The Ambassadors for Dialogue have launched a Creative Lab to further develop their long running program. The need for innovation was made even more pressing by the COVID-19 pandemic.
By Rasmus Bøgeskov Larsen
Rethinking a successful program that has been running for many years is a challenge in itself. But doing so through the application Zoom while everyone is sitting locked up in their homes is even more demanding.
But sometimes the bigger the challenge, the bigger the rewards. That seems to be the case for Ambassadors for Dialogue Egypt. They launched a Creative Lab to push themselves to innovate their methods, and the lab has ended up not only fostering new activities, but new thoughts about how and where the workshops can take place.
“We are calling it the fruits of COVID-19. We have learned what can be achieved through online meetings and how to make them successful. This can be very valuable for us in the future”, explains Islam Salah, a 27-year old ambassador for dialogue from Minya.
For more than ten years the Ambassadors for Dialogue program has worked to promote peaceful coexistence and intercultural dialogue between youth from Arab countries and Denmark as well as within each country. In the program, youth are challenged to redefine their views of ‘the others’ and learn how to be more ‘dialogical’ in their daily lives.
The national program in Egypt began in 2012 and has led to the graduation of 170 ambassadors from all over the country that facilitate 160 workshops each year. The work is based on a handbook of methods and tools for dialogue that has proven very successful. Over the years however, the workshops began to feel very routine.
“We got so used to the methods that we stopped developing. We did not get new ideas. Therefore, we wanted to challenge ourselves to unfold our creativity and find new approaches”, says Rana Gaber, a former ambassador who now heads the program at DEDI.
The Ambassadors decided to establish an internal program called the Creative Lab.
“We felt our program had become too routine, but we could not just experiment with our methods while doing the workshops. We would risk failing to create the right atmosphere. It can be very sensitive when you bring together people that do not know each other and make them discuss difficult issues. We needed to first test the ideas between ourselves”, explains Islam Salah.
For him the Creative Lab has felt like doing mental gymnastics.
“I really felt like my mind was being stretched in all directions. I became much more aware of how we make choices and what can prevent ourselves from seeing new possibilities”.
Doing the workshops digitally through the application Zoom was a mental challenge in itself, but it also helped the participants rethink their methods.
“When we have to meet physically, it requires a lot from us because we have to travel from all over Egypt to meet in the same place. If we can manage to achieve many things from home, it opens up a lot of new opportunities for us in the future”, he says.
So far, the Creative Lab has resulted in 15 completely new ways of enhancing dialogue skills, that are currently being revised and tried-out by the ambassadors. They will be included in the upcoming Arabic edition of The Dialogue Handbook.
Rasmus Boegeskov Larsen is a Danish journalist, specializing in the Middle East. He was based in Cairo 2011-2018 and in Beirut 2009-2011.
Learn more about the Creative Lab in this video (in Arabic)
Read more about the Ambassadors for Dialogue’s projects HERE