From dark to light: Transforming an old story in South Tyrol

future story learning edge makes me think making meaning makingadifference story activism May 21, 2022

At the invitation of Brigitta Villaronga, I visited what she calls the "Cow-working" space in South Tyrol on a family farm in the mountains. Of course I helped to milk cows and enjoyed the view of the snowclad alps immensely from my outdoor office table high on the mountainside.

During my stay I was invited to offer a workshop at the BASIS co working space in Vinschgau Venestra. When I entered the space I discovered a Social Activation Hub that is not only a wide-ranging re-use project in a set of abandoned buildings, but is also a demonstration of Story Activism in action.

On the one side of the scale, there's founder Hannes Götsch, who has a big vision for what might happen at BASIS. He is a qualified metal engineer, has been in senior leadership internationally, he's a strategic thinker and enabler, someone who dreams of innovative urban-rural development. He is the father of young children, a long time activist and a DJ. He and his small international team are working incredibly hard.

On the day I visited, local women were baking up a storm in the industrial kitchen. A tech person was setting the acoustic levels in the performance space. Artists were making noise -- and art -- in their ateliers and in the garden. The local ambulance crew was practicing their drill in the courtyard. '

I loved how the space had been transformed into coworking, artistic space, and innovation space reusing and upcycling all the materials. Old window frames had become table supports. Overhead air filter systems had become light fixtures. Everything looked funky and fitting.

On the other side weighing in, though, there's the dark and prevalent history of place. These are the former Drusus barracks in Silandro. They were finished in 1937, at a time when Mussolini was in power. At the time they housed more than 1,200 soldiers and overwhelmed the smaller population of the town. Older residents still carry the memories and they'd like the site razed to the ground. Despite what has already been created there, they are saying: "Don't let the hippies win!"

Can Hannes and his team meet the challenge to dramatically transform a story of place into one of potential for everyone? Can they create a way for the key influencers to take a positive public stance? How can they transform an old story of power over into new story of public power in action?

During my time with the team I focused on The 5 Powers and how they might uplift and support the success of this project. We talked about APPRECIATION and how it could create a field of mutual respect and generosity. In fact, I believe that an Appreciative Inquiry might be the way to turn the story around and create common ground for the community. We dug into STORY, how it is always working in the background and how asking for stories from older residents might help to turn the tide.

INVITATION is a powerful force. We spoke about how each moment people interacted with the place, people and project is a moment where invitation happens. We started right at the front door and asked ourselves how a warm welcome could be made to local people who don't have any experience of co-working spaces. How could they be invited in the first moment? How could they be supported to understand and engage with the space?

We worked on powerful QUESTIONS that could support the work and talked about the importance of a calling question to open doorways. We brainstormed how and where HOSTING could support local people to be part of the change happening at BASIS.

And finally we discussed how important a personal, team and professional FOUNDATION is for helping the team to stay healthy, committed and happy. With a big project and a small team, burnout lurks right around the corner. How can they be sure to stay the course?

I found myself inspired and impressed by Hannes' vision and the scope of the BASIS project. I'm looking forward to returning and supporting their work.

Isn't it time to have a brilliant ally on your side?

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