Eight weeks have passed since we interviewed three first year students preparing to head off into the world to execute their second semester project under the name Project Beyond Ableness. Radar checked in with Hannes, Kai and Dea to see how their adventures went.
First off, we sat down with Dea who had just returned from her project period in Rwanda.
How did it go, Dea?
“I ended up developing two different workshops: one called The Entrepreneurial Mindset and one called Cultural Intelligence. I executed the prototypes and handed them over so that my client could sell them and continue developing her business in Kigali, Rwanda. The workshops are mainly targeting the international organizations in Kigali, including alot of NGOs and community projects going on. Many of these have about half local Rwandan, and half International staff and could really benefit from these types of workshops we created.”
Dea went heads on with a very complex society in Rwanda. After the genocide in 1994, where about a million people lost their lives and which left the country devastated, all institutions were in ruins and the country had to rebuild everything from scratch. All of this in a situation where nobody trusted anyone. This sadly also meant that a lot of people, who are in their late twenties and thirties, never had the chance to go to school. “So capacity building and adult education courses are really sought for among this group of people. This also means that most of the people needing the courses are in full time jobs. So these workshops that we created really fed into a need in the local market.”
Entrepreneurship is a focus point for the Rwandans at the moment, as the country is struggling with unemployment and the government sees the need for teaching people how to create businesses and thus also create jobs.
When we last talked you said you were interested in getting to know how to do business in Africa and also see how you could bring your previous experiences with theatre into the project somehow. How did that go?
“I definitely got an insight into the Rwandan workplace and business landscape, but I also learned quite quickly that there is really not such a thing as the African way, because all of the countries are so different. So even when compared with its neighbouring countries, Rwanda for example is quite strict in regulations, has very strict hierarchical systems, and there is of course still the issue regarding trust that dwells from the past. So I would say I fulfilled the first goal in terms of getting to know Rwanda.
But when it comes to the other point in regards to theatre, I don’t think I had the chance to integrate that as much as intended. It was really not needed, or at least it seemed that it wasn’t. There were more urgent matters. Working with liberating structures, conversation cafés (methods taught at the Kaospilots) for example, was already alternative and funky enough for the participants. But I think that when it comes to the experience design of the workshops, I did manage to bring in some elements of the performing arts – I made sound invitations for example, and created sort of a set scene for the rooms the workshops took place. So small elements here and there.”
So what was the workshop experience like? If you can give a little sneak-peak.
“Soo, let me talk about the one on Cultural Intelligence. I liked that one especially. This one was built on a lot of theoretical knowledge that originated from my client collaborator, who is an anthropologist. The workshop was divided into three sections, or steps one might say: cultural engagement, intercultural understanding and then intercultural communication which is building on the learnings of the first two. Throughout the workshop we used a liberating structures, narrative theory and questions asking into cultural moments. There was a little game where we asked people to listen to a certain song and then try to tap into another person’s perception of that song. There was a good mix of talking but also embodied learning, learning through the senses and experience. The latter was quite new for the participants and that was really cool to witness.”
Is this the end of the project or is does it have a future?
“Technically my project is now done, yes. I handed the developed workshops over and my client is happy. So they will continue doing them in Rwanda but my client has also let me know that I am always welcome to go there again to help facilitate them. We really had a good collaboration so there is a mutual desire to continue the collaboration, but we are unsure of how exactly this will look like in the future at this point.”
What do you think of the format of having had 2 months off school just to focus on your project?
“I really think it is a gift in an education like this to have this period. For me it was especially perfect, as I needed to go far away to do this project. It was a great chance to digest all the learnings from the first 6 months of the education and put them to use practically. Also it means alot to be pushed to work alone, away from the team, to work more independently. I really needed to be pushed out of my comfort zone to learn that I really can do this on my own. This period has helped me to apply the theoretical knowledge that we’ve gained from the previous semester. It is so valuable and I don’t think a lot of other educations have this.”
Next off, I caught Hannes & Kai, jetlagged after their Japanese adventure, and wanted to hear more about their journey.
Hannes & Kai created workshops on Culture Innovation & Creative Workstyles in Japan.
How are you guys feeling after your Japanese roller coaster?
“This project has been a high-speed venture that has taught me about what it means and what is demanded, to be an entrepreneur and how to startup a consultancy business. It’s crazy how fun and giving it is to have a packed calendar with social events, networking events, parties, meetings and workshops, knowing that they all fuel a vision and a goal that is pure with good intentions. Coming back to Scandinavia from this high paced, high energy, lifestyle is strange. Looking up and not finding skyscrapers reflecting other skyscrapers. Realizing you are alone on a street in central Aarhus, when I had just gotten used to merging together into a lively ocean made of thousands of people just getting from A to B. Feeling your brain shifting mode from the adventurous project mode, processing experiences and scouting for possibilities, to a reflective, relaxed and sleepy mode. It is a contrast for sure. It is relieving, empowering, slightly sad, but overall an awesome feeling of achievement.”
