by Duong Huyen Thanh
Team 10 of Knowmads
It has been 4 months since I graduated from Knowmads. My life has changed dramatically thanks to all the “fresh” and “juicy” experiences Knowmads brought to me. Why “fresh” and “juicy”? Knowmads brought me cool things I have never done before, and enriched me with so many interesting activities that helped me get to know myself and the world more.
FIRST STEP INTO AMAZINGNESS
Right when we met each other for the first time, we were blown away by all the excitement from Knowmads organizing team members. So many people from previous Knowmads welcomed us. That was the biggest round of applause ever in my life! We clapped and smiled for about 10 minutes without stopping. I knew that, from this time on, I really became a member of the Knowmads family. The first day joining the class we did an activity that seemed impossible, and it we didn't have much success at first, but through collaboration and persistence it was amazing the results we achieved. I couldn't believe on the first day we already learned so much about leadership and teamwork through this activity. For us, nothing is impossible from now.
MY CORE VALUES?
The workshop about Personal Values brought me a Eureka moment about myself. I used to know that I have these qualities, characteristics…, but I couldn’t call out the names of my core values. When I had to make a choice and cross out the values that I loved, it was such a struggle for me. However, when I came to the final list of my top 5 core values, I knew that, this was me. These core values may change in the future, but at least, I found myself in the present. These 5 core values at the present are: GROWTH, HOPE, LOVING, OPENNESS, and PASSION.
SURROUNDED BY AMAZING PEOPLE
I learned from not only Knowmads organizing team members but also friends from all walks of life. They can be 3 years younger than me, or 15 years older than me. They could have quit their universities or be a former monk or COO of a big European company. They could be an English teacher or logistics staff. They could be anyone. Before Knowmads session started, we had time to make some activities for everyone. I joined Free Movement session by Bym and Cacao ceremony by Sasja, which enlightened me so much. I was inspired by them to go deeper into the spiritual world, dance and movement. After Knowmads, I decided to carry several Free Movement workshops. I felt so happy to see how people enjoyed the process and got closer to their inner selves as well. I remembered one time sharing with Sasja: I told her how chaotic my life was at that time as I was a recent graduate and didn’t know what I wanted to do in the future. She asked me: “How many people do you think in the world can understand fully what they wanna do? How many people can predict their lives? Your life now is movement, not chaos”. If I keep worrying about the future, I’ll miss my present. I appreciate every moment in my life now, as it helps me to move forward. Trust the process. Trust the movement.
TIME TO SAY GOODBYE?
The final day is not the end of my Knowmads journey (although we celebrated and called it “closing ceremony/graduation party”). However, the end also means the beginning. We’ve come through all the ups and downs within ourselves and other members. We’ve learned a lot with all those hearts, heads, and hands. I’m stepping into listening to my true emotions, my inner self. When carrying the final check-out, I chose a tree with colorful leaves to put my candle on, as now I realized that, the tree doesn’t need to be green as it is expected (or it expects itself) every time. It’s so beautiful because it stays as it is. I don’t need to wear smiles every time. When I don’t feel it, just don’t do it. Listen to what my heart is saying. And I’ll bloom like a colorful tree. Knowmads gave me a chance to not only learn, stay in an amazing and supportive community but also take a deeper look into myself. Thanks for being a part of my life. Thanks for all the beautiful memories. I love you, Knowmads. I love you, my dear friends.
Apply For Team 11 Now!
by Nguyen Thi Kieu Khanh (Kiki)
Team 5 of Knowmads
Whenever it starts is the right time.
Whatever happens is the only thing that could have happened.
When it’s over, it’s over.
There was a time when I waited for my next drive at a car center, I sat on the bench and wrote my free journal about what I experienced in Knowmads. “I rarely talked about Knowmads Hanoi, oh maybe it is because I desire to keep it as my secret, my little thing in my life." I just told some friendly and lovely friends about my journey and my inspiration in Knowmads. Someone told me, "oh, I talked about Knowmads a lot there days!" I tend to do that when I love something with bright eyes.
Knowmads changed me? Yes, it did. Are you sure? Yes, I am. However, it cannot change me into a different kind of person than I was, it changed me into a special, mad and wonderful version of myself, an amazing person I always love and try to be. Knowmads is where I met those beautiful, mad people. They are as talented, inspiring and hopeful everyday I met them on the weekends.
