For their Action Project, Senior Fellows Claire Luzia Leifert and Levke Burfeind decided to co-organize an Active Listening workshop and a Free Listening flashmob in the market square of Wrocław, Poland after participating in an active listening experiment themselves.
Both experienced listening as extremely rewarding, yet experienced first-hand how difficult it is to simply listen to another person without judging what they say or already thinking about what to reply.
Physically crossing the German-Polish border on a trip from Berlin, Germany, to Wroclaw, Poland, and back, Claire and Levke invited their co-travellers to engage by listening to one another’s stories of border crossing in an active listening workshop. Having arrived in the city of Wrocław, Poland, they then organized a “Free Listening”-flashmob on the central market square for anyone who wanted to listen to the citizens of Wrocław. On the train ride back to Berlin, travellers were invited to listen to one another’s weekend experiences and think about how to practice active listening in their daily lives.
The project took on the problem of the increasing fragmentation between European societies, in particular Polish-German relations. Levke and Claire describe their motivation:
“Many people feel that nobody listens to them, that their experiences do not count. This is furthered by extremist politicians who try to make us believe we have nothing in common with people from other countries, cultural communities or opposing political views. The result is rising nationalism, intolerance, and ideological dogmatism – to the detriment of humanity itself.”
In a time where many people spend most of their time in filter bubbles, comfortably propping their world view with like-minded perspectives, the listening workshop focused on the individual level of social cohesion by (re-)learning how to actively listen and leave the filter bubbles.
Listening gives us the ability to build a connection between “us” and “them” and to re-connect every participant with their own selves.
The project gained local media attention and was featured by Radio Wroclaw (in Polish). In preparation to their Action Project, Claire and Levke participated in listening events, had various work meetings with their cooperation partners Impuls – Agentur für Angewandte Utopien and the Cultural Train to come up with a workshop format and multilingual informational materials. They promoted the event through mailing lists and social media.