The New Paths to Inclusion Presencing event in Sesimbra (Portugal) on 4-7 June, 2014 was strategically organised at the time when the project switches focus from gathering knowledge and searching for new ways of understanding (Sensing), to developing and testing new ways to co-create New Paths to Inclusion and disseminate what partners are learning along the way (Realizing). Experimental in its approach to deep reflection and sharing of knowledge, the Presencing event attempted to find answers to the three main questions:
• How can we find out what our true individual and collective purpose is?
• What is the best possible future that can come into being through us and our work?
• What is it that we need to let go of, so that something new can emerge?
The concept of Presencing encapsulates the two words „presence“ and „sensing“. In order to sense the highest possible future that wants to be brought into being through us and our organizations, those of us who hold a leadership function in this process must develop a deeper state of attention to the inner source of our ambitions to seize and learn from the future as it wants to emerge. Thus, the presencing event gave partners an extended opportunity for personal reflection, thinking and talking individually, in pairs or in small groups through Story-telling, Dialogue Walks and Interviews, World-Cafe and individual journaling exercises about what constitutes for them the heart of Inclusion and how their understanding has grown and changed with experiences in- and outside the New Paths to InclUsion Network project.
After a short Solo retreat experience, the partners engaged in different aspects of the project to support each other in conceptualizing their collective experience in concrete and actionable steps (Prototyping) along the three learning fields the project focuses on:
• Transforming the structure and culture of services to increase the capacity to support inclusion in a person-centered way
• Connecting to community life in ways that offer people opportunities to act as contributing citizens.
• Creating learning environments where interested people can co-create inclusion by engaging in common projects where everyone shares responsibility
As an exploration of Theory U, the project aims to guide social innovation through shared observation of the social field, a commitment to the greatest improvement possible, and a goal of learning to bring that improvement into existence through rapid cycles of prototyping. Participants were inspired by the innovative event setup, which is reflected in the positive feedback and comments:
“It was my first participation in one of these meetings (except the sensing journeys in Hamburg and Madrid) and it gave me a deeper understanding of the content of this project and its theories. The exchange with other participants was intense and very useful for my daily work.”
“It was great to meet old friends and new faces. I felt the venue was conducive to a positive and enjoyable set of days providing an opportunity for in depth personal and professional exploration.”
“Overall the meeting allowed me personally to vastly expand my own thoughts on the topic of inclusion and has now opened me to a new idea of creating a community of practice which is something I am currently looking into.”
“I felt the meeting was paced well and provided adequate discussion and learning time during the individual and group sessions. The use of objects worked well and supported the discussion points. I found the dialogue walk a revelation and an incredibly obvious but effective tool.”
Participants were also happy to share some of their reflections on inclusion:
“Engagement of the people with intellectual disabilities in improving inclusion is key. They must lead, and organizations, professionals and volunteers must support them.”
“The changes involve much more than just our services, but society as a whole.”
“One important thing that is emerging for me is the complexity of inclusion which is much wider that the field of learning disabilities.”