Warriors Without Weapons: How Learning Moves Trans-locally

In the end, Warriors Without Weapons was hosted in Argentina (2005) and Paraguay (2006). The young organizers were ambitious. They tried to create something spectacular, yet distinct from what they had experienced in Brazil. They worked very hard, talking with many “experts” in psychology, sociology and community development to learn about how to improve the program. They made changes to the design so that it would fit into the culture of their places and decided to work with significantly smaller groups. For the participants the experience was incredible. They loved it. But some facilitators were disappointed, feeling that their versions lacked the magic of the Brazilian original. Still no wildfire.

In 2007 the Hemingway Foundation, a family philanthropy that supports innovative initiatives, teamed up with The Berkana Institute to fund the participation of 6 youth and 5 members of the Berkana Exchange (a trans-local learning community focused on healthy and resilient communities) in the third edition of Warriors Without Weapons. They came from Pakistan, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Canada, Mexico and the U.S. The explicit objective of this collaboration was to catalyze the spread of the program. As a result, members of the Berkana Exchange in Oaxaca hosted a full Warriors Without Weapons program in 2008 and Oasis Games took place in India (2009, 2010, 2011) South Africa (2011) and Zimbabwe (2011).

The collaboration between Elos, Berkana and Hemingway was just one of several partnerships and experiments that has initiated the trans-local movement of Warriors Without Weapons and the Oasis Game. Elos formed strong relationships with organizations in Europe where several Oasis Games have now been hosted. The Game has also been played in Shanghai, Guinea Bissau, Colombia, Bolivia, Peru, Uruguay, Paraguay, the U.S., over 40 sites in Brazil, and in 3 communities in Kenya. In 2011 alone there were over 90 Oasis Games. We notice from the example of the Oasis Game that this kind of learning may take some time at first but, like a wildfire, once it catches on, momentum grows quickly.

Trans-local Learning

The many manifestations of Warriors Without Weapons and the Oasis Game in communities around the world provide insight into a concept that The Berkana Institute has called trans-local learning. Deborah Frieze and Margaret Wheatley describe this idea in Walk Out Walk On: A Learning Journey into Communities Daring to Live the Future Now:

What if people working at the local level were able to learn from one another, practice together and share their knowledge— freely and fluidly—with communities anywhere? This is the nature of trans-local learning, and it happens when separate, local efforts connect with each other, then grow and transform into active communities of practice that together give rise to new systems at greater levels of scale. (p. 29)

An illuminating metaphor for this trans-local idea is offered by one of the largest living organism on earth: a grove of aspen trees. Though each tree stands alone and no two are the same, all of these seemingly distinct manifestations are actually one being, connected through an intricate root system. The quality of the soil and the amount of sunlight and water—in other words, the local conditions in the specific place each sapling emerges—affect the size, shape and nature of each particular tree. But at an essential level, they are all one.


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