Recrear Annual Report 2018

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Annual report 2018 5............. Introduction 6............. About Recrear 7............. Quick Facts and Stats 9............. What we accomplished in 2018 18............. Lessons Learnt 20............. 2019 and beyond



Introduction Everywhere we turn there is an opportunity to look critically at ourselves and the world around us. This year we have become aware of the constellation of likely and unlikely partners with whom we can deepen our understanding and care for what we do and how we do it. In 2018, we closed cycles with ‘Plata, Cultura, y Cambio’, our research project in Medellin, so that new ideas could be sewn. Along with our partners, we are reimagining our future work in the city of Medellin. Our annual residency, RecrearMagnify brought together an intriguing group of people to unfold themselves. These practitioners shared an interest in striking healthier balances between themselves and the organizations and systems they belong to. Through Magnify, we witnes-

sed the group and took part in each individual’s dilemmas. We were reminded that the existential questioning of others is not so far from our own. We were constantly reminded of how beautiful it is to learn with others. Every time we have been invited into a space to support and facilitate, it has allowed for equal growth on our side. Whether the topic is the dilemmas of social entrepreneurship, institutional failures of inclusion, or organizational conflict, we see ourselves mirrored in many of the group’s reflections and discoveries. Just one of the many ways our organizational consciousness grows, - Recrear Team


About Recrear Recrear is a Canadian charity composed of a network of young professionals from all around the world. We design and implement participatory youth-led research, which allows us to create active youth engagement in community development. Our work uses creative techniques to understand the experiences and perspectives of young people in communities. Based on the results of our research, we support development partners, local institutions and community organizations to design original, youth-friendly and youth-driven programs.

Vision Recrear works to ensure that young people are actively involved in the transformation of their own communities.

Mission Recrear envisions an intercultural world where young people are connected to their local and global communities by proactively participating with partners to create inspired dialogue and innovative projects.

Quick Facts and Stats


An overview!

This year, we worked with more than


young people

We trained



in Participatory Action Research

We facilitated 6 workshops: 1 2 3 4 5 6

City Forum for food as social action, Medellin, Colombia Social entrepreneurship training, Social Lab, Medellin Board meeting for the Alliance for Responsible Mining Systems thinking for a youth leadership program, Casa Mia Team building exercises, Casa Una Vida Tranquilla Strategic Planning for the LGBT+ youth org, The Kite Trust

We delivered



Participatory Action Research trainings across 2 countries

We ran



residency program

We presented our work at 5 events: 1 2 3 4 5

The Human Development Conference, Buenos Aires, Argentina ‘Plata Cultura y Cambio’, Institute of Development Studies Community Toolbox for Iranian Organizations, hosted by the University of Kansas Creative Culture Collaborations Platform, hosted by Corriente Diez Dos, Colombia Changing the Story, London, UK


We wrote an academic paper

‘You Defend What You Feel’ reflecting on our past research work with youth in climate change adaptation practices in the Action Research Journal.

We won a grant from the

JWH Initiative of BothEnds

to send one our local Colombian researchers for two intensive trainings in


Our Community Building:

We have a total of



10 of our members volunteer with us

in agroecology and design of agricultural systems

by the Center for Agroecology and Permaculture, and Tierra Amor respectively. She has since returned to Colombia to share the knowledge in community centers across low-income neighbourhoods of Medellin. She has organized courses, community gardening days and designed vertical gardens for other grassroots organizations.

T his

ye ar,


have :

Our partnerships have included:

INGOs, National Organizations, Leadership Foundations, Educational Institutions.


Facebook Likes


Followers on Twitter


New followers on LinkedIn


What we accomplished in


Photo: Pittsburgh Short Course Students and faculty at STCC exploring themes around institutional failures in a forum theatre piece.

