What it takes to reactivate a short/mid-term transformative experience?
From 29 June till 1st July 2019 the #TeamUP meeting took place in Lyon, France. The core programme activities brought together 8 participants from 6 countries to discuss in depth the GSMP experience we had, our challenges and our best practices. But on Day 2, at the peak of the programme, we gathered 13 sisters from 11 countries: Australia, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Egypt, France, Jordan, Mexico, New-Zealand, North Macedonia and South Africa. GSMP batches of 2012, 2013, 2016, 2017 and 2018 were represented.
Though it was labelled as a GSMP sisters reunion, it definitely went well beyond a high school or college alumni reunion style. This is probably because the whole programme was developed to INTENTIONALLY reactivate the power of the sisterhood.
Lyon as capital of gastronomy and a high point of the resistance during WW2 was a good place to start with such an ambition. This goes without saying that the city was also the epicentre of the FIFA WWC 2019 which has contributed raising the voice on many challenges related to gender inequalities in sport and beyond.
The experience clearly demonstrates the uniqueness of the GSMP as we all literally bound naturally in few seconds. Not that we are all the same! The group was really diverse in terms of experiences, characters and backgrounds but the shared passion for sport and the common GSMP experience (tough through different batches) laid the ground for honest and deep conversation as well as light laughter.
ABOUT THE #TeamUP PROGRAMME
- Day 1 – 29 June 2019: “Getting to know each other”
It included a typical French breakfast in a park and some warm up sport activity with an initiation to boxing lead cultural visit of some famous streets of Lyon including the “Croix Rousse” area as well as few “traboules”. This allowed me to tell a bit about Lyon’s history.
We then spent the whole afternoon having some workshops and deep reflection on our journey since the GSMP as well as the impact it had on us. In the very late afternoon, while the heat was more bearable, we went as a group to visit the FIFA Fan Zone game as a team, promoting GSMP and testing the experience live.
- Day 2 – 30 June 2019: “Promoting GSMP and Equal right for all”
This was a pivotal day in the experience as we reached out to the world and exposed ourselves to a new momentum: that of breaking a World Record for the cause we are all fighting for: equal access to sport for all.
We went to the Olympic Lyonnais Academy Centre in Meyzieu as a team, what a funny ride it has been using public transports. Once again, some French people could not help but notice the buzzing energy of the group that #TeamUP and asked what was happening. After having gathering our official Equal Playing Field gears, we led a workshop on GSMP & Leadership at the Festival of Football. There were probably 30 to 40 people in the direct audience – forgive me please for not having being able to count them, that day was so hot we had to focus on what we were saying. And the whole discussion was broadcasted to the entire site reaching out probably 100 to 150 people. That was an epic and yet fluid moment as we were all sharing stories and tips on how to empower women and girls through sport.
In the afternoon came the physically challenging part. We played 5 a side football for a bit more than an hour. Temperatures were so hot that my football shoes literally melted. That was a unique experience (please read this article should you want to know more). Bounding and #TeamUP with my sisters, playing the sport I love most and sharing a connection and a fight that only through sport we can fight. For all these reasons and many more, the Festival of Football was about more than just setting a world record… It was about showing the diverse nature of women’s football. It was about bringing more than 800 players representing 63 countries together to connect, learn and grow! And therefore it was priceless to be able to experience it with GSMP sisters as part of the #TeamUp programme of activities.
Last but not least, we ended up the day in a very typical restaurant in Lyon old town. There probably could not have been a better way to celebrate the achievement of the day and the friendship we built than by gathering in a “Bouchon”. French people are very intense about food and it means a lot for us to be able to share a meal or more. But I believe food is another universal language, something that says a lot about humanity and each and every culture. The time we spend prepping food and the joy we have a sharing it is something that might be the best way to celebrate a real and unconditional friendship. It meant more to me that the yet incredible medal we got from the World Record Game; probably because it is an intangible memory.
- Day 3 – 1st July 2019: “Scaling up”
This was a very special day. Not only were we getting a bit tired – not of each other but because of the intensity of the programme, the roller coaster of high emotions and the heat wave impact- but also were we much aware it was getting to an end.
However, we made the most of this day. And to ensure we would do so, the location was very carefully chosen to ignite the spirit I wanted for that day: that of trust, expression and creativity. In addition, the programme of the day was split into two distinct workshops. In the morning we focus on our challenges. Having a chance to be out of our daily routine and guided by a workshop framework, each of us had a chance to get a helicopter view on current challenges and barriers. The second step was then to share it with all the sisters in order to make the post of the power of this collective brain. The quality and intensity of the self-reflection provided and the caring and constructive pieces offered by the sisters have helped each of us develop new perspectives.
The lunch break was another inspiring moment just because of the place and the intentionality of the food chosen that inspired light and yet meaningful further discussions.
