June 2021

A Deep Collaboration perspective on ChangeFest

By CFI Deep Collaboration Lead, Mark Yettica-Paulson


Returning to Darwin always feels like a homecoming for me. I didn’t live there, but I was born there, and I feel so much at home in the NT. Flying in overnight only added to the anticipation for the coming day and the start of ChangeFest 21 NT. I was part of the ChangeFest in Mt Druitt as a facilitator and M.C. I had some idea of the excitement and transformative opportunities that can happen when changemakers gather to share and learn together.

Here are some of my key takeaways:

1.People are Committed

It is clear at ChangeFest that people are committed to learning with and from each other. The people at ChangeFest are there because they believe that change is possible and are committed to working together towards it. ChangeFest helps us to overcome any feelings of isolation and fatigue because we come face to face with others who are equally committed to making change.

There are different ways to work towards making change. Some of the challenge and beauty of ChangeFest is that it can facilitate the diversity of ideas and approaches that people are taking to try, to make change. Some of the ideas and approaches are a lot more direct action and take up a form of protest and agitation. Other forms of occupying a more collaborative, partnership and mindset-shifting approach. ChangeFest offers opportunities for these approaches to be in tension and working together to make change possible.

2. People want to see justice happen for First Nationas and they would like to be part of it.

Another key take-out for me was the unshakable vision, faith and commitment people at ChangeFest have for seeing justice for First Nation and being part of the movements for change. Like, the previous comment about the different paths, this also has several ways that people demonstrate that. For some, it is about an on-the-ground approach that addresses the immediate concerns and challenges facing communities. For others, it is the realm of policy changes and partnership with levels of government, philanthropy and community organisations. Meanwhile, there are still a number of people seeking to channel their internal commitment to some form of supportive action.

One of the challenges that showed up for me at Change Fest was in this area of channelling our goodwill and energy into supportive action. We were presented with the opportunity to work deeply on embedding the Statement from the Heart. The challenge for me was carrying the diversity of views about the Statement from the Heart combined with the strong will to be supportive and constructive for First Nations. I think we all wanted a win and a way forward. In that shared desire, perhaps we were not as attentive as we should have been to dissenting voices that raised questions about the Statement and cautioned against uncritical support. In our various practices as changemakers, we always deal with a range of opinions, reactions, responses, and commitments. The key lesson for me was to notice the seduction to dull our critical thinking when we can see a positive option to support in our advocacy. One way to keep our conversations generative about these types of situations is in the practice of Deep Collaboration.

3. Deep Collaboration is needed

The final take-out for me was the overwhelmingly positive response to Deep Collaboration. At ChangeFest Mt Druitt, Deep Collaboration was just being formed. In Darwin, we had the opportunity to share the evolved and developed thinking and practice of Deep Collaboration. We also had the chance to showcase the skills developed through the participation of a number of facilitators at ChangeFest who were part of the Deep Collaboration Facilitation Intensive program in 2020.

The practice of Deep Collaboration creates environments where collaborations involving First Nations and other multicultural Australians can get to more generative and productive conversations. These skills are needed in our commitments and desires for change and justice for First Nations. It is also critical as we work together for our best solutions to use our skills and influence.

But the most outstanding aspect of seeing Deep Collaboration at ChangeFest was not in the skills demonstrations or clever facilitation in session. The most outstanding aspect was that we were the living proof of Deep Collaboration. We were a mix of Australians (and others) who came together to share, learn, and work for change. We were living out our values of working side-by-side and role-modelling shared power in the way we address the complex challenges facing our nation.

In this regard we were affirming a core belief in ChangeFest – that change is possible, and we are willing to put everything on the line to make it happen.


> Visit the ChangeFest website

> Explore the Deep Collaboration website

> See upcoming Deep Collaboration learning programs

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