I learnt from them instead, how to be like them. How to survive and be proud of them.
I love the moment when we have check-in, check-out session. Even though I didn’t talk much, I love listening to others’ opinions. That’s inspiring to me and raised the warmth I felt inside. Not an emotion I can express.
I usually feel warm and cozy in this community. We hug, we kiss, we are surrounded by love, happiness, encouragement, motivation, positive beliefs, oh such wonderful and active things..
The feeling when I would step out of my comfort zone to do something for them. They deserve that. I deserve that. We should do something we haven’t thought about before. I did. I didn’t know how brave it is but I felt my heart beat fast and my consciousness said it was right and it was comfortable. “You did well”. I can be myself more than I ever thought, yet I am still myself. Something mysterious. Something joyous. Something that I cannot describe when people say to me “Welcome Home.”
And after more than two years now, could I feel my memories and emotions again?
I decided to feel back. I searched for memories through every single picture we took during 7 weeks, I let my emotions travel from my eyes to my heart. I let all my old perspectives and new perspectives combine with each other.
Knowmads is where I transformed to be a better person, every day. Self-transformation. It allows me to do everything I want, no judgement, no politics, no rules, arms wide open, to be whatever I am, and all the love given unconditionally to me without any expectations.
Knowmads is selfish. It does not make anyone happy or bring happiness to anyone. It just shows love for the person inside, showing love from the circle with a stick, candles, a sound of powerful bell, a place-called-home when first stepping into the house, smiling, laughing, hugging so long, touching the hearts of others honestly and accepting the craziness of the people in the team.
Knowmads is crazy. I first started to play my ukulele during the time I learned at Knowmads. It made me brave enough to sing and play a song for our guest speaker and our beautiful dear team members. My sparkling moment appeared when I first decided to step out of my comfort zone. I was happy, and nervous, and scared. Knowmads brought me to several crazy zones which made me more grown-up while allowing me to stay lost.
It encourages people to do surprisingly creative things, to speak no words, or to play a football game. It asks people to draw like a child and keep writing even with many spelling errors in our notebook. It opens us up to everything without hesitation. It suggests us to listen more and speak less, to observe things.
“Then I was a man
I only went up the Hill
As I had time to kill
But kill I did all that was
Me and Mine
With Me and Mine gone
Lost all my will and skill
Here I am, an empty vessel
Enslaved to the Divine Will
And infinite skill”
There is a tradition in Mysore city, India. If you have something to do, you go up Chamundi Hill. And if you have nothing to do, you go up Chamundi Hill. If you fall in love, you go up Chamundi Hill. And if you fall out of love, you have to go up Chamundi Hill.
This idea reminds me of Knowmads. When I feel lost, I come to Knowmads. When I feel loved, I think about Knowmads. When I have nothing to do, Knowmads is already there, embracing me with its openness, and love. Everything can be faded, memories, emotions, people can leave you, but I choose to live with them, observing, looking back with gratitude and living in the present with fulfillment bliss, and the future will come regardless.
Learn More about the Knowmads Learning Journey
by Koyo Do
Team 9 of Knowmads
“It’s very important to be vulnerable and to show the things you’re afraid and ashamed of to everybody—not just to people you love but also to the public. That way, we have a connection. We create trust. ”
- Marina Abramovic, a world-renowned performance artist.
I always acknowledged the power of vulnerability in art. Art has helped me understand that I am not alone in this world, and that there are people out there who are also going through the same struggles, the same sorrow, and the same joy. Art brings us together. Take music, for instance. That one song is so relatable, it could have been about you. Just to realize that, probably whoever wrote that song has been in your shoes too.
But vulnerability is not exclusively for art pieces. What about vulnerability in daily life?
Vulnerability as an Invitation to Truly Connect
Being vulnerable, or exposing yourself, takes a lot of guts. It means that you have already accepted the fact that you run the risk of being ridiculed, being judged, and being hurt in search of that deep connection. For me, it is the kind of connection where everyone is accepted for being who they are - without judgement, without masks, without bullshit.
Realistically speaking, being vulnerable doesn’t magically bring true friends. In fact, true friends are pretty darn hard to find because we are all unique with unique experiences in this so diverse world. But when we finally establish a deep connection: We might have found a friend who we can share a long meaningful journey with, and we are making our lives fuller keeping relationships that really matter.