The afternoon was devoted to the sharing of good practices in order to ensure we would end on a positive note. In particular, I delivered an ADVANCE workshop on the recognition of skills acquired through sport (should you want to know more about the ADVANCE initiative please visit the website).
Obviously we could not end a GSMP style meeting without some release of energy and letting go. No way we would leave each other without having dancing together, the owners of Augusterie still remember this impromptu “global village danse”.
WHAT STRUCK ME MOST AS PART OF THIS #TeamUP EXPERIENCE?
We definitely all left with the certitude that we will cherish these priceless moments and exchanges for the years to come. The meeting was a new step into our development. Empowered to the next level by each of us, feeling energised by this shared experience as well as hopeful and equipped to face the challenges ahead.
We all know we are in a sometimes brutal race towards a better world but we also acknowledged that we have each other back when we #TeamUP. When one of us might feel tired or has done her part, she can pass on the baton to the others. We don’t have to face it alone and despite the distances we are a team and a family all at once…. Meaning that we can share experiences, learn from each other, get honest feedback and peer-mentoring support…. WHAT A DIFFERENCE THIS MAKES IN OUR LIFE!
RETURN ON EXPERIENCE AS #TeamUP ORGANISER: MAIN LESSONS FOR FUTURE #TeamUp meetings
- Be ready – Have a whole set of programme
- Set clear objectives and adapt them to the time available
- Build an intentional programme of activities –including some room for adaptation: the important is to have a solid framework. From this you can build around and leave time enough for everyone to adopt the objectives and work with them.
- Provide all participants with a local transportation guide and the programme agenda in advance so they can come ready and relax
- Be ready for unexpected – the importance of support team and communication channels
- Facing with the heatwaves and its related challenges, or late shift and lack of public transportation mode to reach out some of the venues, I was lucky and I am grateful to have add the unconditional support of my +1 here in Lyon who jumped into the team with no further notifications and helps bridge the gaps when needed.
Note to self for next time: make sure that the support team is set up in advance.
- While the whole meeting was all about transparent and elevating communication between us all, fact is more could have been done to facilitate in-between communication as we were not all accommodated in the same place (budget reason…). Ie my note to self for next time should this case occur again, is to provide everyone with a local sim card to ensure easy communication and not rely on Wifi spot only.
- Build upon the city/country tradition – make sure to include at least one informal cultural event
- Sharing is caring and it is key to strengthen the group to have some walk around and cultural activities. They can be fully integrated into the programme objectives: discovering the local food market, the untold stories of some heros and sheroes, street arts, hidden gems, etc can be a great way to ignite new discussions and thinking.
- This is also a good way to get to know again and reconnect with your own environment. We tend to naturally just disconnect with it so having the opportunity to host an international group is also a chance to discover new part of your city, getting new perspectives.
- Location matters: choose spots that will serve the purpose of your meeting
- A comfy place to start with the get to know workshop.
This contributed to the success of the gathering as it allowed everyone to feel comfortable and relaxed. Shout out for the Sofffa team in Terreaux who greet us warmly and helped us navigate our own experience using the difference spots and atmosphere of the place.
- An inspiring expression house for our deep work on addressing challenges and building on good practices.
As shared already, from my perspective the choice of the spot for this very specific day, the last one in the programme of activity, had to be very strategic and intentional. I wanted the sisters to feel special and inspired. Shout out to the owners of the Augusterie in Villeurbanne who made us feel at home and whose house truly gave the tone of the final day. We felt freer than ever to express ourselves. We were inspired beyond expectation by the special spirit of the place. And we got energized to address our own figurative glass-ceiling issues while standing and working under their own special one. You’ve got to see it and experience it to realize it.
- An inspiring dinner place to share about the local culture.
The Lyon’s tradition of “Bouchons” to gather people around warm food entered in resonance with the meeting objectives to further build solid bounds among the sisters. It was definitely a pleasure to get them all enter a “secret world” and discover some traditions far away from glamourous French cuisine and yet so “familial”
Organising this first ever #TeamUP on so short notice and with so many sisters was definitely a challenged. It left me half dreamy half exhausted. I was literally drained by the level of commitment it requires from the organisers, the deep discussions we had and the emotion roller coaster: ie happiness of gathering everyone and hard time saying “till next time” on the last days.
Yet I’m so grateful I took it on. And I’m so very grateful of the funn=ding support we received from the GSMP Follow-up Grant together with the moral supoprt we got from the US Consulate here in Lyon.
Nothing was easy and yet it was enriching and empowering. We all reach out a new level and there could not have been a better compliment that the unspoken one I got from two of the sisters chitchatting in the metro as we were ending the event. “It really felt like a mini GSMP” “Oh yeah! Cannot wait till the next one. Let’s actually start planning it!”.
That’s what I can call a job well done 😉