Recently, I had the opportunity to take part in a weekend retreat for a mid-sized group of people who would be spending the upcoming months together in a work-team of sorts. There were about 80 people and the day was structured around social justice training and committee work.
At the lengthy lunch break , everyone ate their fill and then broke up randomly into smaller groups. Some played raucous games, some went for a walk. Other sat together and talked quietly while still other individuals read, alone.
I spoke to another facilitator about how organically the groupings occurred. He agreed that that was where the real work of community building was done; not in the structured exercises or surveys, though certainly learning and growth were produced in that setting.
But the real work of the team building came from each member reaching out to the others, finding the places where bonding was a natural outgrowth of proximity to time, each other and old-fashioned fun. They spent some time playing in other words. They all came back to the workshop with more energy and connection to each other and in a deeper more fundamentally strong way, than prior to lunch.
After the lunch break, we pointed out to the group that we noticed their joining and connecting and, as a learning moment, filled them in on the intentional structure of that lengthy lunch break. Ninety minutes is way too much time to eat sandwiches, my colleague said. They got it.
We need to do the work of building community, organizing others, producing effective programs, but we also need to recognize “the work” (the process of learning about each other and in ways that strengthen our daily tasks) is always happening, even if we don’t see it at the moment. In my next post, I’ll spend some time talking about how play benefits us in ways we wouldn’t even imagine.
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