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Youth shifting the ‘system’ through dialogue!

I was privileged to facilitate the first transformational dialogue at the Parow library on Friday, 21 July. The host and organiser of this dialogue was a passionate young man still in his Matric year. He has also been to at least two NNI-CC dialogue events before, one in which I was co-facilitator & another as a participant and when he and I began to forge a closer relationship of mutual trust.

My young host had expressed a desire to host a dialogue in his community in Parow and trusted me to facilitate it, which I wholeheartedly accepted. He took responsibility for booking the hall at the library in liaison with one of the library staff members who had also expressed an interest in dialogues.

When I met him at the library on Friday afternoon, he was excited and expecting 9 participants who had expressed interest. Unfortunately, the library staff member could not make this specific dialogue, as well as a teacher and some friends from his school. We finally started, about 20 minutes later than planned with just three keen participants in the room, with me as facilitator. As we as NNI facilitators believe and continue to express: “whoever is meant to be in the room will be in the room”!
I was probably older than the combined ages of the three participants! How humbling! What an honour! Two are still at High school and third had matriculated a year ago and was determined to exploring a career in IT and web design despite lacking the resources at his former high school. Each young participant arrived with some burning concerns; each one felt challenged in specific ways, yet each one was open to embrace the dialogue process. And so the process began!

The chosen topic for the day was “How do people make personal decisions?” – an amazingly ‘mature’ topic for this group of young participants!

After ‘dreaming’, the ‘system’ began to dialogue with earlier voices of “who will I hurt if I’ll decide this way?”; “(lack of) influence”, and “fear of the unknown”. The voice of ‘fear’ also gave rise to other voices of “rejection’, ‘scared’, ‘anxiety’, ‘violence to self’, ‘bitter’ on on the on the one side, and voices of “courage” and “(more) influence on on the other. The ‘system’ then moved into the two dominant voices of ‘positive thoughts’ & ‘self’-love’ on one side, and a single voice of ‘negative thoughts’ on the other, who still needed to be persuaded to make the shift.

At this point, about half-way into the dialogue process, we were joined by a 4th young participant who quickly got into the process and helped influence and ignite the required shift for the single voice of ‘negative thoughts’ who continued to be held as an important, if marginalised voice in the ‘system’ – true to the one of the principles and agreements of this ‘deep democracy’ process.

At the conclusion of the dialogue, the entire ‘system’ had come to embrace “positive thoughts” with the elements of “self-love”, “greater influence”, and “courage”. There was a palpable lightness and confidence in the “system”, that gave shape to clear and accountable actions for each of the participants and a rousing closing new community ritual.

Once again, I was thankful that I could hold a safe and energetic space for the dialogue process and to trust it’s intrinsic wisdom. I come away very hopeful that our youth, despite many pressing challenges they continue to face on all sides, remain open, determined, and committed to being and making a difference in their personal and community lives.

NNI Special Agent Roger


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