Sunday, May 16, 2010

National Trust Capacity Building Workshop-Gwalior or “Make sure that you have a large enough bed sheet so that your feet don’t stick out”

As I talked about strategic planning goals in my Gwalior capacity building workshop, I said to the “audience”, there is an expression in English about not “biting off more than you can chew”, have you heard of this? As this expression was translated into Hindi and then back to me in English I was told, “Make sure that you have a large enough bed sheet so that your feet don’t stick out”.

From May 10-12, Gwalior, MP is the site of my most recent workshop. A community of one million people, I’m told, about 350 km south of Delhi. I arrived on Sunday to scorching heat. From the train station, I was whisked off to a guest house at a sports university and of course one of the first things that I noticed were the basketball courts! .I saw the incredible Gwalior Fort which I would go on to see again on Tuesday evening for a more thorough investigation, including a sound, in Hindi, and light show with a group of people from the strategic planning workshop that I was conducting. Simply amazing the things that one can see in India! I recommend touring this 1400 year old Fort, carved out of a mountain, that has, like anything this old, quite a unique history. (The Mansingh Palace built much later, is over 500 years old and included a “telephone” system, a swimming pool in the basement, later turned into a jail and torture chamber, and a system for cooling off rooms).

I’m loving facilitating workshops as I become so engrossed in the art of presentation. My family includes many fine performers-sister Robyn, daughter Sarah, brother-in-law Michael, who are musicians, movie makers, dancers, singers, actors, etc. My “stage” however is built on in presenting information about strategic or fundraising planning , writing a grant proposal and staff development and retention. One doesn’t hear much about these types of “performances” on the stage, but in fact, giving a presentation, which relies keenly on “audience” participation, is my way of being an artist.

I sing some and also dance a little, but I’m more of a dramatic comedian, in which, I use very silly humor, and perfect Indian soap opera drama, always making strange faces. For instance, I can take out a “holi” fish “gun” and squirt the “audience” when they aren’t listening to the speaker, and they actually smile and want more. (Of course, when you’re “performing” in a room which is 95 F or 42 C, people always do want more). I can try to say Hindi words in which everyone cracks up, because no matter how much I think that I’m repeating what people tell me, I’m apparently not, and I can lead Bollywood dancing, which I know very little about, while standing on a chair. All the while, the “audience” is laughing.

I can also talk basketball, my love for the game and how it come to represent my life. About how there is no benefit in being a point guard and looking down while dribbling, because if I do I can’t see the entire court and am not “performing” my job. Just like if people in organizations don’t have their heads up in order to see the entire playing field they’re bound to miss out on opportunities. I can teach yoga, the lion, which is actually how I teach people at the YMCA how to play defense, while everyone is laughing, but also staying awake after lunch.

The main thing is that people do understand the components of a strategic plan while drawing silly looking people, using a head to represent a goal, the body to represent an objective and the appendages to represent the strategies and activities. They are understanding how a vision and mission and that silly looking person that they’ve just drawn, all fits together and they are able to develop a “roadmap” for their organisation, including all of their stakeholders in this process. They also are now able to facilitate a strategic planning process.

I can talk about how important it is to develop relationships in successful fundraising and point out resources galore. I can also talk about how in India, people generally just throw their garbage on the ground, even in historic forts, and after pointing this out, get everyone to make a commitment not to liter and remind others that they shouldn’t be littering either.

On many levels “performing” is not being afraid to put oneself out in public and to also truly be in one’s body, knowing full well what you’re doing. I find that I can think very clearly as I take my time, choose my words and make my points. I’ve been fortunate in having very good translators to help me with this, for without them, my words would be empty shells, with the “audience” just glazing over. I also feel fortunate in being able to just be silly, while at the same time building capacity in individuals so that they can build capacity in their organizations. I know that I’m building capacity as I start to become part of the “audience” because they are now becoming the “performers”.

On some level, as volunteers or “foreigners”, we are treated as “celebrities” as “stars”. After all, we might be the only non-Indians for many, many kilometers. I am called “sir” a lot and people open car doors for me, want to ensure that I’ve had plenty of water to drink, make sure that I’ve had a good dinner, etc. Today, at the end of the strategic planning session, a few people asked me for my autograph!

I know that on many levels, I’ve found a niche in life that I truly enjoy. I’ve always wanted to be a teacher and am getting to do this, at the Delhi YMCA teaching basketball, through capacity building workshops and through just being a “foreigner”. Today, I know that I’m helping to make a difference in some lives, as a few people in the “audience” told me that they’ve learned strategic planning in school, but didn’t really know how to apply the theory to practice until now. Ultimately this is the type of “performer” that I want to be, helping to “touch” other lives and having them “touch” my life.

At the end of the day today while I was still in the Central Park hotel, the venue for the workshop, I ate a piece of good, old apple pie and it tasted just like something that I could get from “home”. Because, at least for today I was “home”, and although I was full that apple pie tasted damn good!

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