Train the Trainer

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Train the Trainer

Paul and I just kicked off a 5 day train the trainer with a really nice mix of people from a lot of different countries - Belgium, Denmark, Sweden, Hungary, Bulgaria, Turkey, UK, Germany, a variety of faiths, with teachers, NGO workers, university professors, religious community leaders. We are hosted by the Jesuit Refugee Service in Malta, and will have a visit to their center on Tuesday. Interestingly, several people in the group are also workiing with refugees too. We are looking forward to the exploration this week of the intersection of religion and belief with refugee experiences - where they are coming from, in the centers, and in the integration process. Already one has spoken about the Syrian Christians in Germany and another about Syrian Jews in UK.

Besides this we also noticed a recurring theme on political movements, with participants from Hungary and Bulgaria where far right parties have a strong foothold. Next years EU elections and political tendancies to scapegoat are also present in the general context.

On the train the trainer facilitation practice, I am appreciating being °back in the saddle° so to speak as I seek to keep my own certification portfolio up to date and reflect again on my own skills as well as the process in general. We introduced the competences framework today in the opening presentation as a way to connect the program methodology and agenda to their own development as Religious Diversity and Anti-Discrimination trainers.

I am glad to have this forum to kind of °blog° my own reflections in this experience and try to capture any adaptations and insights.

Paul did an amazing job with the Photo Gallery, with a thorough digesting of hopes and fears connecting to individual and group needs - content, process and technically.  A nice flourish - hopes and fears shared in pairs, with each person reporting back on their partner's hopes and fears. We then posted the photos on the wall next to the hopes and fears flip chart.

We had one blip that we've been adapting around - one of the three boxes got waylaid due to "suspicious" content (sticky wall glue spray!). It was sent 10 days in advance but the "boxes arrived" and "how many boxes arrived" are 2 different pieces of information, so we didn't find out till arriving this weekend. Lessons learned: be super clear in the communications with hotel staff/deliverers and bring the first 2 days of materials in the luggage - even better- carry on baggage, as much as possible.

Besides this, the meeting room view is fabulous:)

Till soon,


robinsclafani's picture

Day 2 has been long and interesting on many levels, covering the identity and cultural awareness parts of the process.

We did My History of Images of God, Rites of Passage, Chronological Thinking, and an activity to clarify terminology.

Choosing not to do Mix & Match, we made a selection of 6 terms which have been used frequently and deserved some clarification of understanding.

Religion, Faith, Spirituality, Sect, Secular and Fundamentalism.

In 3 groups, each group got 2 terms to 1) share their own individual understandings of the word; 2) talk about others' understandings of the term in the societies where they live; and 3) to come up with, if possible, a shared definition.

There was a lot of discussion about the notion of sects, needing to distinguish the meanings also of cult, denomination, streams, splinters or branches of religions. We closed with a greater sensitivity of the judgments and exclusions implied in the way the term sect is used.

Then we went out for a lovely group dinner in a restaurant on the sea:)

We look forward to nose-diving into some more difficult issues tomorrow...

A few things on our radar that have already been raised:

reason vs. religion

children's rights - such as invoked in the anti-sect movement, or in recent legislative developments regarding circumcision

the meeting point of religion and culture


And to bed I go...


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On Tuesday, we kicked off Examining the Issues with a presentation on the current reality, sets of statistics from European surveys focusing on the countries represented in the group, and testimonials from the Belieforama Policy Brief.

We then did Here I Stand, giving a bit of sharing reactions in groups of 3. But as the group was thirsty for confrontation, we used the  Testing Safe Boundaries activity demonstrated by Terry at the Users Seminar in Berlin, 2008 (See document library). This indeed worked really well to focus in on one issue, safely debating in a role that may or may not have reflected one’s own opinion. We proposed a scenario about community deliberating what to do about a gay Rabbi…

After lunch, we did a silent discussion, with 2 questions on separate discussion papers.

  1. Are there limits on forms of dress that make religion visible (turban, cross, kippah, hijab), in the public sphere?
  2. Should religion be part of the public school curriculum, and if so, how should it be taught (confessionally, historically, sociologically, etc.)?

We then went to visit with social workers at the Jesuit Refugee Service.  The hardships faced by refugees and asylum seekers is very grave here in Malta, and in Europe in general. Almost 2000 have arrived already in 2013, into truly unacceptable conditions. This is an essay in and of itself! There is way too much indifference and ignorance about this in Europe in general.

The whole examining issues day was a bit heavy, people feeling a bit stuck in the difficulty of the issues in their contexts, and group dynamics a bit difficult with some who dominate the conversation.  Paul and I worked till late to address process and content needs for the next day.