Vulnerability as an Instrument to Nurture Growth
“What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”. This quote by Nietzsche is a bit cliche now, but nonetheless it is still a beautiful mentality that might help you pull through this unpredictable and intense experience we call “life”.
Being vulnerable is of course not a magic tool that automatically makes everyone around you vulnerable and authentic towards you. I still get hurt from time to time, but I ask myself: Is it fair to expect something from other people? Instead, why don’t I think of vulnerability as an opportunity for myself? It is an opportunity to get to know myself better through social interaction, to learn what is important to me, and to establish healthy boundaries.
Vulnerability as a Medium to Construct an Everlasting Team
At Knowmads, I had a chance to practice deep listening with a group of strangers.
We always start and end our day with a process called “check in” and “check out”. It is a ritual where we listen to each other without judgement, without interruption - just respect and understanding. That’s when I realized how powerful vulnerability truly is: We can all facilitate and be part of a community where everyone has each other’s backs.
When we all can empathize with each other, I certainly believe that we can walk through anything together - it’s us vs. the problem.
Something we can Ponder Together
According to a research on trust by Mekong Development Research Institute, a whooping 42.57% of the surveyed people in Vietnam states that they rarely let their guards down in any interaction with others.
What has happened to them and caused them to lose faith in others?
Will we have healthier relationships when we all open our hearts to one another, and give each other a chance?
I do not have the answer to those questions. But I do know that, since I’ve started opening my heart and opening my mind, my world has become richer and richer everyday.
What about you? Which beautiful side of you are you going to show a stranger today?
By Hieu-Tri Nguyen (participant of team 10)
Good morning, everyone! This is Hieu, and I am a member of Knowmads Hanoi Team 10. I hope your Monday is starting as good as mine. I'm sitting in my room with a cup of honey Chamomile tea, brilliant warm sunshine, and Michael Bublé stripped playing in the background!
Three months ago, I was very fortunate to relish four weekends at The Learning Hub with Knowmads friends. And today, I feel blissful to walk down the memory lane and share some moments and stories of impact with you all (in no chronological order). I am a firm believer of the pay-it-forward initiative, therefore read on if you are game!
Disclaimer: Organizing Team, if you are reading this, don’t be surprised that you are
associated with a nickname. ;)
1. Something beautiful, done a bit differently, in an unexpected way.
I can just say it does not take long before the joy of living simply arrives. Guess what, it all began with a smile. Before the program officially started, the organizing team hosted a Welcome Party for us. Team 10 participants were warmly welcomed by, honestly
confessing, the longest clap ever (maybe an almost 5-minute one). It feels surreal when people are cheering for you for that long! On the night, I was a bit overwhelmed for seeing so many new faces at once. I had this moment when I sat on a sofa and unintentionally looked at a group of people who were chitchatting in front of me. Ellie (the smiley bunny) suddenly turned around, saw my face, and smiled at me. It inspires me and reminds me of the power we each hold within us to create something magical. At least, Ellie showed me there is one simple way to deal with awkwardness in crowded places – smile as it is free and can light up a person’s day.
2. It’s the community.
At Knowmads, we have so routines, rituals, principles, and cultures. Actually, in whatever way I name it, it all leads to the value of community. Everything we do here, we are invited to speak with intention and listen with attention. And from that, we learn to care for others with a touch of mindfulness. We always start and end the day with at least one reflective question or something creatively new. On our first day, Johanne (the red-faced girl who ponders) spent a while to introduce us to the circle practice. It is like a hub of the wheel led by a talking piece that brings us together with a shared question/purpose. The talking piece ensures everyone is heard. In the circle, there is a harvester who captures all the learnings; and a guardian with a bell who keeps us on the right track. Johanne warmed the day up with a poem of Shel Silverstein called 'The Voice'.
There is a voice inside of you
That whispers all day long,
"I feel this is right for me,
I know that this is wrong".
No teacher, preacher, parent, friend
Or wise man can decide
What's right for you - just listen to
The voice that speaks inside.
