By Megan Rees
This past weekend was Team 9’s 5th week of our learning journey and we dove deeply into our projects.
We have been working on our projects via Design Thinking, which is a new way of thinking for me. I’m having a hard time truly defining it, because I’m still in the process. The picture above shows the five phases. The phases are Discovery, Interpretation, Ideation, Experimentation, and Evolution.
Last weekend, I found it rather frustrating because we had to start with a question rather than an answer. My groups question last week was, “What can we do to help people overcome their fears of speaking out?” This whole process is the Discovery part of Design Thinking. Towards the end, we were given homework to do Empathic Research.
This is where you interview different types of people and take the time to really listen to them. It wouldn’t be Knowmads if you didn’t go outside your comfort zone...
For my homework, I had the opportunity to interview 8 different people. This part, by far, was the most amazing part of the Knowmads program for me. I love to make connections with people and this really allowed me to do so in a smart and imaginative way. People love to be listened to, but how often do people actually listen?
I try my best to be an active listener to everyone, but I probably fail more often than I succeed. This opportunity allowed me a purpose to just sit there and listen to what people, who graciously gave me some of their free time, had to say. By the end of both interview sessions, with a few new Facebook friend requests and phone numbers, I felt empowered and energized. One of the interviewees even made a joke and said, “Thank you for the free therapy session.” I encourage anyone who is reading this to go out there and take the time to actually listen to someone. The results may surprise you!
By Saturday, I was excited about sharing the results of my findings and hearing what my other group members found as well. After answering our check-in question, it was time to start phase 2 of Design Thinking, Interpretation.
In the morning, we gathered with our groups and shared our findings via post-its and had to form a new question. My team’s question became, how might we use different theater/performance methods to bring confidence and overcome fears of speaking in front of others? Then, after a group brainstorming session from ourselves and other group members, it was time to take a vote. We only had three votes each. My group chose Group Spoken Word. This led to the Ideation phase of Design Thinking.
Since I have taught Spoken Word in the past, I had an idea for a prototype right away. We did a 5 word song game that I had found in my teaching journey. The other groups created books. One of the groups is focusing on less plastic straws and created an interactive book to reduce the usage. The other group created an interactive book to help families communicate better. Then, as usual, we had to take our products to the streets of Hoan Kiem Lake and test them out. This was the Experimentation stage.
As usual, most of us seemed nervous about having to approach strangers yet again. My group got lucky, we targeted a group of teenagers, who had many friends. It was quite fun to get out there and interact with people.
Our check-out question, “Who have you learned from in this room?” ended our session on a heart-warming note.
Now, as Knowmads we will continue onto the Evolution stage. How will our products evolve? How will this journey end?
It is hard to believe that we are so close to the end of the program. I have gotten used to waking up early every Saturday to hang out and learn with a group of amazing people.
I will surely miss it when it’s gone.
By Ngoc Le
If we are not some kind of anti-social, we will definitely do some things in collaboration with others. If you are a student, the chance of teamwork is even higher, since as students, we hang out, study, and even do exam and test in team for some occasion.
When we can choose our teammates, things seem to be much more enjoyable since we can work with people we like. But when we have no choice over who to team up with, teamwork can be a nightmare if the bond and harmony of the team is vague. Miscommunication, unequal workload and conflicts within team are common place if we are not with our dream team. However, as a matter of fact, most of the time we end up having to work with people we don’t expect. How can we cope with that? Will the scenario of a few person handling the majority of the workload while the majority of the team doing the minority always be the case?
Do not expect beyond the classroom give you the formula for successful group work, since there is no such things. However, the environment offered by the program can somehow enable you to share, open your heart and soul to collaborate and grow with others, and from which, you can find your own way to effective team working. We believe that whether you are young, enthusiastic and adventurous like Nemo, caring, insecure and overprotective as Marlin, or absent- minded and careless as Dory, you can still do wonder in team, when you know how ;)
A reflection from Beyond the Classroom's student about personal development.
Things we do that might hinder our process of learning and growing
1. Not looking back
Growing up doesn’t mean we just keep going on the road of development. We often take no notice of how we grow: what happened. Even bad experiences make us who we are today. We cannot choose where we come from, but we can choose where we go from there.
2. Taking in too much information
We all have the fear of missing out. As we take in too much information, we find it harder to process it all and actually apply it into our lives on a daily basis. Simultaneously, by absorbing too much info, we cannot have deep understanding about anything.
3. Lacking self-awareness
“I don’t even know what I am good/bad at” is a common thing we all think of when we talk about our strengths and weaknesses. Having no self-awareness prevents us from having effective personal development and hinders our ability to find the right orientation for our lives.