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We opted for a written feedback for the reflection time in the morning, with 3 questions:

  • Have you gained any new perspectives thus far?
  • Have you any insights into your own positioning style?
  • What would you still like to see – content and process – in this seminar?

We then processed the visit to JRS yesterday, with time for emotional reactions, and then a Carousel Brainstorming with 4 questions:

  • What is the potential role that religious organizations/communities can take in supporting refugees (short and long-term)
  • Did you hear any biases in the presentation yesterday?
  • What can we say about church state relations?
  • What is the relationship between “race” religion and ethnicity?

The participants didn’t like the bias question, because it seems like criticizing an organization doing such great and important work. We acknowledged though that everybody has biases. The idea that bad people have biases and good people don’t is a total fallacy.  

We decided that the activity Maria’s Story would be the most appropriate – providing an opportunity to create consensus. The group was divided into 2 groups after they stood on a line self-selecting the more talkative from the least talkative people in the large group. This produced a very interesting dynamic in each of the 2 groups, and in actuality the “quiet” ones had a much more active participation in the training for the rest of the day, and the more “talkative” ones were more self-aware.

We then built on the idea of ranking “fairness” in Maria’s Story, to an adaptation of Four Quadrants wherein participants filled out the victim-perpetrator, confronter, bystander quadrants thinking of their own experiences. When have you found yourself in each of those roles? A focus on the confronter position was an important emphasis as we consider our own personal responsibility, as well as the strategies which can work, or the complications which can arise.

After the afternoon break, we looked at Safe Ways out of Conflict, writing up the recipes for success. This feedback was then integrated into the participants reflection on their own group dynamics/negotiation process during the Maria’s Story. This was all very useful and there was much seriousness as well as much laughter as we closed the day.

The heaviness of the day before was dissipated.

There were a lot of logistics to deal with tonight, preparing the end of the training, and extra requests have arisen which need to be handled. But this night is now way too late!!! good night...

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Thursday we adapted the agenda slightly based upon the feedback received mid-way the day before. We focused on Confronting the Issues during a half-day session, as participants needed a small break in the afternoon to actually see something of beautiful Malta).

We started off with Paul finishing off the presentation that he had begun earlier in the week about the realities of discrimination and perceptions of unfair treatment across Europe and in the various countries from which participants came.

From the presentation we did Solutions focused Questions and participants came with concrete situations to address and with which to apply the Belieforama training (as per their homework their night before).  Interestingly, they did not find the "solutions-focused" approach to be more helpful than the "problem-focused" one, but the total process of questioning and sharing was indeed helpful. We had put them in pre-defined pairs, based upon the sectors in which they work. The activity took longer than expected and we ended up skipping Sphere's of Influence.

That evening we had a beautiful reception at the residence of the Italian Ambassador to Malta. Ambassador De Vito and his wife were utterly charming and very much personally invested in the topic of religious diversity. The reception had 2 aspects - the presentation of the certificates to the Belieforama participants, and the presentation of an award from the Italian government to an elder Monsignor who has worked a lifetime to support refugees and positive intercultural relations. The occassion(s) provided a great opportunity to mingle and exchange with local Maltese and other officials. Even the Ambassador from Holland was there!  After that we had a lovely, long and over-filling dinner at a restaurant on the sea (actually everything was on the sea this week!).



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A great suggestion from a participant for Fatima's/Maria's story... to divide the group so that one small group does Fatima and one does Maria. It could be interesting to see if there are different reactions based on the religio-cultural associations!

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The last morning... Everyone feeling tired, energized and a bit strange about the impending separation.

We collected the Trainers Agreements, distributed and reviewed the Manual while reviewing the agenda for the week at the same time.

We spent some time on Action Planning, back in the pairs of the day before, exploring how the training and its activities can be applied in the different environments of the participants. Some great ideas came out in the large group!

We presented the internal recognition process and how to go about certification. Next steps and potential opportunities in the Community of Practice. A couple of participants had longer conversations about their own Self-Assessment process after the training was over.

Finally, a written evaluation, a verbal/visual one with the hot seat, and tossing of the string symbolizing the web of our group with last comments by everybody.

It was a beautiful week and I am personally honoured to have had the privilege of working with this amazing group of people! I look forward to their participation in the Belieforama CoP.

Paul and I had a good evaluation session in the evening, drafting the Trainers Report, giving each other feedback. It was wonderful to work with you Paul!



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Out of the identity activity it was really useful to do a bit of input on "Unconscious Bias". A new workshop module I've personally been working on the last months and really helpful at this point in the program!

see. to take your own tests of unconscious bias, and to start learning about it!