What happened in the entrepreneurial laboratory of San Miniato
- Or how to write about living experiences during three weeks.
- Or a try out to do an ontological verbalism of something meaningful.
In July 2019 a group of teachers and researchers from 6 European performing art schools invited 34 students and graduates to join a three-week long working laboratory within the field of artistic entrepreneurship. The lab happened in the Italian city San Miniato and is the main event of the two-year long ERASMUS+ project “Entrepreneurial Challenges in Theatre Higher Education Curricula”. Six partner schools have attended the project since 2017 and at its core it is seen a research project. And so became the stay in San Miniato.INTROSchool
has its roots in the Greek skhole
. Originally the word was connected to the word “leisure”, which evolved into a “place for discussion”. Leisure means “free time” and some of the synonyms of free time isFreedom
Did we make the contours of a future international performing art school in San Miniato?
Did we create a community of practice?
Did we experience to tune in (to) each other in a togetherness of work and creativity?
Did we find a balance between the individual and the common journeys?
Maybe it is not interesting to answer yes or no to these questions? Maybe it is more interesting to find out aspects of what went on, what kind of structures we tried out, what kind of different emotions and creations were made and what kind of future potentials the experiment emerged?
On the following pages I will try to put into words some of my professional and personal learning moments of San Miniato entrepreneurial lab 2019.NEW STRUCTURES - NEW POSSIBILITIES
The core group of teachers and researchers in this project have worked together for about two years. We are in different ways connected to our national institutions. Together we represent an enormous amount of experiences and knowledge when it comes to designing learning spaces ad teaching programmes, mastering curricula and choosing the content of teaching in higher performance education. Along the way we got more and more convinced that the time we had in San Miniato was precious and a time for us to show that the French word oser
(to dare) was really a key word for the whole research project.
Instead of designing the whole stay in advance, we invented a managing tool called Time Table
. In short it consists of a large piece of paper on the wall, arranged into different workspaces (very large room, large room, small room) and two fixed pauses (lunch and dinner).
The core group of teachers had already brought a bunch of workshops to the table, because we had tried out different workshop types during the last 6 months before going to Italy.These workshops created the first content of the Time Table but from the very beginning we asked the students and graduate to contribute to the Time Table with workshops and offers. Every day at five the whole group of participants - that we decided to call researchers
- sat down and created the next working day. Step by step we took all the workshop suggestions(written on small pieces of paper with theme and numbers of participants) and negotiated about where to put these workshops for the next day. When the day was planned, we all got up at wrote our names on the workshops or sessions that we wanted to attend. Sometimes this creating Time Table – sessions took 15 minutes, sometimes they took 40 minutes, but we all stayed until the next day emerged in front of us.
What did this planning tool do? It definitely created a feeling of togetherness and common responsibility for the leaning space. It also created a more flat structure in terms of how we as a community looked at each other. Being aware of the fact that the emotions and experiences rising from the time table structure were not the same for everyone, I still have the feeling that this way of working gives a lot of new possibilities for inventing new workspaces, workshops, sessions, material, relationships and actions. The Time Table formed a basic structure for a community of practice that little by little was shaped by us all. Let us look into that term for a short while.Community of practice – in practice
The learning theorist Etienne Wenger has evolved the term community of practice
throughout his academic career. Wenger describes communities of practice as“groups of people who share a concern or a passion for something they do and learn how to do it better as they interact regularly.”
The learning that takes place is not necessarily intentional. Three components are required in order to be a community of practice: The domain, the community and the practice.
Wenger describes the three components as such:The domain:
members are brought together by a learning need they share (whether this shared learning need is explicit or not and whether learning is the motivation for their coming together or a by-product of it)The community:
their collective learning becomes a bond among them over time(experienced in various ways and thus not a source of homogeneity)The practice:
their interactions produce resources that affect their practice (whether they engage in actual practice together or separately)
A community of practice also defines itself along three dimensions:What it is about:
its joint enterprise as understood and continually renegotiated by its membersHow it functions:
the relationships of mutual engagement that bind members together into a social entityWhat capability it has produced:
the shared repertoire of communal resources (routines, sensibilities, artefacts, vocabulary, styles, etc.) that members have developed over time.
(Wenger: Community of practice – learning as a social system, in Systems Thinker)
Having read these different aspects of the term, it is possible to see the San Miniato laboratory as a community of practice. A huge part of being a community of practice is the urge to share both experiences and knowledge and to help each other unfolding potentials regardless of roles and labels. In both concrete and abstract ways the sharing, the helping and the unfolding became general principals in the entrepreneurial laboratory. And even though there were conflicts, frictions, out bursting groups, disagreements and disharmonies the acts of sharing,helping and unfolding potentials continued to be the largest part of the community of practice.
For Wenger there are two essential elements in a community of practice and how we negotiate meaning: Reification and participation
. These two elements also became essential for the participants in San Miniato. Reification means to treat something immaterial – for instance love or fear – as a material thing to make it easier to comprehend. The Time Table is possible to see as a reification of very complex immaterial stuff like: self-efficacy, courage, curiosity, togetherness and artistic entrepreneurship.
Wenger writes about the other essential element participation:"Communities of practice usually involve multiple levels of participation, as do most social learning spaces. Because involvement can produce learning in multiple ways and the domain has different levels of relevance to different people, the boundaries of a community of practice are more flexible than those of organizational units or teams."
Further on he helps us defining typical categories of participation in the community of practice:Core group:
a relatively small group of people whose passion and engagement energize and nurture the communityActive participants:
members who are recognized as practitioners and define the community (though they may not be of one mind as to what the community is about)Occasional participants:
members who only participate when the topic is of special interest,when they have some specific to contribute, or when they are involved in a project related to the domain of the communityPeripheral participants:
people who have a sustained connection to the community, but with less engagement and authority, either because they are still newcomers or because they do not have as much personal commitment to the practice. These people may be active elsewhere and carry the learning to these places. They may experience the community as a networkTransactional participants:
outsiders who interact with the community occasionally without being members themselves, to receive or provide a service or to gain access to artefacts produced by the community, such as its publications, its website, or its tools