It has only been a few days since we arrived and already I feel deep gratitude for the people and their heart. The invitation to participate in an Open Space technology event one day, was a welcome chance to offer something , anything, back to the Kufunda community.
Open Space Technology was created in the mid-1980s by organizational consultant Harrison Owen when he discovered that people attending his conferences loved the coffee breaks better than the formal presentations and plenary sessions.
Combining that insight with his experience of life in an African village, Owen created a totally new form of conferencing. Open Space conferences have no keynote speakers, no pre-announced schedules of workshops, no panel discussions, no organizational booths. Instead, sitting in a large circle, participants learn in the first hour how they are going to create their own conference. Almost before they realize it, they become each other's teachers and leaders.
There are some simple rules to this process and Kim and I both enjoyed being on the side of giving from our knowledge, to this community which is so open to listening and considering new ideas to see if they may be applicable and helpful.
Kim spoke with some women about different approaches to early childhood education, and I demonstrated a method of low energy cooking.
A common site was women carrying big loads of firewood on their heads - wood is the only cooking fuel for a lot of communities, and deforestation is a real issue. The Kufunda community is playing their part by helping others communities build efficient fireplaces (using material from old termite mounds).
My offering was to show how it is not necessary to keep a pot boiling in order to cook food, but if it is brought to the boil then kept highly insulated, it will continue to cook - just more slowly. So we put some rice in some cold water, brought it to the boil and put it in a large carboard box stuffed with straw, so that the pot was surrounded on all sides. 30 minutes later it was cooked. This fuel saving method was well received and because it was demonstrated, will probably be embraced.
While our experience of Open Space (one of the simplest, most brilliant combinations of order and chaos, which is most powerful when conducted over two or three days) was very brief, it offered a delicious taste of what it could be.