Warriors Without Weapons: How Learning Moves Trans-locally

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Adapting to Culture

Local culture, social norms and traditions have all been taken into account as these methodologies have been molded to fit different contexts. Understanding how people think and approach challenges and what draws them together makes adapting the program easier.

India
During an Oasis Game in India, Vishal found community members to be more shy and reticent to come out and work together than in partner communities in Brazil. He learned that people normally only come together if something negative or traumatic is happening. The caste system and great diversity within neighborhoods can often create barriers to collaboration and communal work. These subtleties can be hard for outsiders to see and understand. Vishal said, “The community actually contains three or four smaller communities within it, and they don’t talk to each other.” He was worried by this, but also excited. Little by little, adults started sharing some of their things with children from other parts of the community, and in this way offered their resources to the building process. In Shivaji Nagar children created the bridge, so organizers created plenty of space for kids to participate.

Pakistan
Ali from Pakistan explained that it takes time to figure out how to adapt an activity to a given cultural context: “It’s the delicacy of trans-local things,” he said. “What you can think of doing quite easily in Brazil may be very challenging for us here in Pakistan. How do we think about adapting something to create the  desired effect but using a different process?” In Brazil, physical affection is merely a part of daily life; complete strangers of the opposite gender may greet each other with a kiss or a hug. But in Pakistan, in many cases it is socially unacceptable for men and women to touch, make eye contact or participate in some of the same activities. The same can be true in India where they modified the physical contact included in many Oasis Game activities, using dynamics like local games and songs instead. They still had the same unifying impact, but were more culturally appropriate making it easier for both men and women to participate.

The Netherlands
Organizers of the first Oasis Game in The Netherlands were initially overwhelmed by the challenge of adapting the methodology to this radically different context. While the physical conditions of the neighborhood they partnered with were better than those in Brazil, the community was deeply divided. The Oasis Game ended up being a mechanism for building bridges between the subcommunities of Dutch residents and Moroccan, Afghani, Surinamese and Turkish immigrants. Each of these groups were well established in the place, yet mostly isolated from one another by prejudice. Organizers sought out specific people in the neighborhood and invited them to offer their gifts during the game. Rodrigo invited a Dutch housewife who had a way with plants to be in charge of the herb garden project. It happened that the garden was in the backyard of the local mosque. This woman had always said she felt uncomfortable and unwelcome amongst the Turkish residents. Suddenly religious leaders at the mosque (who had also been invited in by organizers) and this woman had a reason to connect in a way that they never had before.

Mexico
The facilitation team in Oaxaca customized Warriors Without Weapons to include local governance techniques like the asemblea and cargo systems, as well as key principles of communal life like the tequio (collective work) and fiesta. These elements blended beautifully with the original design of the program, while helping the community understand and be more involved in the Warriors’ process. It also grounded the experience in place, allowing participants already familiar with the worldview of indigenous communities in Southern Mexico a chance to deepen their understanding.

Resourcing

Facilitation teams have made their own decisions about how to resource the programs. Elos relies on a diversity of funding sources: gifts from individual donors, foundations, federal and local governments and national corporations. And they offer prospective Warriors creative ways of raising the money to cover expenses like crowdfunding or airline mile campaigns. Strategic alliances have been the key to widespread impact, visibility and financial sustainability for Elos.

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