Youth-led Participatory Action Research (PAR) Training Building more inclusive campuses

Recrear partnered with the University of Pittsburgh to train a group of students and faculty from the Springfield Technical Community College in western Massachusetts. Through this course, we supported the design of a ground-up research process to address diversity and inclusion issues on their university campus. The training both explored how the group understood and related to inclusion themes, and opened up a space for them to think critically about a research process to engage the wider campus community. The following question was our guiding star: How do we create institutional change toward inclusion and equity? Diversity and inclusion are challenging topics to navigate, but through participatory approaches, this group found doors into the conversation. The

10 group predominantly consisted of visible minorities. Together, they identified where the institution was failing in its approach to diversity and inclusion, and what power they had as students and faculty to change this.

Strengthening Creative and CulturaL Entrepreneurs This year we had the chance to collaborate with Social Lab - a Latin American initiative to develop social entrepreneurship on the continent. In this occasion Social Lab partnered with social innovation hubs of Medellin, Ruta N and Confama, in order to offer a complete training program for cultural and creative entrepreneurs. We were honoured to kick off the first segment of this program with training on PAR values and principles. We also shared some practical tools for how to contextualize their work with others in community. The entrepreneurs involved ranged from tech developers to hip hop artists and everything in between.

RecrearMagnify 2018 RecrearMagnify is a two-week residency program to nourish our creative and reflective selves. We bring together a group of young people to live, research, and learn together. In this international jam, we use participatory action research (PAR) to explore a question of interest for social change practitioners. The program is composed of a number of different elements: a personal development course, training on participatory action research Recrear-style, a process of cooperative inquiry, sessions by guest speakers from our community, and last but not least, all the fun of living together. This was one of our most magical RecrearMagnify editions yet. Together with a group of Recrear members and board members, we unearthed our burning questions until we identified a common question. We met monthly to envision the

process of exploring this question through RecrearMagnify. This year’s learning question asked: How do I recognise and facilitate the personal transformation required for me to become part of an organisation/system that feels alive and healthy? What we found was a tender space for individual and collective learning.

Participants had a lot to say:

“ “

Fantastic programme - I couldn’t actually believe the quality of content from both the Recrear team and the external speakers. Very helpful for both personal and professional development. All input was meaningful, relevant and helpful. “ This was DEFINITELY a life changing & affirming experience that I am SO THANKFUL to have been part of. Words can’t really express it.”

As did our Institutional Partners:

“ “

Recrear Magnify was an extraordinarily experience that opened my eyes to so many answers to questions I had in mind working in a non-profit organization that empowers social entrepreneurship in Saudi. I realized that it is possible to belong to a community and be an individual at the same time” (Abeer, Tasamy; Saudi Arabia) The opportunity to learn and practice Participatory Action Research with such skilled facilitators has inspired us to take this methodology back to The Kite Trust and engage the young people we work with in their own participatory research projects, with the aim to centre their voices, desires, and concerns in the running of The Kite Trust as we grow to be an ever more vibrant, passionate, and dedicated service.” (Jess Smith, The Kite Trust; UK)


Personal Development Course The personal development course is one of the most fundamental parts of the two-week experience. It’s the moment when we strip away pretences and really see each other. It’s three days we dedicate to ourselves as individuals, and in the process nurture the collective fabric. In previous editions of RecrearMagnify we’ve engaged with yoga, meditation, modern dance and experiential exercises. This year we had the great honour of exploring through theatre. Hector Aristizabal facilitated the three day personal development course. Hector’s story of transformation has taken him from his native Colombia, to the US, to working with communities all over the world, especially in conflict and post-conflict settings. His life’s work combines theater (eg. Theatre of the Oppressed & ritual theater) with his years of practice as a psychologist. In our time together we engaged with different techniques of Theatre of the Oppressed including Image Theatre, Rainbow of Desires and Cops in the Head. Hector also guided us in some nature-based ritual work to help us become aware of the individual paths we find ourselves on. He helped us to explore our own inner lives and also offered advice and guidance on facilitating groups in transformative work, encouraging us to take the tools he had offered and bring them back to the contexts in which we live and work.


