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What we did

The following short report on Budapest Conference, May 21st to 25th, was prepared originally for the SISONA SIG by Isabelle Demangeat and Elena Garcea who were both participants at the congress. It has been edited for use here.

As you may know, the SIETAR EUROPA Conference in Budapest had a different format than other SIETAR Europe Congresses: during the whole event all 130 participants were invited to follow a large group process around the theme of Communicating and Collaborating Across Borders in the 21st Century: New Learning Environments and Strategies.

After the official introduction to the congress, we started with a speech of a woman working on Roma issues in education within the Hungarian Ministery of Education. She explained the system she developed to insure the attention, the quality of work done within schools for the education of Roma children, respecting their very specific situation and their culture.

Going together through different settings, questions and phases, working, discussing and sharing, we explored the past of the intercultural field, reflected on trends and tried to figure out which kind of new learning environements our field will need to cope with the situations we are (and will be) confronted with. The process was facilitated by a team of 5 facilitators (Susan Vonsild, Anne-Hélène Guttierez, Veronika Rolle Green, Simon Green and Isabelle Demangeat) and by the main facilitator, Jeffrey Beeson.

The dynamic of a large group is a very strong one - and this time we could really experience it anduse it to resolve together some confrontation - or should we say discussion?

At the begining each participants received a coloured sticker on their nametags - each color defined a stakeholder group like: people working in the Training and Consultancy area or, Government, or NGO'S, or Business etc... On the first and second day, each stakeholder group had the opportunity to discuss from their very specific perspectives the New Learning Environments they encounter or they wish to develop. Each group gave a performance on the stage - yes, really like theater! - representing the picture they have from the future of our intercultural field. They also shared experiences and expertise regarding a common understanding of how to built the future of our field.

The last phase of the whole group process was the development of projects people shared and committed to working on together. Projects were, e.g. Organising the link between researchers and practionners or, how to connect travelling SIETAR members to other members for informal encouters, how to organise an intercultural learning process for people working in an European Organisation in Brussels, which resources are available and which ideas are present for the next congress in Berlin. By the way the dates are: April 1st to 4th 2004. Please check on this SIETAR Europe Web site for future developments in these projects and for more news of the 2004 congress.

The congress format allowed a lot of exchanges, conversations, made it possible to meet a lot of new people - for sure more than during "traditionnal" conferences. If people expected to get finished results and paper presentations - for sure some of them were maybe disapointed. If people wanted to experience how it can work to share a learning environment and process each group member may shape and be responsible for - I can imagine they were happy at the end of the conference! At least the feedback shows a great level of satisfaction, though not everyone would like only this kind of congress in the future, though most would like to keep some of this dynamics in coming meetings.

The informal events - as usual in the SIETAR Europe Conferences - gave us the opportunity of meeting SIETAR friends we often meet once a year, the opportunity of dancing - and flirting ....! - together and of admiring the dancing performance of Hungarian Artists.

The annoucement of the SISONA Saturday luncheon in the plenary session gave the opportunity to inform all participants about the existence of our group. This luncheon was the only "specific activity" organised by a SIG.

With best wishes and looking forward to meeting a lot of you next year in Berlin!