From that moment, I realized that while I was in the circle, I felt safe, connected, and energized with many sharings from others. At Knowmads, we talk about an approach to daily conversations, which is non-violent communication. And somehow, we unconsciously practiced this method from our first day. At any moments during the day, we had this quick session called Village News. It is simply your space to keep everyone on the ball – an open space for you to share anything cool or just a simple reminder to go for lunch at 12:30 and get back at 1:30. In the afternoon, we started this session called World Café. I am not going to spill the beans with this one (just have to leave something and encourage you to experience it with your own eyes, ears, and heart, right?). But if there are two words to talk about it, they are cross collaboration and collective intelligence. We then ceased the day with this really cool thingy named Personal Practice. If you want to host any activity that you feel is greatly beneficial to your personal life, the stage is yours to share with others. I did get the opportunity to try three personal practices, namely check-in, space and beauty, and harvester.
For all of this, I truly feel the sense of community during my time with Knowmads.
3. There are questions for everything.
People say there is a solution to everything. But here at Knowmads, it is the questions that count - another culture of Knowmads that makes me feel grateful. We had a session on Personal Values. Understanding your values, and your priorities, will help you understand what you are not willing to sacrifice and what brings you the most fulfilment and ease. The facilitator for this session is Hoàng (the “richest” Hanoian you will ever
meet). He gave us questions that helped us figure out our values.
“Do I feel energized/pressure when I think about it?”
“Is it only important to me? Or do I also do it for others” ...are some of them. If you want to practice critical thinking or to be challenged, come to Knowmads and get ready to receive a bunch of questions. That is just the way we roll.
4. Paperclip Challenge.
I just have to jump straight on this one – it’s one of the coolest things I have done to learn about leadership. From a paperclip, our team got a pen, a comb and a q-tip, an ancient Japanese coin, an oil paiting, and a nicely-framed artwork of Hanoi. I will keep this short because really, no words can suffice to describe this challenge, you just have to experience it for yourself.
5. Sensing Walk.
Once you disconnect from the stuffs that surround you, you start to see how unnecessary most of it was. It was just crowding your space and forcing you to spend so much energy managing it. Each day I find myself searching for ways to simplify even more. Have you ever walked with a purpose? Well again, thanks to Knowmads, I got to experience another cool thing. “Where can I contribute change?” We got this question before the walk. With this question, I embarked on a 20-minute journey of self-discovery. Of course, as a foodie, I bought a burger and an ice cream to enjoy along the way. If you are curious about my sensing-walk story of Fanny Ice Cream, Tràng Tiền Plaza, and a blind street artist. Don’t hesitate to apply for Team 11 now! Come and we will talk it out.
6. My Life Journey.
We all have that one friend, who is not only an amazing person but has a crazily cool passion; whose goals never fit into mainstream boxes, and whose interests are ferociously abnormal. They adore what they do but maybe, they need a boost - a tiny bit of confidence aka a nudge - to pursue their dreams. Do you have that one friend? If not, you might find one at Knowmads. For me, I am thankful to have Johanne and Tuyến to
listen to the story of my life. We sat down in a circle, each person took turn to be a story- teller, a harvester, and a witness. It was just a moment where everyone’s inner artist arose and it was fun gazing at other people’ masterpieces.
7. We learned about Design Thinking. We called for a project. And we
enthusiastically gave constructive feedback.
Design Thinking is one of many cool things that I learned in the program. Simply put, it is a way to do things and a no-one-solution, problem-solving approach. Eight of us stood up and called for a project to better our society. Together, we turned our burning ideas into reality. I came up with a No Trace Tourism initiative and was lucky enough to receive amazing feedback from other groups. That is when I realize you may not start the next national holiday, but you can bring to the table your generosity, kindness, vision and most importantly, your heart to create a better future. Once again, it is a community after all. If you are keen, see our outcomes here. And thanks Linh (the tattooed yet fun-looking guy) who bought us lots of fun while we discovered about collaboration in the process.
8. Oscar’s note.
Lord, Oscar (the cool mate) already returned to The Netherlands but his impacts stay. This guy has a super wicked shirt collection and an effortlessly natural way when hosting a session. FYI, he took charge of the paper clip challenge (thanks, Oscar!). And for me personally, he gave me this note that sparked my way of thinking: “As a former cook, I love to see the way you approach the world to be of service. Love, Oscar”. When I called for a project, I first thought about hospitality education. But somehow, I went with a project that aims to raise awareness about the connection between nature and responsible traveling. But then, the universe figures out its way. Oscar handed me a huge challenge and yet the finish line is definitely not in sight.
