For the individual working in grassroots conservation or community development, there is a familiar situation, in which an unlikely collection of individuals rally together around a shared objective, whether an issue affecting their community, an endangered species, or an economic goal. A sense of shared purpose is often enough to carry the group forward, in spite of tight budgets and powerful opponents. All too often though, the entry of money into the situation can cloud the waters and distract the group from its objectives. The communities where RED works are no exception, including Puerto San Carlos, where last week we held a wrap-up meeting for the 2012 high season.
Prior to the start of the season in San Carlos we invited an organizational psychologist out for a two day group learning/therapy session. It was a fascinating experience for all involved, the San Carleños, the RED team and Ruben Ponce, the shrink. By the second day, he had everyone walking around with our shoes on the wrong feet, a tactile representation of what it would take to achieve the gradual personal change necessary to move the group beyond petty distractions and toward shared vision, struggle and reward. By the end of the day, we all felt normal in our “new shoes”.
We recently returned from San Carlos and an all day meeting where we dealt with some of the issues that came up during the season. There was definitely something different in this meeting. Sure, there were still problems and conflicts, but the group – the individuals – had changed in their outlook, and were seeking solutions to their problems. Did Ruben’s trick with the shoes help? It’s hard to tell, but there was a group of adults (RED staff included) spending an entire day talking through difficult issues and arriving at accords and solutions and it makes us more than a little bit glad to say that the organizational maturity of the group has evolved. So if you happen to make it to a RED trip and you notice that someone in camp is wearing their shoes on the wrong feet, don’t worry, you’re just witnessing personal growth and evolution in process.