By Jen Holzer
This training was designed to provide us with skills for attacking complex issues around urban sustainability. In reflecting on the experience, I find that one of the challenges has been answering “how was it?” upon my arrival home in Israel.
Instead I’ll answer the following question – when I look back on the experience, what will I remember about the Barcelona Training School?
- Going on a study-tour of a neighborhood in a small group etches images in my mind.
I experience a tour differently when I approach it with a research question – like the question we took on our tour of the Poble Nou neighborhood last Wednesday i.e. is the pilot project of the “superblock” succeeding in Barcelona? Of course the experience was enhanced by visiting with group of dynamic peers who brought diverse perspectives, asked thoughtful questions of presenters, and enjoyed debating.
- I learn the most in the moments my colleagues disagree with me and tell me so.
This is the heart of inter- and trans-disciplinary learning; learning to enjoy critical debate is a key asset that allows teams to advance their work. To me, this phenomenon of critical, respectful dialogue represented a level of personal investment and trust I seldom feel in a professional setting.
- Place-based learning is rich for triggering genuine curiosity.
Barcelona enthralled me with its aesthetics, diversity, and joie de vivre. First impressions matter! Entering the city to unexpectedly find myself immersed in the art installations, light shows, and concerts of the Fiesta de Santa Eulalia inspired genuine curiosity in my surroundings. Not to mention stepping into a restaurant on my first night in the city to meet a long table full of mysterious trainees!
- Unexpected emotions stop us in our tracks.
One training session in particular, Jean-Paul Vanderlinden’s presentation on Art, Science and Policy Design Experiences Related to Climate Change, was particularly poignant for some participants. I felt genuinely provoked by encountering new philosophical concepts (despite not feeling that I fully comprehended some of them). Then I was touched that the presenter was willing to be so open, even vulnerable, about his experience of creating art. At first I was disappointed that we weren’t pushed to create art ourselves. By the end of the session I felt that the hour was much better spent as a witness to a genuinely transformative creative process.
- It’s complicated.
But complexity defines human relationships. Working productively, sharing a sense of mission, and enjoying new ideas and methods and diverse personalities brings intrinsic rewards into a demanding work process. I’ll tell you the truth – I came for the environment, but I stayed for the people