I joined the Learning Village 2016 preparatory meeting in Helsinki on the weekend of Friday 29th to Saturday 30th January.
I was the only participant to fly in from a distance: all the others were from Finland.
When preparing, I sometimes thought that this was making a big effort for something that probably didn’t need my input: I knew Learning Village to be in good hands. But still, I felt compelled to go, “help prepare learning village” as I told friends, with a slightly queasy feeling: what does that even mean “help prepare”? What needed preparing? But well: I was in, I wanted to support this group, this event, a very dear confluence of forces to me, and went.
Turned out the event didn’t need no preparation; but I did.
We gathered for lunch at “Chapman’s”, the reliable and hospitable place of last year. Good memories. Food. Finnish coffee.
I had bumped into Kristiina Ullgrén on the ferry already, and arrived synchronously with Juha Huuskonen, Stefanie Roiko, Kirsi Joenpolvi and Carmela Wager. We shared stories and basic introductions (Stefanie had been on the organising team last year, but hadn’t been at the event itself, Carmela had been there only for one day). Then we moved to “Augusta”, home of HIAP and designated learning village location, where Aime Virkkilä Accorsi joined us.
Kirsi facilitated a gentle, slow checkin, and a retrospective: what did you learn over the last year? What was your biggest insight?
A Calling Question?
A move towards a “calling question” was in the air, the mythical thing without which no Art of Hosting event seems to function, but it was gentle, not strongly articulated. So we moved in. Reflected. Thought. Shared. A table filled up with notes. We went around the circle, telling stories. Did we really only have 24 hours of time together? Shouldn’t we be doing something? Weren’t there any issues to be dealt with? And what about the calling question, the invitation?
As we went through the two days, it became clearer to me that maybe there would be no need for _one_ calling question. Maybe all I needed to do was find _mine_: What was my question? What moved me to come to Suomenlinna again? What did I want? Was was I actually doing here?
Magic happened in the circle, the kitchen and the sauna. (Yes, sauna! With a hole in the ice!)
Juha shared some thoughts about changes to the organisation of food and money, and got clear responses. I felt a renewed commitment to accessibility of events: How can anyone join, regardless of their personal economic powers?
I joined Stephanie in preparing food while the others were checking out a nearby artist’s studio. Then we gathered again, opening a videoconference channel to Vilma Mutka in Jyväskylä and Rainer Leoprechting who was in Switzerland. I was surprised by the clear connection and the deep, relevant conversation that opened – a new quality for me in video-based connections.
What is Learning Village?
The next day, things became clearer for me: What is Learning Village, actually? What can one do or get here? Here’s my draft:
- Find stuff worthwhile to work on. That is: discover interesting work others do, or spend time pondering your own questions: What are projects worthwhile for me to work on?
- Discover tools to use. That is: pick up interesting technique and approaches from colleagues, or spend time pondering your own questions: what are tools for me to use, to work more effectively or joyfully?
- Do the inner work necessary for change. Community effects everyone. No matter how clear I think I am, community always shows me something I didn’t know, nudging me to think more deeply, love more fiercly, and develop further. What do I not see yet?
And then, then village is not only an event on Suomenlinna: The community lives on, stays with me, is available to tap into as I do my work back in my home surroundings.
(Sometimes, it even becomes my home surrounding: My co-founder of Structure & Process is from the AoH community, and another of our team is also part of the community.)
So, any calling questions?
Not sure. But I’ll leave you with this:
Life is short.
Make good use of it.
What is good use of life?
No man is an island.
Make connections come alive.
What makes connections come alive?
You are not done yet.
Learn what there is to learn.
How to learn? What to learn? Then what?
Suomenlinna invites me to come again: I want to meet the community, share my practise, learn from others, and dive deeper into questions like:
What is meaningful work? What is life well lived? What is my power? How do I share it with others in healthy, meaningful, sustainable ways?
Happy to be on board. Ready to get my hands dirty. See you in May!