Venesa Matram Symposium 2013

About the Symposium

The Venesa Matram Symposium is a networking, skill building and collaboration supporting event for arts, cultural and community facilitators in Sri Lanka.

In 2013 this important capacity and network strengthening event was held for the first time, in collaboration with grass roots community organisation and event host, the Centre for Social Concern. In 1971 FC founder Steph Vajda’s family moved to Australia from Sri Lanka. The Symposium originated through his regular trips to Sri Lanka, dialoging with artists and community workers and eventually developing this event as a means of networking and empowering people as a direct response to the effects of the country’s 30 year civil war.

The annual event aims to create a space for dialogue, exchange and experience sharing that can support more connected and effective community building by creative practitioners. The Symposium encourages practitioners to learn new skills, share their own practice and discuss needs and approaches related to the communities they work with.

Our organisation produces the Symposium in collaboration with community agencies based in Sri Lanka. Our focus in delivering the event is to connect practitioners from around the island and in the process break down geographic, cultural and religious boundaries that have been reinforced through over 30 years of conflict. By working with those who deliver community development work, we aim to empower facilitators to in turn work with communities to address these same issues.

The success of this first event is in no small way due to the passion and dedication of Centre for Social Concern director Father Benny, who tirelessly helped to organise the event and invite participants (see his Lanka Stories interview here). Thanks also to Jade Lillie (now CEO of the Footscray Community Arts Centre) for traveling to Sri Lanka to deliver facilitation training, which supported participants to design and facilitate their workshops more effectively for the remainder of the Symposium program.

Why the Symposium works…

Our focus in delivering the event is to connect practitioners from around the island and in the process break down geographic, cultural and religious boundaries that have been reinforced through over 30 years of conflict. By working with those who deliver community development work, we aim to empower facilitators to in turn work with communities to address these same issues.

By using Open Space (see below) to develop the Symposium’s workshop program, participants are able to understand not only the skills and knowledge they possess and can share, but also the types of information they don’t have, which others in the room might. In a country like Sri Lanka which has experienced long term civil war and, as a result, massive disconnections between cultural groups and people in different geographic regions, creating spaces that encourage collaboration and networking is an important and vital step in strengthening the community, education and health sectors.

If you’re interested, you can also read about the 2014 Venesa Matram Symposium, held in Jaffna Sri Lanka.

Funding

A huge thanks also to all those who donated to our crowdfunding campaign to fund this first Symposium. We raised $2,500 through Start Some Good which enabled us to pay for venues, food, accommodation and materials required for the Symposium. It still amazes those of us involved what we were able to achieve on such a shoestring budget!

Red – venue for the 2013 Venesa Matram Symposium

Green – where participants traveled from to attend

Participants from around Sri Lanka

Organisations represented

Workshops and talks delivered

Amazing Result

The Symposium is delivered using Open Space rules…

Empowering

Empowers participants to develop the event’s agenda and program based on their existing skills and knowledge needs

Collaborative

By having to work together to develop and deliver the program, participants must collaborate with each other

Network building

Open Space causes participants to better understand and dialogue about each others contexts and practices

For more about Open Space, check out the Wikipedia entry

here >>>

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