Finishing off a focused project period always feels like a double-sided sword. On one hand it is a relief of coming through, empowered from the achievements and experiences. On the other hand, coming from spending most minutes awake somewhat processing the project – there is a void to fill.
Last time we talked, you mentioned you wanted to take an organic approach to your process. Where did your organic process take you?
“Having an organic approach was fortunately essential to the success of our project. Since the field of our work was within working culture, we needed to understand the culture first in order to see the complexities, the needs, and the possibilities for us to create a positive impact. Having three weeks of interviewing 25 companies and entrepreneurs, hanging out with people, and doing our workshop prototype, gave us the needed depth of understanding the working culture in Tokyo. Without this focused time of understanding the field – which we, by the way, are no experts in – and the Japanese culture in general, such as cultural rules and how to communicate, we would not have been able to successfully inspire positive development.
Moving into the execution phase of the project we had all this knowledge and a big network that supported our cause, but no real clients or deals to pursue. We started making some independent workshops as a way to invite businesses and our network to create engagement and understanding of working culture innovation as a field, but also to create more possibilities for us to get client work, which proved to be a valid strategy to our project.
The biggest strength of an organic process for us has been the openness towards new possibilities guided solely by our vision of “Driving Working Culture Innovation”. The organic approach also enabled us to focus on networking as our main tool for moving forward, which in itself is something that you can only control the outcome of to a certain extent.”
How did your regular work day look like -if that existed?
“The days we spent in Tokyo were highly irregular. We intentionally kept our schedule loosely defined, since we created our possibilities by saying yes to everything. We moved the project forward by socialising, attending events, and utilizing our network in any way possible. Due to this approach to planning, we were able to attend events on the date, take spontaneous decisions to have a beer with new acquaintances, and sleep in for a few hours when coming home in a … challenging state. Regarding the relatively few days which we spent working without any meetings or irregularities, we went to work in Innovator Japan’s office in the heart of Tokyo, where they kindly offered us to work. We typically spent from 10 am to 8 pm in the office followed by a huge bowl of ramen and a few more hours of work in our temporary homes.”
Happy workshoppers in Tokyo.
What were your biggest learnings?
“This project has been a fruitful lesson in the necessary considerations when starting a business, and in understanding the mindset of being an entrepreneur and an independent consultant. Being a consultant requires showing specific relevant aspects of your expertise and experience to potential clients even before knowing their needs. It requires a high level of human understanding, but once succeeded it allows for creating value from the inside.
From an internal point of view, coming from very different backgrounds, ways of working, and values in working while being physically very close has been challenging in collaborating throughout such an intense project. At times our differences has created friction and annoyances for both parties, but nevertheless proven constructive and insightful in the end. We have been able to move the project forward through our common passion for making change and through mutual realizations that our differences are complementing each other, we have both been enriched with a fundamentally different perspective.”
What do you think of the format of having had 2 months off school just to focus on your project?
“It is a necessity. If you want to follow your passion and let that take you somewhere where you can make a valuable impact, you need to be set free. Except for two guidance sessions with our team leader Nick, the occasional meeting with our “learning group” to touch base and some facebooking with our teammates, we have been very much alone. You need to test out your entrepreneurial spirit to get the ball rolling, to feel the stakes, and to overcome challenges to the best of your abilities. That demands some intense focus. Having the time and mental space to fill with one project is important because of the immersion needed to succeed in the project and to learn as much as possible by your choices and actions.”
What was the craziest thing that happened in Japan?
“Eating raw horse meat in a tiny sake-bar with a rugged jazz-singer as the bartender seems to be a popular story to tell! Singing California Girls in schoolgirl uniforms in a karaoke box, partying in a burlesque club with the world’s oldest DJ playing (only for 20 minutes though – she got tired), and sharing a couch every night for 3 weeks are some of the other stories we can tell.”
Some of the crazier things that Hannes and Kai experienced, and some of the more ordinary yet delightful experiences, they have captured in a Vlog that you can check out on your own risk (caution! Silly, unedited and perhaps bad content will be shown). Look for the ‘H&K japan’ content on this youtube channel.
Thanks to Dea, Hannes and Kai for giving their insight on what it is that Kaospilots can do. RADAR wishes them all the best in the new adventures to come.