Article Index

What an experience!

Welcome to the workshop 'Learning, teaching and practising - together - sustainable development'!

As from the welcome coffee, participants engaged in getting to know each other, exchange of experience and in intense conversation.

What do young people need to know? What do they need to be able to do? What should they value enough to act upon when they graduate into adult life? What can we do together to be fit for the transitions and huge challenges of our societies?

Considering that we have to feed and house 9 billion people by 2050, produce four times more energy while decarbonising our economies?

Revert the impoverishment of the oceans, which lost more than 90% of their big species in the last century in the North Atlantic alone.

Cornelia E Nauen and Annamari Erdei of the hosting team opened the session (photo Piotr Robouch)

The workshop thus started with these challenging questions and a warm welcome to the participants.

The hosting team was composed of Annamari Erdei, Piotr Robouch and Cornelia E Nauen, doing their best to create a welcoming atmosphere in the premises at the Sociology Department of the Free University of Brussels.

In the open circle each participant gave a brief self-presentation and explained what had attracted him or her to attend.








Discovering the diversity in the room, with participants from Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America and very diverse background, the appetite was wetted to discover similarities and differences of mind.


Next came a cycle of appreciative enquiry. Participants were invited to sit together in groups of three to tell each other a story about a good experience of learning, teaching and practising sustainable development.

Each one was rotating from one role to the other, story teller, keeper of the record and 'journalist' asking clarifying questions to tease out why the story was considered a success and what had been contributing factors to the success.

Volunteers then narrated their individual stories back to the plenary or already condensed some factors across stories they had traded at their table.






Participants wrote down key concepts onto cards and then arranged them in a structure that allowed to visualise the principal ingredients of success.

This harvesting of the concepts was done in a collaborative manner by clustering similar cards and developing links between concepts so as to develop the major success factors identified out of the combination of all appreciative enquiries.

The day went on after lunch with an open space, where those wishing to get support from others to discuss their project came forward on the open market space.






Four project ideas were put forward and four groups formed to discuss them in three cycles in a pro-action cafe format asking questions - what is the project about? - what's missing? - what needs to be done next to make it happen?

The host developing the project idea remained at the table, while other participants rotated from one group to the next with each round of questions. This way, most participants got a sense of all projects and could contribute their ideas and perspectives, while learning by intensely listening to the others as well.

The wealth and diversity of past experiences shared in this format among the participants opened new insights and a strong sense of togetherness and trust. The enquiry into these and other project opportunities went on the following day and joint activities are on now envisaged among several participants.


Among the project proposals discussed in some detail were how to set up a resources centre for youth in the Niger Delta, how to get schools to work together across border to equip young people better for the challenges ahead and how to ensure that grass roots initiatives are sufficiently aware of the wider political and socio-economic context.

As someone was putting it, you are either at the table or on the menu. That sounds like an easy choice, even if it's not always easy to do.

A few snapshots taken by Piotr Robouch of the hosting team convey the intense and hopeful atmosphere of the workshop.

We acknowledge with many thanks the financial support for air travel of African participants by the Association Couleur Café,  Dietlind Jering and members of Mundus maris. Catering for participants was gracefully contributed by SEDIF.

We are also happy to acknowledge much in-kind support through accommodating at home of participants from outside Brussels and hosting of the workshop. Those making particularly substantial contributions are Nafi, Dietlind Jering, Annette Schneegans, Annamari Erdei and Piotr Robouch. Many thanks as well to numerous friends of Mundus maris who helped in many other ways to make the workshop a success.