A few years ago, my colleague Ghalib Galant and I hosted a leadership development process for young Zimbabwean leaders in the peacebuilding and human rights fields called ‘Spinning the Web of Relations’.
In the first module of that learning series, we encountered a tiny spiderweb, full of dew droplets in a hole in the ground. It was hidden and we may have passed it were it not for the careful eye cast during the initial collaborative exercise. This exercise was called ‘eggselent’ and people had to build conducive structures to prevent an egg from being broken in a one metre free fall. As most of the participants worked in vulnerable communities, they wondered: What are we protecting? What are we doing to create the resilience and cohesion that prevents violence? That’s the moment we came upon the little spiderweb in the hole.
The insight at the time was about the power of building ‘webs of relations’ in a situation that seems outwardly stuck and not moving. In needing to keep communities safe, little visible action could take place. Yet underneath the surface a new energy was growing in the form of building relationships and new ways of relating across social and political boundaries.
Participants of that first workshop commented how powerfully moved they had felt by the metaphor for protective collaboration through webbing – sheltering in a tree, making a nest, wrapping, shielding, guiding, hiding that which is dear. The many strategies that communities employ to keep safe in times of war. Mimicry. Mock collaboration. Carrying two party cards flashing the one or the other, as needed. Carrying hurt. Carrying hope. Surviving. Always.
The learning from the Zimbabwe situation and the young leader’s responses of resilience and resourcefulness continue to inspire me and my work.