What we learned about change & female leadership with the Kaospilot Outpost 2022
For the second time, Kaospilot+ Berlin hosted the Outpost of the KAOSPILOT in Berlin — and again, a lot was learned from this experience! In the following blog post, our colleague Rebecca Weisl shares some insights on co-leading the learning journey of Team 28 in collaboration with Arhus team leader Anna Forrest
Rebecca, tell us, — what is the Outpost again?
In the context of the KAOSPILOT Enterprising Leadership Program, students in their 3rd semester go abroad as a learning collective to live, learn, and work in another country and ecosystem. Immersion in an unfamiliar context serves the purpose to support and facilitate the students in applying their learnings from previous semesters in a different context and culture. This is on one hand manifested through a partnership project with a local organization as well as the teamwide work of building and iterating on a (learning) organization.
Between late August and December 2022, 38 students from Team 28 created impact through a variety of collaborative projects with different organizations and companies in Berlin such as Lower East Lab, The Dive, Knoweaux Applied Futures, Futures Space, Creative Bureaucracy, The Bear, Respond Berlin, Kompagnon, Kosmica, Politics for Tomorrow and Shift Collective.
How did the learners from Team 28 organize their projects?
The Outpost semester is unique as all students are in one place together, working on one big project together: to build an organization that supports them as individuals and as a collective while they are being in Berlin together. Team 28 decided to work with flat hierarchies and in a self-organized manner. Prior to actually moving to Berlin, they organized themselves in internal groups formed around questions like how do we manage resources or how to ensure a common learning space?
Self-organized lectures like with TheDive, which supported them in applying some of the central tools of The Loop Approach®, allowed Team 28 to refine their way of organizing and working together — and to invite and learn from the practitioners in town they were inspired by. As the team’s individual bonds grew, so did their understanding of each other. With this shared experience they understood what it takes to be really a learning collective and they have been able to see what structures and practices they need to co-create and maintain, in order to not lose their sense of being a collective.
As you were co-leading the Outpost, can you tell us about an unforgettable moment you had?
In the first weeks, the students had to find and negotiate projects with potential partners in the city, which caused stress so I decided to host a “Bureau of Distress” to respond to the tensions in the room. We basically set in a circle for 90 minutes, and the intention was to gather to share whatever was alive, to listen to each other with respect and without aiming to find solutions. It moved me to see again, how powerful it is to create and give ourselves to spaces where we can air what is hard, share the challenging and difficult, and through that find strength and relief, simply because we are seeing each other, are being heard and not directly go into fixing mode. These spaces are so rare! It was a pivoting experience for Team 28 and allowed them to iterate and evolve their organization in the remaining time of the Outpost.
And how was it to balance emergence and structure, which seems like an eternal dance in Kaospilot contexts?
Educational contexts like the ones you find in Kaospilot programs are constantly navigating the wavy space of flow and emergence on one side and structure and intentional processes on the other. When do you intervene in a group’s learning process? When do we give the students the responsibility and agency to find things out for themselves? And when do we hold them in their learning process, by offering clear structures, intentionally designed processes, and clarity? One answer is: it is contextual and one might not always respond in perfect alignment with what the system needs. What we learned though that as a learning designer in a Kaospilot context, you sail towards more understanding regarding that question, to which there will never be a simple answer.
Tell us, why do you believe Female Leadership is not yet truly appreciated in many contexts?
Co-Leading the Outpost with another female team leader, and collaborating with two other young female leaders running KP+ Berlin’s first-time ever 1-Year program, the theme of female leadership was present. We reflected on our roles as young female leaders guiding a big group of change makers through such an immersive, and often times challenging learning journey. At times I noticed hesitance to show up and share all sides of ourselves, with all the vulnerability and softness belonging to our personalities, that clashed with the worry of not being taken seriously as an authority and leader. As leaders (and educators) we keep being the projection screens of the people we guide and host spaces for — and are at times confronted with, as we see it, outdated ideas of how leaders should behave (being ‘harder’, ‘stricter’ maybe?).
At times it felt like there is still a gap between the in theory quite promising and celebrated characteristics of female leadership we all should practice (being honest, vulnerable, and soft) and how our learners (and collaborators) would embrace us once we would live those qualities — and sometimes it felt like a man coming in hosting a workshop was appreciated and heard more, questioned less critically than when we held similar spaces.
What else did you learn during the Outpost?
The challenges big organizations face around self-organization are the same challenges alive in small and young organizations led by the younger generations. It is can be just challenging to distribute power and to self-organize for the current generations of young leaders. And that to create real change it is crucial to speak about what change means to different people. It’s in exchange it with others it becomes clearer for oneself and one can better understand what one actually wants to be manifested in the world.
Just because we are the young and current generation of leaders it doesn’t mean that we are perfectly living by female leadership or other principles, always sharing power equally, hosting and practicing diversity and inclusion, or self-organizing: all of those collective leadership qualities that many of us and of our students aspire to, are simply difficult to live by, and wanting to see them come to life means practicing, always, again and again, even though we fail at it sometimes. It’s nothing that will manifest only by speaking about it.
And last but not least: what has the Outpost taught you about making change happen together?
The most important thing is to find the courage and strength to discuss and talk about what doesn’t feel right, for instance, tensions in a room! If you, move into a context where diversity seems to be a shared value, and still, there are moments of judgment and discrimination, don’t wait for someone else to speak up about it and name what is obviously not right! Put the finger on what is present in the room and don’t stay silent, be courageous, speak up, and don’t stay silent hoping that if something would be wrong someone would say something! You are the person that names things — don’t wait for someone else to ask the uncomfortable questions!
Thank you for sharing your experience with us Rebecca!
Interview by Edda Kruse Rosset, Programme Lead of the 1-Year Leadership in Systemic Activism Programme