Photo: Alexis Papageorgiou
Photo: Alexis Papageorgiou

Understanding Care & Kinship: Exploring the Tangible and Intangible (AoH Training)

Art of Hosting Training in Berlin_Meta Harvest

In the search for new forms of democracy and citizens´participation, it is becoming increasingly evident that we require more than just surface-level changes. Deep cultural transformation is needed to foster meaningful engagement and inclusive decision-making processes.

This article synthesises the harvest of the Art of Hosting training which the CitizensLab hosted in May 2023 in Berlin. The following insights and ideas emerged throughout the training in the form of collective conversations, sense-making processes and captured reflections.

Inspired by the CitizensLab action research on the theme of care and kinship, we asked the following questions:
What new beginnings could appear through practicing cultures of care and kinship?

What more could we be and do as humanity if we collectively listen into our potentials, our differences, and traumas?

Photo: Alexis Papageorgiou
Photo: Alexis Papageorgiou

Understanding Care & Kinship: Exploring the Tangible and Intangible
As a starting point, it’s certainly worth providing a little definition of how we as the CirizensLab see care and kinship.
For us, kinship acknowledges that at the core of everything are relationships. We are all deeply entangled with each other and all of life. This understanding comes with a responsibility to care for each other. Care, kinship, community and reciprocity are the core values in matriarchal societies but have been replaced by individualism, greed and power over dynamics within the patriarchal societies we find ourselves in. So there is an aspect of re-introducing feminine principles and matriarchal systems of organising to our work.
When exploring our calling questions above during the Art of Hosting training the following key principles emerged. They provide a little more shape to what a culture of care and kinship as a new form of democracy might mean.

Interdependent Relationships

At the core of care and kinship lies the notion of interdependence. It is through our relationships with others that we develop a deeper understanding of ourselves and the world around us. The key to fostering these meaningful connections is how we relate to one another, the land, the wider ecosystem and the more than human world.  By actively listening, empathising, and engaging in reciprocal acts of support, we create a foundation for authentic care and kinship.

Collective Sensemaking (beyond words)

Care and kinship rely on the act of collective sensemaking. It is through shared experiences, collective reflections, and collaborative efforts that we gain a broader perspective on the world. This entails the ability to hold multiple perspectives, integrate polarities and hold paradoxes. By coming together, we harness the collective wisdom, creativity, and resilience needed to address societal challenges and foster a more caring and interconnected world.

It entails engaging also our emotional, embodied, and intuitive aspects of understanding. Sense-making thus becomes a dynamic and ongoing process that helps individuals navigate uncertainty, complexity, and ambiguity by creating coherence, forming mental models, and constructing narratives that make their experiences and the world more understandable and meaningful.

Building Safe Spaces

There is no safe space as such, through care and kinship practices and values we can take collective responsibility to create spaces where we can authentically express ourselves. These spaces provide a nurturing environment that encourages openness, vulnerability, and the sharing of personal stories. Within these spaces we foster self-responsibility, empowering individuals to take ownership of their well-being and setting of boundaries.

Challenging Norms and Standing Strong

Care and kinship require a willingness to challenge societal norms and break free from restrictive boundaries. It is an act of rebellion against the status quo, driven by a deep conviction to create a better world. Standing strong in the face of adversity, we pave the way for transformative relationships based on mutual respect, trust, and compassion.

Fundamental Role of Witnessing

Witnessing is an essential element in the realm of care and kinship. It involves being fully present for others, acknowledging their experiences, and providing a feeling of validation. Through witnessing, we affirm the significance of each individual’s experience and create a sense of belonging. This act of collective acknowledgment fosters a deeper understanding of ourselves and strengthens the bonds of care and kinship within communities.

These principles provide a foundation for creating safe, inclusive, and responsive spaces that prioritize care, kinship, authenticity, and collaboration. By embracing these principles, we can foster environments where individuals can truly flourish and contribute to the collective well-being.

These questions emerged as urgencies to inquiry into:
What would a system look like if it valued care and kinship?

How to work within systems that disincentive care and kinship? and, can you operate within the constraints of market logic to incentive care and kinship?

What is the potential of integrating practices of care and kinship in participatory processes of citizens engagement and co-creating the future of democracy?

Below are the Values and Practices that the AoH training participants want to bring and manifest more in the societal transformation activities, projects and actions they initiate to integrate a culture of care and kinship:

  • Tending the soil before planting the seeds: Prioritizing foundational work, such as building trust, establishing shared values, and creating inclusive and equitable spaces, before initiating specific actions or projects.
  • Creating responsive spaces: Establishing environments that actively listen, engage, and adapt to the changing dynamics and needs of participants, fostering a sense of belonging and safety. Encouraging open communication and reciprocity, creating an environment where individuals feel comfortable expressing their needs and strengths, and where mutual support and contribution are valued.
  • Seeing the world as a living system: Recognizing the interconnectedness and interdependence of all living beings and systems, considering the holistic perspective and implications of actions and decisions. In acknowledging our interdependence, we foster a sense of co-flourishing, where our well-being and thriving are inseparable from the well-being of others.
  • Not ignoring power: Acknowledging power dynamics and actively working towards creating equitable, inclusive, and non-oppressive spaces where all voices are valued and heard. Challenging and resisting oppressive structures, behaviors, and systems, and actively working towards creating a more just society.
  • Being open to collaboration and co-creation: Embracing the power of collective intelligence and diverse perspectives, fostering collaboration, and actively involving stakeholders in the decision-making and co-creation processes.
  • Self-awareness/Growing your edges: Cultivating personal reflection and awareness of one’s own beliefs, biases, and emotions, fostering a deeper understanding of oneself and how one’s actions impact others.  Being willing to step outside of comfort zones, and continuously expanding personal and collective capacities.
  • Daring to speak about care and kinship: Encouraging open dialogue and discussions about the importance of care, empathy, and kinship in personal, social, and organizational contexts. Tending to a regenerative culture (being caring kin).

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