Guests/Site Visits The visit to Santropol Roulant and the tour led by Pier, the Director, was an eye-opening experience. Participants saw firsthand what a healthy and constantly innovating organisation can look like.


Pier shared his experience of how organizational structures can promote staff wellbeing. . For example, on Thursdays, the Santropol Roulant office closes its doors so that the staff can reflect and talk about what is or isn’t working. These Thursday gatherings are something that Vanessa Reid, former director of Santropol Roulant, also valued because they provide space to share and think about the organization. Pier revealed that, even though Santropol is run primarily by volunteers, there is never a shortage of willing workers who joyfully contribute to the organisation and feel nourished by their time there. He stressed the importance of paying close attention to the mission of the organisation and working with, rather than against, factors that may seem at first to be at odds with the work.


Cooperative Inquiry In between the folds, the group was deeply dedicated to the cooperative-inquiry element of RecrearMagnify. These were the moments when we explored how our main question (How do I recognise and facilitate the personal transformation required for me to become part of an organisation/ system that feels alive and healthy?) resonated in each one of us and the wider collective.

To do this we formed four smaller groups that took on the task of exploring different elements of our main learning question by grounding it with more bite-sized questions that we could explore together. Each group then created a short workshop to lead the others through an exploration of their question. Those questions were:


How can we be self and community at the same time? How can I value and process my experience to respond skillfully and authentically in each moment? How do we identify + embody values and practices that keep an organization alive and healthy? How do we breathe into the tension between being part of systems (that are destructive) and a desire to generate life affirming alternatives?

What we found was the complexity of systems but more surprisingly our own complexity. We resonated with every range of emotion, struggled with some more than others, and learned to come to terms with the various narratives of how we coexist with others in organizations and systems. In many moments, participantes named a feeling of belonging to a parallel universe. That which they experience in their home organizations or within the system feels so different from that which we were living at RecrearMagnify. While we sat with this tension, we also couldn’t help but be in awe of the pop-community we created. What we were experiencing felt like a dream, except it wasn’t. It was real. If that’s possible, then we can strive to nurture more spaces like this whether from the core or the periphery of our lives.


Other Projects: Casa Una Vida Tranquila (CUVT)

Plata, Cultura y Cambio (PCC)

In our commitment to work in synergy with other organizations, we stumbled upon Casa CUVT., The Recrear office cohabits this colorful house, which is located in the neighbourhood of Castilla to the north of Medellin with two other youth organizations: Corporación Una Vida Tranquila and Movimiento Tierra en Resistencia (MTR). This is more than simply sharing of space: it is a community. Each organization brings their uniqueness to the whole. CUVT believes in the value of food and how it can be used to create connections and even build peace. In 2018, MTR hosted events bringing youth from around the Castilla neighbourhood to discuss how they related to what was going on in the neighborhood, in the city and across the country. We could not be more grateful to these organizations for opening a door into another world for us and allowing us to come into closer contact with the local community. In our time at Casa CUVT we have shared our experience with PAR and organizational culture. In May, we also worked alongside our partners during the City’s Cooking Forum for Social Action, where we helped over 100 participants develop a manifesto around intentional cooking practices.

We were excited to kick off the year with a couple of shareback sessions with our co-researchers/organizational partners from our PAR project: Plata Cultura y Cambio. Initiated in 2016, this project worked with a group of 9 youth organizations to explore how youth civil society relates to financial sustainability and with what implications for the future. The shareback sessions served as a beautiful ritual to close what had been an intimate process of building generative relationships between organizations and carving out the space to face our existential dilemmas as youth organizations. During the the sessions we committed to presenting what we had learned collectively and asking our fellow co-researchers to mirror back on what they learned. The sessions also became a space to look to the future and set the intention to continue working in synergy. Since then Recrear has continued to engage with these partners through events, workshop support and gatherings. We have also co-designed a proposal for a new PAR project in Medellín with two of these partners.