Sustainability is one of the main topics that we discuss often in all of our programs.
Here are some reflections we’d like to share with you after much learning and reflection.
It is not just about the environment
There are actually 3 main pillars in Sustainability: Social, Economic, and Environments. True sustainable solutions therefore have to take into consideration of all these 3 areas together. For example, one of the biggest environmental challenge we are facing today is the amount of plastic being dumped in the ocean; it is estimated that there is a garbage truck of plastic entering the ocean every minute of every hour of every day. And yet we cannot hope to fix this problem by simply clean everything up. Check out the surprising systemic solution by an organization called The Plastic Bank; their approach incorporates aspects from all 3 areas for a true sustainable solution!
Collaboration is key
Because Sustainability is such a complex problem, no one person or organization or nation can do it all. Partnership and collaboration is key if we want to move toward a more sustainable future together. That is why on September 25th, 2015, the United Nations set a collection of 17 global goals that is called the Sustainable Development Goals. These goals have been adopted by 193 countries and they hope to achieve all these goals by 2030!
Real change start with myself
It is important to recognize that each of us has a part to play in this challenge. At the individual level, it is not about saving the world, it is about changing my own mindset. I have become more conscious of how much plastic I’m using and taking the effort to reduce it. I also pay attention to not waste energy or don’t buy things I do not need. And above all, I’m trying to increase the awareness about this topic. The only way to change the world is for each individual to change themself.
I first came to Knowmads for a Non-violent Communication Workshop. It taught me about one of the seemingly simplest skill that nearly 15 years of schooling somehow never truly managed to: listen, and I was impressed by how welcoming and supporting this place was.
Therefore, when Application for Team 9 was open, I decided to apply.
But the first day was not what I expected at all. I expected to be in a judgment-free zone, but ended up sitting with a bunch of cool creatures: a more-than-12-year-experienced designer, a 5-language learner, an artist, a 20-year-old who tried Pilates and film making, a marathon runner, and a lady who studied Peace & Conflict Resolution on the verge of starting a business teaching improv. My brain’s representative was screaming “How on Earth am I gonna fit in with these folks?” However, the more I got to know these people, the more connected and empathetic my heart felt. I realized it was my own judgment that I had to let go of, as one facilitator told me “No one is better than the next person, we’re just great in different ways”.
So the first morning went by. All I remembered was that my head went from worries, excitement, weirdness to a more relaxed and comfortable state. There was a paper clip challenge, but I can’t tell you about it cuz I missed it :( Too bad.
The second day, we got to draw our life journeys and applied different levels of listening. Some journeys were mathematic-looking with graphs and equations, others full of stick figures and winding lines. Then we danced wearing blind folds, drew blind portraits, meditated and wrote a letter to our future self. My heart jumped and said it enjoyed this. At the same time it was a little sad knowing this journey will one day end. But, instead of looking it simply as a special classroom, I know I’d be better off seeing it as a start, after which I will continue my life journey, empowered and supported.
Some little fun things worth noting down:
5 is a beautiful number, so yeah that’s it!
I can’t wait to find out what’s waiting for me <3
By Ngoc Le
I used to believe that only birds of a feather can be real friends forever. For that reason, I for a while spontaneously surrounded myself with a community of friends who share similar interests, hobbies, and even dressing style. Being with them gave me a sense of security, maybe because of the fact that as we are the same, we embrace each without much disagreement and criticism.
Until when I threw myself in Beyond classroom 101. As it was the first of its kind, there was no review, no feedback, but the aspiration for self-discovering and personal development urged me to just go for it without much hesitation. Not until the first day that I realized that my decision had led me to the strangest class in my 20 years of sitting in a wide range of schools and courses. And strangest classmates as well. None of my classmates ever has nose ring, smokes, shaves her hair short, or suffers from depression for years. I have no judgement, but do I have doubts whether I can get along with them? Yes, a bunch, but just for a while.
When we are packed together to share stories, draw and journal to reflect on past experiences, it dawned on me that it was our difference that created diversity and harmony. It is similar to painting, a variety of color under artistic arrangements would contribute to the overall beauty of the master piece. Just like red brings warmth to blue, white balances the darkness of black, we complemented each other to enrich our experience and broaden our view. A girl living a cheerful, peaceful and positive life now can somehow feel others’ depression and personal, hence distinctive reactions to ups and downs. In the end, difference doesn’t necessarily create conflicts.
After all, one doesn’t need to seek for only like-minded people to be friend with. Now, if someone of unfamiliar styles, traits and mindset passes by, I will greet them to my life with eagerness to share and learn from our difference, rather than doubt and precaution. If you prefer a colorful painting rather than a mono colored one, let’s give it a try ;)
Listening is something that we do everyday, but i think it is not an easy practice to master. More often than not our judgement and opinions get in the way of true listening. However, I believe that by being conscious of the way I perceive and listen to other people, I can have more chances to create connection.
