Peepsweave – (people weaving or the art of Rangitiratanga)

einsteinWhen I went to University I was disappointed in the memorization and regurgitation style of learning, and again disappointed at how very little that I was taught was relevant in the real world. Therefore when I starting working in soft-skills, IT training and the new e-Learning space, I followed a more Māori model to learning.

Learning is change, change in the world and change in people. No real education leaves a person unchanged. Learning is about the pragmatics of everyday life, but it’s also about unfolding what you were put on the planet to do. Developing your talents, exploring your natural interests and developing a career that doesn’t go against your natural grain.

In older times, our community would watch a child carefully throughout his early life to determine which skills should be taught him .When he got to be about 11 or so, he was brought before an Elder and with great ceremony told a story. He was then to separate himself, meditate on the story’s true meaning and relay it day later. What ever interpretation he gave, he was right. Because there was no ‘true’ meaning, what the child focused on, how they interpreted the meaning, what they saw in the story pointed to who he was and where his place was.

This is critical for a happy person, a healthy community. There are long periods in our history and the history of others that we associated with, that I can say speaking from those experiences; you don’t change people, you don’t try to make them ‘perfect’ , ‘better’ or create some kind of Utopia society. You simply reveal who people really are and historically we found that sufficient to weave the community together out of what people are, not what you may want, wish or think them to be. The ‘bad’ in the community as necessary as the ‘good’ to knit a community closely together. As necessary as a weaver once put it, as the knotted and smooth strands used to weave baskets.*

People tend to not ‘hear’ that, they can’t imagine living in a society without jails, violence or mentally ill. It’s enough to invite scorn. But, I took the opportunity to put this concept in practice in a Western setting, when I served a proselyting mission in Melbourne, Australia. I declined to spend time knocking on doors. Instead I made a statement to the local church community that I would get a 100% voluntary participation of all youth I approached between 11 and 18 years old in a project to develop their talents, be able to express their real voice and create a relationship with them sufficient to work through some of their problems. I targeted street kids in the area and kids who were active members or who were listed as members in the community, but who never came.

I chose a musical play, wrote the main theme from scratch and wrote each character with a specific kid in mind, to express a talent they had or wanted (sing,dance, act, paint, order people around, play with the technical stuff –whatever.) It was magical that whatever town we traveled to, it all came together. I don’t have the time to tell the type of success we had, but for example; a bunch of Tongan boys too shy to socialize had a love of rap, connected them with an inactive Lebanese guy who had a natural gift for rap, teaching and involved them in that community. Two boys that were often separated by force because of their violence, I instead got them to work together with a comedic one-upmanship routine they wrote mostly themselves. Two groups of 13-14 year old girls who hated each other, who had contrasting life styles and loved dance, one group identified funk the other group identified with ballet, we wrote a scene that played a music rounder that we could have both groups dance to at the same time, the different dance styles contrasted and complemented each other in a total piece that looked dynamically great, which created a hook for girls to start converse without rancor and fear to justify their contrasting styles.

I got 100 percent participation, it’s not hard to get people to do what they love to do.

In my life now with a background of 20 or so years in training people of all ages and a number of years in recruitment, Peepsweave is a movement towards building healthy communities by realigning the disconnect between what Universities teach, what industries need graduates to be and know and kids learning to map a career to their actual talents and nature.

*The ‘knotted strands’; the problems people have or are being, were used to bring out the best in the community and to knit that community out of need. Problems were used as tools to unite, rather then seen as divisive.