer to verbalizing unclear emotions through sounds and onomatopoeia. Visualization could be somatic movements.

The “Visualize Your Process” workshop allows participants to free up their “in-the-box” thinking and tap into their creativity by self-reflection, pair interview, group dialog, and Graphic Facilitation. As the final deliverable, every participant designs and creates one visual mapping.

In July 2011, I facilitated the third season of VYP, and specially focused on the impact of 311 on individuals. I added a sub line to the title, “Dive into Your Deep Ocean.”

Four months had already passed since the historical crisis in Japan at that time. We crawled and stumbled everyday to tackle the outrageous situation. We were too preoccupied to try to run the political, economic, and social system. We didn’t have time and space to take a pause, chew, and diget what had happened and were still happening to us. There were urgent yet covert demands for “time for processing” arising.

So, I redesigned the VYP workshop to meet these demands. I hoped that my workshop gives people an opportunity to revisit their value systems and touch their true emotions.

Participants learned the basic skill of Graphic Facilitation while spending the decent amount of time for his/her-own to think through the past, feel the present, recall the past, recapture the present, and imagine the future.

On the first night, the participants did pair-interview based on the four questions: “What brought you here?” “What emotions are behind it?” “What happened to you on 311?” and “How do you feel now?” Then, they made a reflection map to illustrate their short history between 311 and now.

On the second night, the participants picked up a few points from the map that most affected them. Besides, they added new factors that the map had missed out. Then, I asked them to describe these significant elements by means of emotions, forms, shapes, colors, sounds, smells, and mental images. At the end, they “rephrased” these abstract words into concrete key words and clear visuals.

With all these parts prepared, on the third night, they drew visual maps to show where they stand at the very moment.

Some of the participants had never heard of or seen Graphic Facilitation. Most of them felt intimidated about drawing. Nonetheless, the only three evening classes quickly enabled them to visually understand and express themselves amazingly. Moreover, it became an eye-opening experience for the participants to take time for the active self-reflection. They realized how important and influential it is to communicate within oneself, and share the inner journey with others.

To survive, we must keep on moving forward. We have to maintain our everyday life while striving to address the problems. More and more fatal issues swallow us like tsunami and we are almost drawn. Nevertheless, at times, I believe that we need to pause for a moment, looking back, looking around on our sides, looking down to the earth, and looking up to the sky. It definitely makes us feel secure and safe to “ping” our current position on the map of uncertainty, even though we are ever-changing.

Finally, this is my mind image that greatly influenced who I am right now: The scenery of the Himalayan in Dharamsala, India.