I was hanging out at a bar and I saw this guy whom I had met several times before. I had always held a thought that the guy was a bit creepy so I did not want to say hi to him. Unfortunately our eyes met for a moment and he nodded in acknowledgement. Not wanting to be rude, I nodded back and sure enough, he started to walk over. Before I knew it, we were making awkward small talk about how were we doing and how weird the weather had been lately. I was relieved when other mutual acquaintances came over and joined the conversation. It gave me a chance to stop making small talk and just listen in the background. But then I realized that the more I listened and observed how the guy was interacting with other people, the more I saw that he was just a normal guy trying to fit in. I became more curious and eventually I found out that we had more things in common than I knew at first. We were both born in Vietnam but lived abroad for a few years, we don’t work for any company but trying to do our own thing, and we both shared an interest for stand-up comedy. In the end he invited me for a chance to perform at a show that he and his friends are putting on soon.
When I got home that night, I spent sometimes to reflect on what had happened. My opinion of the guy was completely changed and I had an opportunity to make new friends and join a new community. And all I had to do was to listen. I listened not to reply but to understand. I listened because I was curious and in a curious mind there is no place for judgment. Without judgment then connection can be built. And it all starts with learning how to listen.
Heart. Head. Hands. It begins with your own tools. All you should do is pay attention to little things. Smells. Colors. Confusion. Yes, it can be tough, even painful. But try not to struggle against it; they are expressions of newborn galaxies.
You must wake up early and let the sunrise be your first encounter of the day. So get out of bed and go explore. Throw your GPS in the lake and surrender to chance. There’s no time for allergies, just sensations and revolutions. Just follow the breeze and you’ll be fine.
But don’t forget to be kind and generous. People may find you exotic so let them reach you, especially the kids. Wave. Laugh. Cry. Be curious enough to see what’s going on inside of you… When the time is right, become the shelter of your own storm.
You will also be intrigued by these people. Accent. Shoes at the door. Handshake. They are so unusual. Surprisingly, some of them you would probably meet anyway. The universe is somehow wise.
Learn. Grow. Respect. Fly away to another dimension but don’t forget to be present. Here. Now. All you need is right in front of you. So celebrate, joke around and order a bottle of tequila. What really matters we could never grab in our hands though.
I wish you, dear knowmad, a life of new beginnings. When you’re ready, you will tell your own story. I sincerely hope to meet you one day.
How do you usually see people with disabilities if you are not one of them? I once asked many of my friends this question and most of the answers were similar: “People that can not do everything as a normal one can; or people that need supported and taken care of.” While this attitude to help and support is definitely worth appreciated, it somewhat has created a limit in opportunities for the disabled to reach out for more choices and possibilities in their life.
However, there is someone who believes otherwise. Someone who is willing to challenge the limiting belief that there are just a few jobs that the disabled can do. Someone who believes that when we look at a person to their core values rather than just their physical conditions, the world will be a much better place. And it’s the same someone who went to Knowmads Hanoi Team 3 with a dream that was dying to come true.
That’s how Unbounded Space happened.
I have heard about Quy Nguyen and Unbounded Space long before I actually met her. At that time, I only knew that it was a project that aimed to bring the disabled and non-disabled persons closer to each other. I heard about workshops that happened in the dark so that there would be no boundaries between a blind man and a non-disabled person, or workshops for the Deaf to connect to themselves and share their stories through meditation and drawing (zentangle).
And then, when I finally had a chance to talk to her, it shocked me to the heart to see how consistent she has been with her project. As the story was unfolded little by little during the conversation, another Knowmad’s journey appeared as beautiful as it has been.
When being asked about a memorable moment she had during her journey with Team 3, she smiled as she started looking back. “It was in the middle of the program, when I had a chance to pitch my project to receive professional feedbacks from our external trainers. At that time, I was still lost and had no concrete idea of how Unbounded Space would be like.
After hearing my team mates pitching about their projects, I felt that my pitch was so stupid and decided not to use my powerpoint slide show any more and do it differently instead. And I screwed it up. It was a terrible, terrible presentation. I must have looked like an idiot. Nobody got it. And when one trainer asked me, “Is it really what you want to do? Why do you want to do it?”, I collapsed. I felt super lost and had no idea of what to do.
After crafting her project at Knowmads, Quy enriched her knowledge by taking a one-year master program in Globalization and Development in Belgium and Rwanda, and then a one-year fellowship in Entrepreneurship for Good in Brazil and Vietnam. In her studies, she did research about people with disabilities and always seeked to apply all her learnings in developing Unbounded Space.