Photo: Manifesto building with a group at the Culture House of Pedregal under the programming of the City Forum for Cooking


Lessons Learnt First: Learn across disciplines Second: Work with greater parts of the system What we do is informed by countless streams, traditions, peoples and values. The more we practice and play with Participatory Action Research, the more we see it as a melting pot. A place where different practices can meet, from the theatre of the oppressed to Theory U to deep democracy and beyond. Where queer, critical race, and systems theory can interact and converse. A space where practitioners from different disciplines can come together and find a similar world vision even if the words they use to describe it differ. These are the pockets of light that we are interested in connecting and strengthening: to become a constellation filled with powerful communities of practice that are not in competition with one another, nor completely disassociated,but learning how to move in the same ecosystem toward complementary goals. This is a historical moment when we need to come together, gather strength and build alternatives into the system. Let’s start!

We live in an ecosystem. If we want to work with one part of it, it is necessary to understand how that part relates to everything else. In every moment we are changing the fabric of our systems, without even knowing it. In participatory action research, we care about understanding why things happen the way they do. Not just for the sake of knowledge, but to also to better grasp our individual and collective agency to act and change. Our work with young people remains central to what we do. However we are learning to not only look at young people but also the systems in which they are embedded. We must create the opportunities to pay attention and engage directly with the institutions, world views and norms that surround them. We have observed that even the shiniest of youth strategies can fail if there isn’t an organization that is able to adapt in equal parts to young people. We cannot know what will emerge from a participatory action research process. We only know that adaptability is paramount. Adaptability can feel extremely vulnerable. It can be frightening and entirely daunting for organizations to throw caution to the wind in this way. There are donors, organizational strategy


and global commitments that weigh heavily on the minds of the people who work for social change. However this is a time when the ‘business-as-usual’ modes are being challenged. Civil society has an opportunity, and undeniably a challenge, to evolve. In our work with PAR short courses, we have developed stronger elements of organizational culture work that can accompany PAR processes. These workshops help organizations to experiment with new ways of being and relating that increase their ability to work skillfully in the ever-changing ecosystems in which they are located. This way, change is not something that we expect others outside the organization to do, but also those within.

Third: Awaken your individual and collective powers of care This has less to do with the direct work we do and everything to do with ‘how’ we do it. Somewhere along the road, many of the organizational leaders we’ve engaged with this year have emphasized the importance of healing. Healing the obvious and not so obvious that permeates our day-to-day lives. Why should this get a mention here? Because nourishing healthy and alive systems/organiza-

tions became even more important to us this year. Within that work, we saw quite plainly how nourishing spaces for internal deep-dives and growth directly strengthens the organization. Not only can our relationships improve but also the quality of our work. We can question and evolve from a deep intuitive place as opposed to drawing from our intellectual and strategic minds. In our experience at least, lasting change starts from a personal energetic shift that has an impact, minor or major, on the organizations or systems we belong to. When these kinds of personal shifts become collective, entire organizational cultures metamorphose. The possibilities for change are even greater.


And Beyond...


2018 was the year to ferment our learning so that it can grow richer. We worked to deepen our capacity to be present with what was going on within us so that we could better see the system around us. The best part of deep learning is the wave of creative energy that follows. Our team is feeling the ground beneath our feet change. We sense that our individual and collective care commitments are allowing us to attract and create new possibilities. To honour this feeling, in 2019 we are launching a strategic review process to reflect on our opportunities. We are also excited about carrying out another large scale research project in Colombia in 2019. The details are under wraps, but let’s just say we can’t wait for all the learning to come. The time we have spent developing strong bonds with our colleagues and organizations here allows us to dream in entirely new ways. With the peace process underway, we have been keenly observing and accompanying our partners. Now we are also ready to become part of the current creating alternative futures for young people. In the meantime, the learning question for the next RecrearMagnify residency program is unfolding. Within it there are elements of vulnerability, self and collective recognition, and deep desire to deconstruct and rebuild structures that can work in more harmonious ways with the whole ecosystem. We embrace the unexpected.

Thanks for being with us on this journey - The Recrear Team

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