• The Story Behind Bridgedale360


    I just had to leave…


    I had been walking aimlessly, as if my body just carried me along, for what seemed like forever. I still didn't know where I was heading or what was propelling me forwards. Except the reverb of that thought - I had to leave - and a name. Bridgedale360. My fist tightened around the scrap of paper on which it was written. I didn't have to open it, again, to see it. By now the name and the X that marked it on the spidery map was already etched into my mind. Instead, I looked up and wondered whether the turn in the road was starting to look - not exactly, but still - like the curve of one of the lines on the map. Like one of the spider´s legs. All roads lead to Bridgedale360? I first heard about it from a friend a few months ago and then later, overheard it in a bar. Just people talking over loud and dull pop - but I heard it for sure - and then I found this map, or it found me. I had to leave, my heart needed to believe, I had to believe.


    I picked up the pace, my heart beating out a rhythm for my legs to follow, and my right side stung. Exhaustion and fear tugged at me, and perhaps it was regret that made me look back every now and again, but this time I wasn't going to let it get the better of me. Not this time. I threw some of what was left over from my bag of dried fruits into my mouth, hoping it would hush my hunger. My feet yelled out in pain; my new boots had still not been broken in. Instead, the boots seemed bent on breaking me in. Blisters and all. My insides screamed at me in revolt.


    Suddenly I heard voices. I got cautious, a bit afraid, but my curiosity brought me closer. My ears twitched like antennae, trying to figure out where the voices came from. I stood still. There. “Bridgedale360”, I heard it. My heart rattled my ribcage. “Over there, not so far anymore.” I had to get to them. “Wait!” I think I said and cut through the row of trees, hesitantly at first, but then found myself pushing and shoving shrubs aside, until I saw them and they saw me. “Hi,” said the woman, smilingly. I gasped and smiled back and my insides kept quiet, for once.


    We were walking for days, mostly quietly. But there was a sense of unity that I had never felt before. We were all following our dreams somehow, but without really knowing what it was. Layla showed me some pictures of her family, and said that she didn’t know any longer where they were, if they were alive. Could we blame the “system crisis”? But I also felt conscience-stricken, because I saw how privileged I was. Yet, I was unhappy. But happiness does not come with abundance, I learnt it the hard way. I could not imagine myself continuing like before. I desperately needed Bridgedale360 to be more than a silly fairy tale…


    Once we started off together, everything fell into step so to speak. We moved as if we were one, people from the west, people from the east, just people...fleeing the old system and searching for that unknown place. Conversations bubbled up here and there, naturally without any haste, but then we would retreat into a silence again, as we mulled over things we had just heard, and I imagined how life was for them before in the countries where they were coming from, and how much it sounded like my own in some ways; while in others, mine was completely foreign to theirs. I remembered the things I used to enjoy, but that was in the past, I told myself, as I shook off an all too familiar sense of heaviness. Excess does that to you, somehow. But, here on this dirt road to Bridgedale360, I was just like them. Bridgedale360 was and will be the great equalizer for us all.   


    Arriving happened by surprise. We came to a stream and a little further up a girl was playing in the water, singing for herself. We came closer and when she saw us she smiled. “Ahoy there, comrades!”, she said. And she smiled and waved at us. I was surprised by the openness with which she was greeting a bunch of strangers. In the middle of nowhere! But it wasn’t in the middle of nowhere, we soon found out. Further up the stream we saw a mill and some mechanism pumping water. And then it all just opened up. Without waiting for us, the girl skipped ahead and we followed, not skipping like her, but feeling a slight hop in our own step. We exchanged glances and before we knew it, buildings and gardens and people working appeared from behind the trees. Everybody stopped to greet if only briefly, and smiled before they got back to doing what they were doing. Cows grazed past us. Even they seemed to smile.


