Warriors Without Weapons: How Learning Moves Trans-locally

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Getting to Essence

Before learning can spread translocally in a meaningful way, it helps to identify that which cannot be adapted. What’s at the core of the idea, program or practice? What is its essence? Figuring out how to identify essence is central to our inquiry around how learning moves trans-locally. Naming, describing and sharing this essence grounds the concept in a way that then allows it to be adapted according to the local conditions without diluting its transformative potential. Aspects of the Elos methodology
and design offer cornerstones that can be built upon in unique ways as the program and worldview move to new places.

Following Warriors Without Weapons 2007, community leaders, program participants, funders, members of the Berkana Exchange and the entire Elos staff came together to think about how this program might spread. We identified several characteristics of the program’s essence. Some of these were design elements like the 5-stage process (perception, information, reflection, proposition, action), and multifaceted challenges that require creativity and cooperation amongst the Warriors. Others were key values: cultivating connections to spirit and nature and genuine community engagement and participation. Others were activities like collective play and the physical transformation in the community.

We’ve seen instances where Warriors Without Weapons has been attempted with an alteration or omission of one of these elements and it has changed the nature of the experience. In Argentina and Paraguay, facilitators tended toward softening the challenges due to fears that frustration would overwhelm the Warriors or that hosts would not be prepared to deal with major crises. Elos noticed that without the intensity of complex challenges the program loses some of its magic. These tasks are the stepping-stones that create the conditions for success in the final challenge of transforming a physical space alongside the community.

In seeking to define essence we have come to realize that often what is common in all of these experiences may be more of a feeling than a tangible list of characteristics. Those who have hosted Oasis Games in their own cities and towns name a quality of passion, energy and celebration linking experiences across place. They speak of communities ignited by collective action for the good of all and seeking out the points of light, the beauty present in each and every individual and place, no matter how different or downtrodden they might appear.

As the Oasis Game has spread to more than 15 countries, facilitators often reflect that the process has a basis in universal values that are part of our human nature. The essence of these experiences is about awakening and manifesting dreams—not just individual dreams but collectively constructed community dreams. While this felt experience is not easy to communicate via a manual or guide, it is vital that we try to describe these subtle qualities as a way of preserving the program’s power and potential.

Open Flows of Learning

The trans-local approach works best when the learning also comes back home. As an idea, program or methodology leaves the safety of its own place, venturing out into the world to be molded, adapted and put into practice, there must be a way to gather learning from the far flung corners of the world and apply it back in the place where it was developed. This way, the concept continues to improve over time as it is enriched with an incredible diversity of worldviews, creativity and practical applications. The essence is polished and refined as the learning continues to flow back to the point of origin.

Warriors Without Weapons and the Oasis Game in Brazil have changed in many ways over the years. The various iterations of these programs around the world have led their creators to improve the methodology and polish the essence. For instance, Elos learned that while it’s critical to include complex challenges in the program, withholding information detracts from participants’ ability to learn. This was especially true during the 2007 Warriors program, when the facilitation team refrained from giving participants all the information that they held about available resources. Elos believed that this would push the participants to be even more creative in their responses. In the end, it led to conflicts and resentment between facilitators and participants.

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