Heritage Day Planning Activities at Metro South Education District

I have just started reading the book, “Community” by Peter Block, that was given to me by one of my colleagues, Cassy Dick, the principal of Steenberg Primary School. In the introduction, Peter Block tells us that he wants to “explore a way of thinking that creates an opening for authentic communities to exist and details what each of us can do to make than happen”.

 I wonder if the Heritage Committee to which I belong, would qualify as an “authentic community”. I serve on the Heritage Committee of our district, Metro South Education District and our task is to coordinate activities for the staff to celebrate Heritage Day. You be the judge after reading our story to get the Heritage extravaganza organized…

The behind-the-scenes stories that shape the meetings 

The coordinators of our Heritage committee are Errol and Derick, two of our circuit team managers. Simon, our performance management coordinator, has been invited to join the Heritage committee this year. 

The drama started when our first meeting clashed with my programme. I was informed the day before that I had to accompany our MEC: Education, to one of our high schools that he was visiting. Unfortunately, my Heritage team members did not receive my apology and while on my way to the high school, I received a call from Derick, just after 8h30.  He noticed I wasn’t at the meeting. Off I shoot a volley of apologies, while glancing to see if there was any vindictive traffic officer lurking on the road. Derick just murmured a half-satisfied something.

“Any ideas on what we can consider, Derick asked, nonplussed about my driving dilemma.

“Anything,” I say – “ be it a bus trip, camping in the bush, travelling 3rd class with Metrorail – any adventure that will stretch us.” A longish pause, then a chuckle to acknowledge the contribution. Shoo… then only did the telephone consultation end. I did feel a bit guilty, but what could I do?

So I waited for the e-mail or the call to update me on the discussions. The next phone call came a few days later with Errol on the other side of the line.

 “Will you be there at the next meeting planned for the Thursday or, have you given up on the committee?” asked Errol, in that typical style that makes all words sound monosyllabic.

 Yes, I replied, grateful that I have not been kicked off unceremoniously. So we had this meeting and then on Friday, we had another meeting, this time “on wheels” which Errol had suggested.

Heritage Comm members. From left: Errol, Derick and Simon

Meeting on wheels generates sharing beyond the core agenda item

Friday arrived. There I was with my three committee brothers: Errol, Derick and Simon,ready for the meeting with a difference. And, right at the start of our “meeting on wheels” at 9h30, Derick set my word limit at 12,000 for the duration of the engagement!

The meeting-in-motion created a super opportunity for us to enjoy one another’s company. We  had many rich conversations on topics such as the influence of mental models on our thinking, the challenges to help build the capacity of principals, teachers and district officials and the struggle for power amongst the rich and poor billions of the world. And, when Simon and I ran out of our word quota just before 15h00, Errol promptly declared that we have a bonus quota that will only run out when we arrive at the Mitchell’s Plain office again.
 
Is this “authentic community”?

I would give a resounding YES to this question. When ordinary folk find pathways to accommodate and navigate around many variables to build inclusive relationships while pursuing a common goal, I say that is true community spirit. Derick and Errol could easily have given up on me as one of their partners, but they obviously understand that meetings without investment in relationships are meaningless. Thumbs up to my colleagues!
Derick, Errol and Simon looking relaxed

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