A story of continuous learning
“A story is not about what happened. It’s how you felt about what happened.” And so this is my story when I attended a masterclass on Getting the Liberal Message Across.
I’ve been with the Foundation for almost a year. The chance to join the workshop opened a door for me to learn a new set of skills. It was a safe space where we were able to discuss ideas, and grow together as liberal change-makers.
On 22-24 January 2020, FNF Thailand organized the activity in Bangkok with Sven Gerst, Secretary-General of the International Federation of Liberal Youth (IFLRY), as facilitator. It was a masterclass on liberalism, and indeed, he was a guru – he got all the skills needed to capture the audience’s attention. His knowledge and methodology, especially teaching theories through scenarios, made information easier to digest for the participants.
“The best way to deliver ideas of liberalism is through their values,” said Sven. He explained the eight core values of liberalism: liberty, individualism, scepticism about power, rule of law, responsibility, tolerance/acceptance, peace, and spontaneous order. On the concept of democracy, terms such as equality, common good, and good outcomes were brought to the table. Sven related these to the big challenge liberal democracy is facing today, or the spread of populist ideas from country to country. Balance of power is a crucial standard, hence, the correlation between democracy, human rights, and the rule of law needs to be strong to prevent tyranny of the masses.
The Networking session was my main focus for attending the event. Sven facilitated the discussions perfectly! He started with a simple question that got everyone thinking: “Why do we network?” Then, he explained the steps needed to convert contact into connection, where networking becomes successful. Economic terms such as positive sum game, transaction cost, and generating social capital were used to give a proper concept of networking. Not how to establish a network was discussed, Sven also shared ways to keep and maintain the network. As much as specialized conversations leads to professional cooperation, informal interactions such as exchange of personalized gifts are also vital to maintain the network.
The Storytelling session also impressed me. I learned that a narrative should be simple, but also full of details. Idea is the main vehicle that can drive social change forward as many social changes in human history show. The march of Martin Luther King Jr. is a product of storytelling that brought the end to racism in America. “The best storytelling has to make people care about the cause. It has to create trust and empathy among the people,” pointed out Sven. He listed the elements of good storytelling, which are personal, vulnerability, surprise, passion, truth, and spine, that could elicit participation and transformation. These components are needed make the story appealing and effective.
“The correct thinking method to achieve success needed to start with why not what,” Sven emphasized. Towards the end of the workshop, he put all the theories to the play when he asked the participants to write their own story based on what they learned in the past two days. Overall, it was to help everyone in their work of spreading the idea of human rights and liberalism.
It was an intense three-day workshop where participants acquired three major skills in a short period of time. Sven was a skillful moderator who can adapt theories into action via storytelling. The interactive methods built trust among participants so they were able to openly express their ideas to a wide group of people. FNF Thailand did a great job in organizing this workshop. I believe that all partners and friends will create more valuable liberal work in the society based on the skills they gained from this workshop.
It made me feel good.
Husai Chantarawirod is the Program Officer in charge of human rights and economic freedom activities in FNF Southeast & East Asia region.