Just a side note for this one. Lots of people came to Knowmads quitting their jobs and left starting a brand new exciting journey. And with Oscar’s note, I am just one of them - cannot wait to see what 2019 has in store
8+1. The space / the location
We have got some of the learnings. Now, let’s balance it out with a fun moment of reminiscence. If you have read until now, do you remember that I prepped myself with a burger and an ice cream for the sensing walk? Wondering why? It is because The Learning Hub is literally located at the most ideal place ever – easy access to so many eateries haha. Come and find yourself another home of trees, colors, and amazing foodies
I think everyone has a soul ‘home’. Some were born there, and others, for whatever reasons, had to go on a journey to find it. If you are open to it, use it from a position of power and intent to evolve any aspect of your life (or all of it), and willing to make the sacrifices for it, you will find it and you will just know when you do. It is the perfect vibe for learning, growing, and dreaming. I am feeling so inspired and ready to take on the world. Thank you, Knowmads Hanoi and The Learning Hub!
And thanks to you, my readers! Have a wonderful week and I look forward to meeting
you in the flesh - Team 11 is calling your name.
Love & Rock ‘n’ Roll,
By Duong [Team 10 participant]
The 3rd weekend of Knowmads was just over, and I am here, starting to write the blog post that I promised to do as a harvesting practice since the 1st weekend. Every time I sat down to write, I didn’t know where to start. It’s been one heck of a ride for me. I have left in Knowmads laughters, tears, confusion, fulfilment, frustration, joy… This is the education that I have always dreamt of – a place where I am accepted for who I am, where I can speak up my mind without any fears of judgement, where I start to connect deeply with myself and collaborate with others with mindfulness.
I remembered me crying my eyes out during the check-in of 2nd day Knowmads. Our check-in question was “What is one time you felt depth gratitude?”. As usual, we sat in a circle, anyone ready would take the talking piece and pass it to the left once they finish sharing. If you don’t know what to say yet, just keep passing it to the next person and the talking piece “will eventually come back to you” – thanks to the miracle of the “circle” that we use a lot here in Knowmads. I sat in silence, trying to search my memory for a time that I feel very grateful, and suddenly my train of thoughts brought me back to that very morning – just an hour before I arrived in Knowmads.
“I feel grateful for having my family and loved ones who care for me and protect me no matter what. I feel grateful when this morning I woke up, I saw my mom in the kitchen preparing my lunch, my dad in the yard washing my motorbike, and my boyfriend picking me up and drive me here even though the weather was very hot and the ride took more than 1 hour”.
I felt teardrops falling on my face. I never thought one day I would cry that much in front of strangers. Indeed, I had just known these guys for only one day… I kept crying for the thought that I had taken my loved ones for granted for quite a long time – a sense of guilt kicked in and I couldn’t hold back the tears. Then I felt hands on my shoulders – those are hands of strangers who listened to my story in silence and respect, who were willing to comfort me and give me love and care. I was absolutely touched. Knowmads is such a miracle – a place where like-minded people gather and hold a safe space for others to be their authentic self, to be true to their emotions and express them without any fears.
From that moment, I know for sure that this journey is going to be life-changing…
Building pyramids, going to the moon, running a business. Whether big or small, each time a project requires the involvement of several people, it is a small miracle when it actually happens.
The most common structure to get things done we are all familiar with is the hierarchical one - the pyramid. Some people at the top give order, and the chain of command goes down to the bottom for execution. Those at the top have control, and those at the bottom have clarity.
It has proven efficient for thousands of years in simple system and in some complicated system, but it seems today irrelevant for the complex adaptive systems we are operating in.
First of all, the amount of information and parameters to take into account for wise decision, especially in a fast-changing environment, makes it impossible for a few people at the top to know everything, and even more to decide as quickly as it would be necessary.
Moreover, for the people at the bottom, being deprived of the decision-taking power and the ability to make things move forward might become a strong source of frustration, and lead to a massive waste of energy and potential.
Last but not least, it is a structure whose purpose is explicitly to get things done. It does not exist to grow relationships, create engagement or bring meaning - hence it does not resonate with what today’s young workforce is actually looking for in an organizations.
Where can we go from there? Is it possible to imagine a structure that would not only enable us to get things done, but to actually do it with flexibility, engagement & happiness?