    Our little guide, we could see, had come to a stop before the most impressive of all the buildings that we had passed. A man stood there rubbing his hands and then approached us, as if he couldn´t wait for us to get to where he stood. “Welcome,” he said, while his hands rubbed and patted our weary shoulders, ”first some rest and then I´ll show you around Bridgedale360, ok?”

    • The Town Hall and Community Centre

      DECISION-MAKING, FACILITATION AND COMMUNITY

      “No man is an island.”

      -John Donne


      “We have global minds, but not global hearts.”

      -Thomas Huebel



      Introduction

      Rita, sociocracy trainer


      Living together with other people, which we virtually all do to some extent, we need strong social bonds. If we’re living with others without strong social bonds, we’re asking for trouble. Because without it, we tend to act selfishly, with a lack of empathy and understanding for others. In society, it’s impossible to have strong social bonds with everybody; at the same time it’s possible to feel like a member of a greater whole that is cared for by all its members. But for that to happen, a lot of trust is required. Again, trust is created from social cohesion and a sense of mutual benefit. Enjoying time with others just for the sake of enjoyment is a powerful and necessary component in any community, small or large. Therefore, the community centre is of great importance here in Bridgedale360. It was the first house we built, while most of us were still living in tents! But we knew that without a community space, we might lose the interest of really being together. It was such a joy the day the building was completed. Because it’s a manifestation of our togetherness, our gratitude and love for one another.


      That’s all sweet, but when it comes to decision-making, things get tougher! It requires trust, patience and sincerity, but it also requires a lot of knowledge and experience. In the beginning none of us had any of that. We all came from a society that is very hierarchical, and we wanted to create something different. We wanted order, but no ruler and no one to be ruled, so we had everybody deciding on everything. We tried to organise it in a kind of a consensus fashion and went into it with a lot of enthusiasm and energy. Turns out - it can actually work! We did not do away with hierarchy altogether, but what we have is horizontal hierarchy where we make decisions together, instead of vertical hierarchy.


      The Town Hall and the Community Centre could be described as the mind and the heart of Bridgedale360. You could say that in the Town Hall we make decisions, and in the Community Centre we make bonds with one another. But the two places are also intimately interlinked, just like the heart and the brain. If we don’t have a strong social sense of unity, if we don’t have community, we won’t be able to make good and well-balanced decisions either - ones that take everyone into account. And if we’re not able to make good decisions with the whole group in mind, it will generate a lot of conflict that will affect the harmony in the group. So, just like the heart and the brain, the Town Hall and the Community Centre are seemingly separate, but at the same time they are intimately connected and equally important for our social life here. It’s the same with everything we do in Bridgedale360. We try to do it in a balanced and conscious way. In the old world, the brain is regarded as superior to the heart; for us they must work together to produce anything of value. Dragon Dreaming is a good example. It’s a tool for creating projects together, that tries to incorporate the right part of the brain - our intuition, creativity and emotions - into the process. So there is a dreaming part, a planning, doing and celebration part, all equally important for a successful project.


      Tonight we have a sharing circle in the Community Centre, and later there’ll be some music jam. Almost every day there’s something. You can come if you are interested. Sharing is very important since sharing what really matters to us makes us understand each other on a deeper level and helps us foster the spirit of comradeship among us. And of course music is important, too. Some people even say that a third of the time that we spend together we should celebrate! By celebrating we appreciate all the hard work that we’ve done, and we’re letting ourselves enjoy and relax. It’s really necessary to keep an energetic and vibrant energy in the group. And fun, of course! For if it’s not fun, it’s not sustainable, right?


      Learning Outcomes

      • To learn about the grounds on which trust is built and how to bring trust to a group

      • To learn how to build a collective vision

      • To learn how to celebrate individuals and their contribution to the group

      • To realize the meaning of your engagement and the effect of our individual actions in group work

      • To develop team building skills

      • To understand the influence friends and peer groups have on people, especially youth

      • To understand the beauty of collective work

      • To see the power of collective work for a fair and equal society

    The HouseThe School