Up until now, the project has been about raising awareness among the community about the disabled and bringing the disabled closer to the community. However, Quy and her team are now preparing for the next phase of the project which is giving the disabled a practical chance to be really out there in the world. Unbounded Space is building a small resort in An Bang, Hoi An that will be run by people with disabilities. In our society, the stereotype of beauty is not associated with disabilities. With that sub-project, she wants to challenge such perspective and bring disabled people to the front-desk work in hospitality and tourism sector. She also realizes that to be able to do so, people with disabilities need to be well-equipped with both soft and technical skills to confidently show up with their own beauty and capacity.
To close the conversation, I asked her about one meaningful insight along her way that she wanted to share with other people. After a few seconds, the answer seemed so clear to her, “This is something that I have realized during my training in Brazil: Setting your goal and achieving it should of course be the priority, but what is more important is the journey to get there. Make it an experience that is meaningful and enjoyable for you and your team members as well. If I want to create a safe and loving space where people can be seen as their core values, then it makes no sense if our working space is not like that.”
Life is a journey as a whole. Everything happening is a part of the process to help us move forward in that journey. A Knowmads program is a journey itself while at the same time it is also a part of your own process in life. It is the part when you sit back and spend some time with yourself in a safe and supportive space, to reflect on this kind of questions: “Why am I doing what I am doing? Is it really meaningful to me? If no, then what is? If yes, then how can I do it better?”. And then, after having that sense of meaning, you can move yourself forward, with grace and determination, which is, I believe, what Quy is doing with her life and her project – Unbounded Space.
Unbounded Space is now crowdfunding for the mini resort in An Bang, Hoi An that will be run by people with disabilities. If you want to also support this beautiful project (and beautiful AirBnB accommodation), please visit: https://www.gofundme.com/theunboundedspace
“A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality.”
That is a quote from a Japanese girl who were just 12 years old when her hometown, Tokyo, had the great fire-bombing in 1945 which later made her homeless. After that, her mother was forced to beg for food with their belongings in a wheelbarrow while her father was in a concentration camp in Saigon, Vietnam. Needless to say, she was in no position to talk about “dream” while her reality must have been how not to starve each day. However, apparently, her definition of “reality” was slightly different.
Her name was Yoko Ono, who was then recognized as a multimedia artist, songwriter and peace activist in protests against wars together with her husband John Lennon.
What hit me real hard when hearing this story is that it has made me realize dreaming is not reserved for people from high positions in life, and “dream” and “reality” are not opposite but they actually have a close connection with each other.
The more I have reflected on this idea, the more I have realized that it is not even close to exaggeration to say every great thing in this world that has been made to happen starts with a dream. Not a dream alone, but a dream together.
My mother and my father started our happy family by dreaming of a life together even though they had nothing in their hands at that time. I went to school and the greatest friendships I have ever had started with people that shared with me the same dream of our future. The project that I worked on in my university years started with a dream that a university professor shared with her blind friend about a platform allowing the visually impaired to easily access information and knowledge.
Apple started with a dream Steve Jobs shared with his partners about a product that could change people’s way of connecting with each other and communicate. The world’s first airplane started with a dream that the Wright Brothers shared with each other and with their team about changing the course of the world with man-powered flights. And Vietnam could become a free country because of a constant dream about freedom that millions of people shared despite thousands of years being invaded.
There are millions and millions of other great things in various sizes and scales in this world that started out with a dream together.
That is something so easy and simple to realize, but we have been taken it for granted. We are constantly told by the society outside that dreaming is just for the privileged and we are supposed to be realistic; and so we have forgotten that the reality today was just a dream yesterday.
When I joined Knowmads 6 months ago, for the first time in many years, somebody asked me about my dream. It took me months to answer that question because it had been buried for years, and another several months to realize why my dream is so meaningful to me. Because it is not a dream I dream for myself, but it is a dream I want to share with others and want to bring to the world. One special thing about Knowmads, is that after the first question “Who am I?” comes the second question “In what world do I want to live?”, followed by “What can I change or contribute?” We are born as a part of this world, and our dreams are not complete unless we put them in the middle of the world and see what our dreams mean to the world.
Later on, I realized that Knowmads also started out with a dream. A dream about an education where people are encouraged to be their best selves and bring their best gifts in making this world a better place. It is a long journey to go, but we are dreaming together. More importantly, when we start sharing about our dream and making it happen, it turns out that there are a lot of other people holding the same dream. The community we are building in Hanoi is now having more than one hundred people thriving for a better world, and it is growing.
What about you? What dream are you holding? Are you going to share it any time soon to make it a dream together?
Posted By Trang Iris