We were told to pack for six days and be ready for hard work. The Dutch branch of the ELOS institute was organising this game and we received a comprehensive welcome pack and instructions on what to bring in advance. It certainly dealt with the logistical side of things but nothing could have prepared us for the actual experience itself.
Our training took place at the Asta community centre and we spent long days there for six days running, first getting ourselves ready for the project itself by participating in a series of activities and practice sessions, then playing the "Oasis Game" itself and getting the community involved.
The facilitators were Rodrigo from Brazil, Niels from the Netherlands, and Conchi from Spain. Unlike in any other training course I’ve been on, they took control of the room in a very calm and subtly manipulative way, coaxing things out of us and getting us to agree to seemingly bizarre activities. Instead of long-winded explanations and theory, we were coached to find our own answers. Instead of asking us who we were, they asked us how we were feeling.
We spent a long time that first day finding ways to connect to each other and to ourselves. As New Age as that sounds, this methodology was the foundation without which the Oasis game simply wouldn’t have worked. I had decided to accept whatever would be asked of us and to be very open to new ways of doing things. This attitude paid off. Over the next six days I learned a great deal about teamwork and about myself.
It was a little frightening at first. Usually, one would set off to work on a project like this with far more theory and planning. We obviously trusted that our facilitators knew what was going on under the surface, and that they knew what they were doing. But still the first couple of days felt a bit like going to a new place blindfolded, and having to work out where you are and what to do without any further instruction.
The most bizarre thing about this methodology was that although the pace we were learning and moving at during instruction seemed slow and serene, the amount of work we accomplished in six days would have taken most people a month. By skilfully reading us and tapping into us, they coached us to skip many of the steps that one would normally assume this type of project had to include. I was left wondering how many days, weeks, even months of my life I have wasted in meetings and presentations that ultimately just served to add extra padding to otherwise simple concepts. It occurred to me that perhaps we are frightened of simplicity.