…Omdat het om mensen gaat !

The accordeon players

The accordion players
Lezing gehouden voor de medewerkers van de stichting Ervaring die staat en het internationale netwerk Cable op 14 mei 2014 in Eindhoven.
During the preparation of this meeting I asked the group how they looked to my position in their procress. They answered :”When the fat is in the fire, Herman has to come and then we have to talk”. So my position is of an insider-outsider. Later I will explain what this means for the quality of the organisation.
When I was thinking about the whole of the process until now the metaphor of the ‘accordion players’came into my mind. I think in this organisation they play the accordion. Sometimes the music is wonderful and you get tears in your eyes. But sometimes there is no air in the instrument, there is no power anymore. The instrument is closed, you don’t hear the melody of life.
The beginning
The start of the project is the life on the street of André. Hans, Perry and many others. And the meeting with Els in her former job as a coördinator of the diaconal centre ‘the little heaven’. The remarkable moment was the insight of Hans c.s. that it must me possible to change from the experiences of the street the position of homeless people. They did a research on the street among their people. That research confirmed their analysis.
Then the second important moment was the recognition between Els and Hans of their common desires, needs and interests. These are very close related to their socialisation and biography. Out of their experiences of life and work they felt that is very important that:
• The self has a possibility for recovery, to take the steerwheel in his own hands
• The create a place where you can take a rest
• To built up an organisation of which the product is humanity, the person is the product
• To have the courage to say that no guarantee can be given that the outcome is succesful
• To create the possibilty that a participant can rise up
In this intertwining of desires, needs and interests of the professional worker and the experience of Hans of the street this unique intiative took place.
The result of this intertwining is a transformation of the individual/ personal into a common quality which has to be the unique selling point of the organisation:
1. A tender loving offer to the participants
2. A practise of trust
3. Common ownership of the organisation.

How did it work?
It is import to discern three Lines:
1. The context of Eindhoven
2. The qualitative inside of the organisation
3. The structure and roles of the organisation
The context of Einhoven.
Ervaring die staat has to profile itself among many other organisation who are working with homeless people and who offer trajectories to get work. There is always the fight for the money of the local government and the funds.
The broader context of Eindhoven is that it is the first region in the world of the knowledge econony.
The qualitative inside of the organisation.
There were two important observations in the beginning
• People don’t believe anymore in themselves
• People overestimate themselves, their possiblities.
So we had to find a space where is was possilbe to share experiences, joy, sorrow, victories and defeats.
A space where there was time and space to take a rest, to work out the conflicting interests, so a place where the desires, needs and interests came together.
A space where there was time to develop communication codes
A space were there was time for reflection
A space to find out the indiviual qualities and non-qualities
A space to find out what common ownership means, and what responsiblities are wanted for this
Besides that space there was space outside the organisation. To go away with the group outside Eindnoven, e.g. Texel to have more time to deepen the feelings with each other. In the first period we called this space in the organisation ‘the family. In the family you take care for each other and you protect each other.
But we learned that this methaphor did not work. It was too optimistic.
So Els came to another methaphor: the round table of King Arthur. There must be a place where you have come to share your feelings in doing the job. But alsof a place for feedback. This is the testing place of the pracitise of trust.
During the many moments of evalution it becomes clear that this in not so easy. It is hard work. Sometimes there is the beautiful music of the accordion, sometimes there is no air, no energy to play the instrument.
My role in this process was what the members of the round table called: ‘the spare battery’. There were moments in the feeling of Els or in the group that it could not go on in the same way. We decided that is important to have a position of insider/outsider. An involved position at a distance which can be called if necessary.
The structure of the organisation
The organisation has a board. The board facilitates and looks after the process. It is not so easy to combine this work with the process inside the organisaation of common ownership. What does it mean when you call somebody the director?What kind of power can she exercise, what does that mean for the participants. I think this things have to be sorted out in the future.
Evalution of the results until now
1. There is a place of tender love to the participants
2. It has become a practice place of trust
3. There is a unique bond between the participants inclusive Els
4. There are various routes of learning to get work, to be able to live together in a house
5. The participants have leaned to politicize the results of the work
6. The organisation has a place in the context of Einhoven
7. The insight in the deep difference between the worlds of the well to do and the homeless people has deepened.
The challenges for future?
1. The weak and complex position of Els. She combines the function of director,coach and member of the round table. She needs professonal support. How wil she deal with her desires, needs and interests
2. To keep the codes of communication and responsibilties in the round table in order to deal with the desires, needs and interests of the members.
3. The intertwining of the process of common ownership with the responsilities of the board
4. The networking in the context of Eindhoven
5. The networking in the life-world of the participants.
6. A too closed self-image. The resistance for feed back
I hope we will hear the sound of the accordeon more and more. That it will not only bring tears in our eyes but that it will give us the power /energy to rise up against injustice and the neglection of vulnarable people.
Rotterdam, 14 mei 2014 herman ijzerman