Warriors Without Weapons: How Learning Moves Trans-locally

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Community Ties

Authentic, transparent connections with partner communities are a key element of these programs. Elos builds these relationships in various ways: sometimes they are invited in, other times they connect first with impassioned community champions and in certain cases they started building relationships with a specific program in mind.

In Oaxaca, Colonia Diamante was integrated into the planning process from the very beginning as a way of mitigating negative impacts typically associated with community intervention and of creating the conditions for ongoing collaboration afterwards. An ideal community partner demonstrates a need or a dream and an openness to receive a group of foreigners that will work side-by-side with them.

Barriers to Trans-Local Learning

Bureaucratic Challenges
Concerns often arise about institutional red tape that might prevent this methodology from working in more bureaucratized countries. One Canadian participant mentioned that in her country direct action is often blocked or co-opted in order to protect private interests. “You couldn’t just take an abandoned building and do something with it. You would have the police there immediately if you even tried to paint a building,” she said. Given that the idea is to work emergently in cooperation with a community to design a project that will meet a local need, there is no way to know beforehand what will be built.

Organizers of the first Oasis in Amsterdam were suspicious that this kind of bureaucracy might be a barrier. They thought about the complexities of coordinating with institutions like the city council, housing department and local water company. What they found was that engaging governmental officials and other local power brokers early in the planning process gave them freedom to make alterations to public spaces. Government representatives actually loved the idea and had been searching for a way to facilitate similar processes.

Impeding Political and Social Conditions
Political, social and economic conditions in many contexts around
the world are so volatile that programs of this type are extremely difficult, even dangerous, to implement. This was particularly true in Balochistan, Pakistan where nearly any intervention or action taken by non-governmental organizations is highly politicized and seen as a threat to the existing political infrastructure. Ali explained, “Even talking about these issues creates polarization. The division is so blatant that you really cannot raise your voice… Even now, doing a small version of Warriors Without Weapons would be absolutely impossible here. If you dilute the program, it loses the power. If you do it full force, you risk exposing yourself.”

Zimbabwe faced similar instability in 2008, when the country was confronted with incomprehensible inflation, severe food shortages, election violence and a cholera outbreak. The majority of the population was living in survival mode, making it impossible to even consider an Oasis Game. Three years later, conditions had improved a bit. More than fifteen young leaders from Southern Africa had participated in Warriors Without Weapons in Brazil. Organizations and initiatives in the region had a strong network and deepening relationships with rural communities. And in 2011 more than 30 people from the region and beyond came together to play the Oasis Game alongside the community of Rusape.

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