Notes on Hosting Swapathgami Gatherings

Greetings! We are so thrilled that you want to host an gathering/project/event with the Swapathgami Network. The purpose of the network is to support individuals who are walking out of the system and walking on to create their own beautiful Experiments with Truth in their lives. The spirit is to move beyond the elitism of ‘degrees’ and ‘fees’. We want to connect people to skills, tools, wisdom, networks, etc. to create their own journey of self-designed learning, unlearning and co-learning. Here are a few tips that you can keep in mind, to help you organize your event and evolve the values of the Network.

Why? Before you prepare your invitation, it’s important to think about why you are hosting this event. You may consider:

  • What need or passion is it responding to?
  • Why is it valuable to have the program now?
  • What do you hope to accomplish with this program?
  • What you imagine happening after the program is completed?
  • How to bring diverse voices into the program?

All of your answers to this question can go into your invitation, which you will want to circulate through as many means as possible (phone, postcard, email, Facebook, etc.)..

What? is the core theme of your program. Swapathgami gatherings have been held on the themes of: Filmmaking; Oasis Game, Businesses We Believe In, Natural Farming and Natural Living, Kabaad se Jugaad (Zero Waste and Upcycling), Self-Healing, Natural Mud Building, and Cycle Yatras (money-free). There have also been Learning Journeys to particular parts of the country, to explore organizations and movements happening there, as well as the production of magazines, ‘zines’, and films.

As you can see, the themes emphasize three elements: the gifts and potential of each person; the value of and relationships in a local place; and specific opportunities in co-creating a more harmonious world. Consider all of these elements as you come up with your theme.

Who? are the core participants of your program. Diversity is critical for a good gathering. Typically, Swapathgami gatherings are intergenerational, covering all ages and phases of life. They are also multicultural, cross-class, cross-religion, cross-ethnicity, multilingual, and open to both sexes. Beginners, amateurs, and long-time practitioners are all welcome — so that there can be mutual learning and sharing. There is no requirement for degrees to participate. Participants self-select to ensure that those who are there want to be there. We see each person as a Resource Person and try to avoid the hierarchies of schooling where there is one expert and the rest are passive observers.

You can ask people to ‘register’ by sharing some information about themselves ahead of time. This will give you a sense of numbers and the interest and skill areas of the participants (which can help in organizing your program).

Where and when? are crucial. You want to consider:

- the dates: Look at the Swapathgami calendar, or check in with the Network Coordinator, to make sure your gathering is equally spaced out from others. Consider the climate at that time of year; weather extremes limit participation.

- the duration: How much time do you need to accomplish your goals? Typically, given the distances that people are traveling from, Swapathgami gatherings range from four days to ten days long. What is needed, AND, what can you reasonable sustain as an organizer/host?

- the place: How many people can it accommodate? How easy is it to reach? Is it beautiful and inspiring? Do the owners/hosts share in the values of the Network? Do they have any restrictions? How much does it cost? Is it affordable?

How? reflects the magic that happens when you are all together! Here are the crucial pieces:

- Gift culture: Swapathgami gatherings invoke a spirit of gifting, in which each person generously gives and supports one another, so that everyone has an amazing experience. Also, we try to keep the cost of the gatherings quite low, something like Rs.100–200 per day maximum, so that people can afford to come. Those who have more financial means are invited to contribute to scholarships for others; no one is turned away for lack of funds. We use the language of “Pay what you can, plus a little more.” No one is turned away because of money. You can invite people to contribute other things besides money like voluntary labor, time, etc. There should also be transparency of funds for those who are interested in knowing how the money was spent.

- Creative Dialogue Processes: Swapathgami gatherings use a variety of processes to support peoples’ learning and deep connection to others. We recognize that each person must make their own path by walking it, so we offer ways of learning that support this diversity. All-group circles to hear each person’s voice; learning exchanges; small group dialogues; team projects; cooperative games; yoga and meditation; personal journaling and reflection; community presentations; appreciations; and more — all factor into our gatherings. You can discuss the processes you have in mind with the Network Coordinator and with your fellow organizers.

- Healthy food: As much as possible, we try to source local and organic food for the gatherings and prepare them in healthy ways. This is to ensure our bodies are well-nourished, which in turn keeps our minds and spirits healthy. We also take turns helping with the preparation, serving, and clean-up of food. This is an excellent cooperative game and community building process. The Network Coordinator can help recommend experienced cooks to help you manage the process, because the quality and timeliness of the food will really strengthen your gathering.

- Zero waste: Similarly, we aim to walk lightly on the earth and to leave a place better than we found it. Invite your group to commit to a clean environment. Ask people not to bring plastics, disposables, or one-time use packets of soap or detergent. Instead, provide group supplies and re-usable materials. Ensure a ‘clean-up’ time before you depart. We try to make sure the space we use is more beautiful than how we found it.

Upon completion of the program, we ask that you send the list of participants with their phone numbers and emails to the Network Coordinator so that they can go into the Swapathgami database for invitations to future events.

Remember, you are not alone! You will find a whole community of friends to help you co-create a wonderful offering for the Swapathgami Network. Questions are welcome!

ps. These notes are a work in progress; feel free to add your thoughts and reflections.