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Transform Tilburg - Changemaker Community

Adrian Robke, Transform Tilburg

What happens when we act as a community for local change?

A good story for sure!

One November day about ten people met in Tilburg in the Netherlands. We took our bikes and waited in the cold for everybody to arrive. Then we made our way to the “Green Muse”, a place outside the city. After our arrival, we got to know each Other's names in a simple and fun game. We wanted to collect ideas of what we could do as a group to bring about positive change. All of us had seen and heard the countless news of global crisis, but instead of hiding away we decided to do something about it. Transform Tilburg was born and here you can read our story. There are two main parts. One is about what we co-created as a changemaker community, the second is on how can our learnings inspire you to have an impact yourself.

From Vision to Engagement

That November day we started to envision and discuss what the community stands for and what mission we could share. It was a slow process. We met up multiple times further on until, eventually our ideas took shape of a mission statement and our first concrete project was born. At our third meeting we decided that we wanted to be:

“A community of Changemakers dedicated to bridge organizations, groups and individuals to explore and enact transformative impact towards social and ecological wellbeing.”

Learnings:

  • Give it a try! Looking back, it is quite surprising how well it worked.
  • Something happens with all of us when we move from talking about changing things to doing change. If we do it together we do not have the feeling to face it all alone and even get excited.
  • Partners are essential for starting up new things. Ensure that there is mutual benefit in these partnerships by not hesitating to give your time and energy.
  • The best ideas are simply made together so co-creation is vital.
  • It really takes some time to come up with a shared vision. As does making it more concrete by crafting a strategy and ensuring engagement of all parties. It is important to give these processes time, otherwise people will not identify with the vision and leave.

The first big Event - Bridging for Social Transformation

With each further meeting we got more focused and action oriented. The community grew in size and a smaller core group dedicated itself to work on our first big event. After some months of preparing we hosted “Bridging for Social Transformation” on the 19.05.2017. Its purpose was to share knowledge, build a stronger local network and to launch a collaborative project: A Tilburg-wide Action Day. Around 50 participants from 15 different organizations attended. By the time we celebrated with music and good food, the people had really grown together. It was quite inspiring to see the fruits of our hard work and with joy we kept on dancing in a local music club.

Learnings:

  • Start to work with a dedicated core group and further engage those who are interested.
  • Distribute Tasks and Roles. Linking individual motivation with community interests requires to really listen to what people like to do and what they are good at. Find out together how each individual can contribute best.
  • There are lots of tools and knowledge on good project management and group decision making. These are really good to work with once your ideas become more concrete.

Impact and Reflection

After the summer break and building up a new core team, our Action Day took place on the 23.09.2017. Tilburg in Action - Day of Transformation was the stage for two actions and engaged around 70 people. The first was called Awareness Art. We exchanged over 300 plastic bags of Tilburg’s’ pedestrians with reusable ones, while spreading awareness about the negative impacts of plastic use on the environment. In a workshop later on we created a huge plastic phoenix that rises out of the sea. It was exhibited for several months at the University of Tilburg.

A future for Everybody was the name of our second action. We brought together locals, international students and refugees from countries such as Syria, Sierra Leone or Afghanistan to cook and enjoy several intercultural meals. The food was delicious and everybody was able to contribute to its making and of course the eating. By the time we made the Action Day happen we had become quite a well-known project in the university and were attracting more and more people to join our shared cause.

At our first anniversary we celebrated with around 20 people who had contributed to Transform Tilburg. By this time, we had really grown together and enjoyed each other's company. We also reflected on our journey so far and asked ourselves what we learned and how it felt for each one of us. There was a willingness to go on with the project in the group. We agreed that more people had to take responsibilities to take some work of the most engaged people’s shoulders. Yet, in the course of the following months we did not find the time and energy to go further. That is of course sad, but we had a good and fruitful experience together. So in the end it is fine to move on to do other great things in service to the world and humanity.                                                                                                                                                                 

Learnings:

  • Foster community wide learning through reflection. If we neglect learning and do not take time for it, we miss out on evolving our communities on a deeper level.
  • Celebrate successes and be amazed sometimes. It is not given that we engage for the greater good and it is worth celebrating. That will restore our energy and joy to contribute.
  • Ensure people can manage their energy well and allow times of less action and speed. If leadership is too central the whole project crumbles if just one or a few people quit. Therefore, try to distribute responsibility and make leadership a collective thing.
  • Take time to really acknowledge individual contributions and make everyone feel valued and appreciated. This could be done in more formal group activity or on your own time spend with another member.

In the end it is quite amazing what we achieved in just one year. Around 40 people actively contributed to the community, there where over 40 partners in our network and we co-organized events with 10 of them. Our actions touched the lives of several hundred people. We learned a lot on how to co-create in a community, new friendships developed and others were inspired by how much we do to bring about positive changes.

The story of Transform Tilburg is an example for our dreams for inclusive and sustainable cultures and the deep rooted understanding, that each one of us can contribute to these by sharing one’s gifts and passions with the world and others. We can make a huge positive impact together and we need to in order to face humanities wicked problems with incredible solutions.

Transform Tilburg is only one stone in a mosaic of incredible communities and people all over the world that are dedicated to evolve humanity and ensure that we live harmoniously on our home planet. We are in midst of great changes and we better make sure to keep on going and enjoy making great things happen!