One framework that we have been introduced to by our friend and mentor Steve, and that we rely a lot on is called the “Circle – Triangle - Square”. We have been using it for Knowmads, as well for organizing Art of Hosting Training and launching The Learning Hub.
The “Circle – Triangle – Square” model.
Or : Conversations are great, but getting shits done is even better.
The Circle represents the organization as a whole.
In a circle as in our organisation, there is not hierarchy and everyone sits as equals. Since there is no boss, we all share ownership and responsibility -which creates an environment that encourages participation, engagement and trust.
With no explicit leader, what actually leads us is the purpose of the organization, that everyone committed to work for, following agreements and principles that have been decided together.
The “Circle” (that represent the organization as a whole) is a form that invites for deep listening, for collective intelligence and for reflection, and that holds a few crucial roles:
It is first of all the guardian of the purpose and principles, calling everyone back to it when necessary.
On a practical way, it is also the place for coordinating all the actions happening - the multi-headed project manager.
And much more than that, it is also a place for reflection on learnings, a place for constantly refining and revisiting the purpose and a place for processing any disturbance in the organization - coming from inside or from outside.
The Circle operates with processes that invite conversations between team-members. It is those conversation that actually allows people to feel engaged, tapping into their need for connection and meaning. It is a place where every voice can and will be heard, spreading the power and using collective intelligence.
The Circle is definitely a wonderful place, but the danger is to get stuck in it. Because unfortunately you don’t get things done by talking about it.
That’s when the Triangles get into to the pictures.
The Triangles are groups of people working on specific parts of the project (marketing, finance, legal, this or that specific project,...)
Once a Triangle has been formed around a task, it is fully empowered by the Circle to do it, in support of the shared purpose and in accordance with principles established in the Circle. For the sake of efficiency, the invitation is for the Triangle to self-organize independently and to take full ownership of its mission.
In exchange of this full trust, the Triangles are responsible to the full Circle for their area of work. If something comes up that makes it critical, it is their responsibility to ask for support or clarification. It then goes back to a shared responsibility within the Circle to figure out a solution and adapt accordingly. With practice, triangles become increasingly skilled at recognizing when to act independently and when to check in with the circle; this is part of the art in this style of working.
The word “trust” keeps coming back here. Trust is indeed the fuel that keeps the whole thing running, and the oil that prevents it from breaking.
It then all come down to a simple question: how do you build trust? How do you create a frame where people feel safe enough towards each other to be able to put their energy in the work, instead of in anxiety, control and silent resentment?
The last part of our model, and the one that is so often overlooked is the Square - the frame around the organization / project / team, that will hold it together.
In our case, this frame is the result of a never-ending process of nurturing our relationship with each other, and slowly building trust and clarity by having the conversations that matter.
What is our collective purpose? How do our individual underlying purposes support the collective purpose? Who are we all? What are our strengths hopes, dreams, fears? What do each of us need to work well with others and to be fulfilled in his/her work? Where do we want to go in one month, one year, 5 years, individually and collectively? How can we deal with our resources - what do each of us need, what do each of us consider as fair?
These conversations do not happen magically, and are usually constantly pushed back by the emergency of the task-doing. Maintaining this dynamic on a regular basis requires a full conviction that talking to each other is often the most important and urgent task of each day: if trust & connection are the fuel of our whole model, it has to be constantly nurtured, and nothing matters more.
All the practices described previously, all these things that we do, are nothing than more than our fuel production system. The outcome is fully intangible, and also the most precious asset of all.
Knowmads Amsterdam is Knowmads Hanoi's dutch big sister. Here, tribes [teams] of students embark on a 6-month learning journey. This is a story about Jonathan, 23, from Venezuela and his thoughts about Knowmads, life purpose, feedback, freedom and community.
I wasn’t sure about the things that I wanted to do [in life]. Before Knowmads, I was studying psychology; I was having a one-direction life. I spent five years in the university, later on getting work. It was not fulfilling for me; I was doing this work because I thought maybe society or my family wants this for me. I was not really doing the things that I like. And [the trick to this] is that you can really do the things that you like, but of course with the correct tools not to fail in the process. So that’s why I applied for Knowmads. Now I’m discovering these tools for the project [and] life that I want.
I will put my hands to work (learn by doing), so that I can get experience and later on reflect, “I’m doing this”, and understand why they told me what they told me. If I fail for any reason (because we are humans), they give me this sense of feedback.
