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Bangkok 10100, THAILAND
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What is an underlying question that gives form to your work or interest in this field?
How to create a positive energy without protesting and
fighting a "common enemy"?
How I have started in this field of work?
I grew up in the midst of the search for the meaning
of life in the 1960s. Reading the book Sidharatha by Herman Hesse, The
Art of Loving, by Erich From and Herbert Marcuse and listening to songs
from Bob Dylon and Joan Baez created a comfort in rebellious souls of
people at the time. Like others, I wished to have and strongly desired
to live my life, not only for myself but for others and the next generations.
As I returned from Germany to Thailand in 1974
the feelings stayed vividly in my mind. I started working in the labor
and the farmers movements. For twenty years I spent my time organizing
protests with hope to strengthen the country’s politics by fighting
against the establishment. I got involved in one of the bloodiest street
fights, “The Bloodied May”, against the military dictatorship
in May 1992. It was the first time I witnessed and felt “the field
of energy” with my own body and mind. For two long weeks, I experienced
and touched the kind of creativity and courage of human beings that
fought against the military regime that ruled Thailand. Unfortunately,
after the government dictatorship was overthrown, a new election was
held and everything went back to “the normal state”, no
creativity, no innovative ideas, and no actions .Citizens returned to
people who live their “normal lives”, all the energy was
gone. We could not manage to sustain the energy to bring forth the society
we dreamed of having. It seems that most of us have forgotten how many
courageous citizens sacrificed their lives for that dream.
To bring back my dream, I threw away old theories
and methodologies and began a long journey to find how to create a positive
energy without protesting and fighting a “common enemy?”
How to make sure that this energy will sustain? And, how we could notice
when it starts to wither away?I began to read about Chaos theory, Complexity
theory and other books to help me understand the concept of “new
science” and self-organizing processes. In 1993, I published a
book in Thai called “Chaos Theory and Siamese Society at the Bifurcation.”
My approach of bringing new sciences to social science has shaken some
academic circles in Thailand. I even created a small wave of provocative
thinking in the Thai intellectual world. Yet, this is still far from
real societal change.
In 1994, a group of concerned citizens, academics
and I established the “ Bangkok Forum”, an organization
that aims to bring new and improved changes to the live of the people
of Bangkok through public discussions, political education, and public
activities. The Bangkok Forum motivates individuals and groups toward
increased civic involvement and responsibility. Through my work at the
Forum I was awarded an Ashoka Followship.
How far have I come?
I continued the second phase of my journey searching
for the methodology that could bring what I have learned into practice.
I took my first lesson, Zukunftskonferenz workshop (Future Search),
in October1996, in Switzerland. Three months later, I tried the method
out with 50 participants in my home town in Southern Thailand. Since
the process turned out so well I continue to apply the methodology to
organizations or communities to create common purposes or shared visions.
However, since Future Search is limited to only 72-81 participants,
I searched for other methodologies to accommodate much larger numbers
of participants. In 1998, my learning journey brought me to Oberursel,
Germany where I learned about Open Space, facilitated by Mathias zur
Bonsen and his team. In 1999, in Riccione, Italy I met David Cooperider
and Diana Whitney, who helped me understand the principles and the methodology
of Appreciative Inquiry. Open Space and Appreciative Inquiry have fulfilled
my dream. I now understand the methodology and hold the “tools”
which would ignite the energy of more than 1000 people to participate
in a social change process. I practiced large group interventions like
these on many occasions such as in community planning, public organizations,
and city participatory planning to make myself more skillful and to
gain more confidence. I often combined Appreciative Inquiry with Open
Space or Appreciative Inquiry with some part of Future Search in my
practice. In May, 2002, I organized for the first time a four-day workshop
using Appreciative Inquiry technique for 400 participants who had already
taken part in my training courses and workshops. This was a “safety
net,” a testing acrobat, the first large scale intervention for
me and Thailand.
During that same year, I came across the concept
of World Café when I attended the Authentic Leadership Workshop
in Halifax, Canada. I realized that the concept would fit-in nicely
in a Thai context. In southern Thailand where I was born, people visit
traditional coffee shops every morning for social and political conversation.
This coffee shop assembly is called Sapa Ga fae. Since then I have applied
the idea of World Café with Appreciate Inquiry with 500 to 600
participants and have gained more confidence and more skill in organizing
large scale forums. In July 2004, I organized the first people’s
politic meeting “Big Bang Bangkok” with 1,000 participants.
We invited Bangkok residents to share their concerns, to find common
goals and to present their views to the candidates of the governor election.
The meeting was a success. The forum was broadcast live on cable TV
and was televised on the evening news and in the newspapers the next
morning. The event has made me more confident in organizing a forum
for thousands of people.
At the end of June 2005, the General Secretary
of the Democrat Party, the opposition party, the oldest party in Thailand,
asked me to facilitate a “People Assembly” with 3,000 participants.
I accepted the opportunity without hesitation as this was the chance
to apply what I have practiced as a show case of Strategic Dialogue
between people politics and party politics. It could open a chance for
Thai society to start taking a journey on a road less traveled to a
“new democracy” or as Tom Atlee put it “the Tao of
Democracy.” I used Appreciative Inquiry in combination with World
Café as the methodologies of the facilitation as I knew that
this group would love World Café because they also use a Sapa
Ga Fae (coffee shop assembly) at their party headquarters from time
to time. The assembly covered seven issues including educational reform
as a tool for a quality society, fighting against corruption, economic
development and reform, revitalizing ethics, political reform and people
empowerment, ending the violence in three provinces. The event was a
great success. It put us in a media spotlight and drew great attention
to the process of public participation.
Where I would like to be?(What can I do
More than 30 years of my journey on the people
political path in Thailand was devoted to creating what Tom Atlee called
“evolutionary politics”. Since the beginning of 2005 , I
sensed that the newly elected but very corrupted government of the Prime
minister Thaksin Shinawatra would not survive his second 4 years term
.So I looked for a political leverage that could alter the political
direction in Thailand to strengthen civil society .My work with the
Democrat Party about “People Assembly in Thailand” on October
8 and 9,2005, was a strategic collaboration which could have been a
political turning point, but the impact of that event did not shake
up the Thai politic as I expected. There were many factors and circumstances
that make active citizens and the mass media forget all about the positive
outcomes of the event.
The Political Situation at the beginning of 2006
got worse. The news of corruption and scandals brought the Thai middle
class to the streets for three months and forced the prime minister
to step down. An election was held in April 2006, but was later declared
illegal by the courts.
As we are in the midst of political turmoil today,
I think that we have not reached the lowest point of the political crisis,
but we will encounter it very soon. Thai society is approaching a cross
road of plunging herself in agony or becoming wiser and stronger.
I still believe that all social systems must reach
the lowest point before it gets better. I am preparing for this political
crisis, observing the situation with passion and contemplation. I see
the other side of crisis. It is an opportunity to intervene to bring
some new ideas and actions to accomplish this important task. I will
organize 3-4 working groups from all walks of life and generations in
collaboration with other groups to learn how we could to deepen and
expand our collaborations more effectively as lessons from this experience.
I hope that we will learn to interact together as a “critical
mass of active citizens” to initiate awareness, hope, and to co-create
an alternative politic that can converge creative forces in our society
for a common future. I am focusing on co-cultivating a living model
that could be a community of hope and creative actions that can be replicated
in all parts of Thailand.
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