I was blessed to be a part of the International Federation Council to "take the temperature" of the federation in the middle in our current international mandate. About 30 people from L'Arche Communities varying from leaders, coordinator, assistants, core members and board members came from Kenya to Canada, from Solvenia to Argentina, gathered to share their daily experiences in L'Arche. We meet for 3 long days to review key aspects of our current mandate and share how we are or are not living out our current International Mandate.
One such workshop that revealed several truths was a workshop on partnership. The council was divided into four groups and were asked to rotate around that room, spending 20 minutes with a particular issue. Each person in the group used a prop to signify a role they would play: an enthusiastic assistants (necklaces), community leaders and office workers (glasses), Board members (fedoras) and core members (backpacks). Participants were asked to role-play different situations at each table, and were not allowed to wear the same prop twice. The scenarios differed: a core member is sick, the community had to deal with officialdom (instance, buying new land, needing a new building etc.- who will go?), community members had to deal with opening a new place in the community and finally participants were asked to discuss (and draw) how they got information and how decisions are made.
Another fruitful workshop was focused on leadership each group shared stories of good or a bad leader in their experience. They groups were asked to draw three or four portraits on a poster to describe different examples of leadership that they have experienced. We were divided into three with one group of just core members than their accompaniers. All of the stories from the core members were of the community leaders. I saw this as revealing of the importance of the role of the community leaders in the eyes of the core members. We know what we have experience with and it is clear the our core member's experience of leadership is that of a typical community leader.
Patrick Fontaine, L’Arche International Leader, shared with us that it was clear 2 1/2 years ago that the federation was dissatisfied with leadership throughout all levels. He felt challenged because there was a lot of frustration but few examples of why the federation was dissatisfied. We were each asked to stand on a line in the middle of the room to express our level of satisfaction with leadership. This could be within your community, your region, your country and/or internationally. Council members were asked to share why they stood where they stood, where they find gifts and challenges in L’Arche Leadership. After many had a chance to share, Patrick Fontaine applauded our input. He stated that our experiences gave him more details as to where L’Arche Leadership could grow.
I was impressed by the way that the international staff designed our work time to expose several aspects of mission, solidarity and leadership. The weekend was filled with storytelling and skits that displayed the realities of the L'Arche federation. Our time together was created in a manner that allowed core member to be fully engaged. The team challenged the groups to be creative in their expression. This both allowed core members to included and for language barriers to be minimized.