This is one of the things missing in traditional schools. You fail, and they tell you you’re doing it wrong, but they don’t tell you what you’re doing wrong. Here in Knowmads, [this feedback] actually happens. When you do something nice or get something wrong, they really explain to you what is going on in the context, in the core of this action. And you can improve like this.
I would commend firstly, the freedom you have at Knowmads. The freedom of expression.
Freedom doesn’t mean that it’s just a group of rebels, that they want to get out of the system; that they don’t want to follow guidelines. It’s not true. I feel that freedom gives you the tools to have a very authentic, creative, fresh thought [process]. So this is what I think you really need for encouragement later on in life, to create something new; to put something new in the world. Here at Knowmads, I’m sure that you can discover this.
I feel that the sense of partnership, of leadership; friendship, described by the name that they call your group, Tribe, that we are correlative, interconnected to each other; it really makes a difference. I love it here, really.
[Blogpost from Knowmads Amsterdam]
I wrote my name on the opportunity board: Blogpost – Kani. I’m not good at writing. When I wrote my name, I thought maybe there’re some guidance or templates for me to follow and I dared to do it. But after that my facilitator said I have all the freedom in the world. And after nearly 1 month, I’m still writing. It’s harder than I thought. So after a long time writing with Tra’s support, I end up a blog post with some questions, answers and some drawings.
How do you think about the program?
Surprise and heartfelt. Surprise because what I expected was very different from what I experienced. Heartfelt because the support from the facilitator team and the moment we cried, laugh and shared.
Did you receive what you expected from Knowmads?
I expected something and I received something else. Along the 6 weeks with Knowmads, besides valuable knowledge and exercise, I also had some surprise and heart-touching experiences.
Could we make the world better and earn money at the same time?
Too long business has been seen as maximizing improvements financially opposite to social and environmental well-being. Now that’s the false dichotomy, you don’t have to be one or the other and there’re lots of overlaps. Knowmads showed me the way to build a business sustainably. At the same weekend, we also had a workshop with Julian – founder of Unbound and organized a field trip to KOTO, a successful social enterprise.
What do you think about your teammates?
Awesome! That was one of my reasons to join Knowmads, because I know some really cool people that are Knowmads members. When I met people from other teams at the Opening, I was quite excited. The more I learned and worked with members of Team 9, the more I admired them. Koyo is talented, confident and beautiful. Long is hilarious. Dung is interesting. Ploy is thoughtful and full of ideas. Trang is cute. An is talkative and positive. Megan always works with 100% of her energy and I learned a lot when I worked with her. Tra is always busy with different works but she’s quite patient and helpful.
What is the most memorable lesson to you?
It’s the calling challenge. I wrote down the names of the people I admire, the reasons I admire them, how I feel about that… Then Hoang gave us a challenge: Call that person! I was shocked. WTH? I had to say they were really big people, busy with their important works and would not have time to talk to me - a young, stupid and small person. But the challenge is what we have to get over. I called my boss. At first, she was quite surprise because I had never called her like that before. I actually rarely use my mobile phone. She thought that something must be wrong when I called. It took all of my confidence to tell her how much I admired her. It was super difficult. I wrote down a lot, wanted to say a lot, but what I actually said was just a few silly words. And when she said what she thought about me, I cried. At that moment I realized I admired her not only for her talent and her job, but also her personality and how much she cared about me, her employee. I didn’t know this challenge was that tough, but it was truly meaningful.
The most awkward moment during the program?
On the first day, we wrote a letter to our future selves. On the last day, I received it. At first I didn’t realize the letter was from me to myself. The letter was quite funny and short. I made a list of what I expected to experience during the Knowmads program.
The most meaningful lesson?
Sometimes I think I’m inept, sometimes I think I’m talented. That’s my problem, I’m interested in tons of things, and I can’t focus on one thing and make something proper. Everything I’ve done is so tiny and trivial. In the lesson Rediscover your Talent, we had to jot down our talents and draw the lines to show how long and consistent we’ve done each one. It made me realize I’m really talented, and everyone is talented. Our talents are the things we have been spending a lot of time doing with energy and engagement. At that moment I decided I needed to focus for a long time and develop my ability if I wanted to do big things.
What have you changed after the program?
As Tra says: I hated pineapples. Now I eat 1 box per day.
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 ;)