The last day

Yesterday 22 Talk Together participants spent the day huddled in groups, spread around St Edward’s. Sprawled on the lawns or ensconced in quiet corners, they wielded fat marker pens, scribbling their ideas and thoughts on tablecloth-sized pieces of white paper. Their task was deciding what to do next.

The final day of the course had arrived, and while they had plenty of work left to do, they were also working on various methods of saying goodbye and thank you.  A matrix of large brown envelopes appeared on one of the noticeboards, each labelled with a participants’ name and ready to receive goodbye notes from their new friends.

As the sunny afternoon drew on, everyone gathered to hear the participants’ ideas. There were a wide variety of proposals. The first group suggested sponsoring teachers, bringing solar panels to the refugee camps and recycling tents left over from festivals in the UK. They proposed a variety of action points, and established there was a contact with a solar panel company on site. Another group proposed to set up support and infrastructure for those wanting to visit the camps, and another suggested a cross cultural arts exchange called ‘Drama for Sahara’.

The fourth group sought to involve the corporate world, and to set up a matchmaking service between NGOs needing volunteers and multinational companies wanting opportunities for their employees to receive training and teambuilding experience. The final group proposed setting up a website to provide a neutral hub for interested people to discuss the issue of Western Sahara and find penpals.

All participants will remain in touch, where they have access to the internet, through Facebook, emails, Skype and Achordus.  Achordus is a fully facilitated online discussion space which is designed to bring together groups of geographically separate people and encourage meaningful dialogue. The tagline is ‘Think together, grow together’, and the principles complement Talk Together perfectly.

After the participants’ presentations Andrew Brown, who founded Talk Together, asked for some of the headline conclusions that the participants had come to with regards to conflict resolution.

“A conflict should be resolved not won”

“Start the process of change with yourself”

“Involve the greatest world powers”

“Boost media coverage and public awareness”

“Figure out others’ needs”

After applause and thanks all those who helped make Talk Together happen, the participants embarked on their final exercise. Each had a sheet of paper taped to their backs and everyone was tasked with writing something positive on the back of everyone else, whether about their personality, something they’d done or an impression they had given. Snakes of participants stretched across the floor and a festive atmosphere descended.

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