What's new, what they're building, and how they're advancing a performatory or social therapeutic orientation to community building

Compiled by Esther Farmer 
July 2011

Many who participate in the Institute's study and training activities are involved in bringing grassroots innovations to the university and the latest intellectual advances from the university to communities. Some enter our programs as community-based practitioners who then develop university ties, like Syed Rahman (in Bangladesh) and Miguel Cortes (in Mexico). Others are university-located educators, like Babafemi Babatope (in Nigeria), who is featured in this issue of our newsletter. This kind of cross-fertilization is an important boundary-breaking activity that I am excited to be seeing more and more of, not only among our graduates and colleagues but in many other creative circles. 


- Lois Holzman, Director

Lagos Students

Babafemi Babatope and students at Lagos State University, "play to learn and learn to play."

Lagos Students Make Plays by Playing


Babafemi Babatope from Nigeria (IC 2010) reports: I have several times attempted to report after my East Side Institute experience and have ended up not doing so. This is not because I have been inactive or have not learnt from my experience. It is because my experience in the International Class has transformed me in a strange and unusual way, and I lack the adequate words to express it. The experience has turned me around, transformed me, given me professional accomplishment and is positively affecting lives around me.


I started my lecturing career in 1995 at Adeyemi College of Education, a Federal College of Education, in the southwestern state of Nigeria. I taught there for 9 years, completely dissatisfied with the method of teaching, which I think was a mere repetition of the way I was taught as a student and which I considered boring and shallow. Frustrated, I left there for the Lagos State University, Ojo, Lagos, where I have been teaching since 2004. I went into lecture classes and saw students with frowning, tired and bored faces staring at me -- the whole lecture room seemed tense and hostile. I knew something was wrong, but could not grab hold of it.


The turn around came when I stumbled upon the East Side Institute online. I got more and more interested in the Institute's radical performatory approach to teaching/learning and to changing the world. I patiently submitted myself to the Institute's "experimental approach," one that marries theory with practice. My lecturing has been greatly influenced by the skills I gathered at the Institute, particularly as part of the International Class. My activities have become largely performatory.  I stopped imposing my textbook opinions; rather, I playfully generate ideas that stimulate my students.   I have learnt to teach play-making (I teach theatre arts) by playing. Rather than deliver lectures, I now perform lectures, a process that makes students look forward to my classes.


As a teacher, I feel more fulfilled when my students look forward to my classes and publicly testify to the effectiveness of my new method. I proudly debrief my colleagues who humble themselves enough to approach me for explanations. Many have commented: "In Babatope's class (that is how my students refer to me) there isn't a dull moment." and "In his class one experiences genuine development on a daily basis." Rather than announce topics and begin a "one-way traffic" lecture, I create an enabling environment where the students can creatively realize the essence of our gathering.


I stimulate students into thinking. At the end of the day, they come up with the facts themselves without me having to stuff the information down their throats. This new method has worked so well that my students often say, "Let's go play to learn and learn as we play!" This may appear to be small, but given the number of persons who are now benefiting from what I benefited from, the Institute's efforts at changing the world are spreading like wild fire.


Career Center Launches 'All Stars Daffodil'


Syed Rahman (IC 2007) has been busy initiating programs to develop students socially, emotionally and culturally in his role as director of the Career Development Center at Daffodil International University in Dhaka, Bangladesh. He recently introduced a new course entitled Ethics and Human Development, and a social therapy-inspired workshop, Benefits of Ethical Living. This summer, on the site of the university's bucolic new campus, he will lead 500 incoming students in a month-long performatory and ecological orientation to higher education.


Syed also helped launch a performance group, All Stars Daffodil, inspired by the youth development performance-based programs of the All Stars Project in New York City. Among All Stars Daffodil's recent activities was a dramatic presentation of We Sing of Equality. The performance was followed by a discussion with American actress, Monique Coleman, who was in Bangladesh to promote the United Nation's International Year of Youth.

Daffodil Students

All Stars Daffodil students perform in Dhaka, Bangladesh

Smiling "All Stars" Take to the Stage in a Grassy Field in Rural Uganda


Peter Nsubuga (IC 2009) reports that late in March Hope for Youth-Uganda, an NGO he founded in 2007, launched their latest initiative, the All Stars Talent Show, modeled after the All Stars Project in New York City. Peter reports that the show began in a large field, with children, many orphaned by AIDS, "telling stories which were so emotional that many could not hold their tears back. Later we marched around the surrounding communities with the teens singing songs and ended in the sports field where they moved around to form a star." After training at the Institute, Peter began educational and therapeutic groups for women and for the grandparents and other guardians of children orphaned by AIDS as well as "You Matter" support groups for girls. Hope for Youth-Uganda also built a school, installed a new water tank to insure safe drinking water, planted an orange grove, and acquired donated school supplies.  

AllStars Uganda

Cheering young people perform at launch of All Stars Uganda

Clubhouse Participants "Dare to Dream" in Kolkata


Ishita Sanyal (IC 2008) reports on new developments at her Kolkata-based, grassroots mental health rehabilitation center,  Turning Point, which she founded in 1998. Ishita recently completed a documentary film, Dare to Dream, which portrays the stories of Turning Point participants and the impact of the Turning Point community on their lives. She has begun to lead rehabilitation training for community members interested in helping others suffering from mental illness and embarking upon careers in mental health. In the professional community, she is conducting training seminars on the benefits of a social therapeutic approach along with teaching basic skills in how to organize a community mental health center from the ground up. Ishita continues an active collaboration with Fountain House, which is at the center of the international clubhouse movement and pioneer of community-building treatment programs for the mentally ill. She recently was presented with a "Good Governance" award for community activism at a ceremony in New Delhi organized by the Indian government.  


Ishita Sanyal - Recipient of Good Governance Award, 2011 at New Delhi


A Political Community Performs in Taipei


Powpee Lee (IC 2007) reports that his activist community has been very busy. Raging Citizens Action Network, a social movement community comprised of various organized groupings, is bringing the Institute's performatory approach to their community organizing with union workers, victims of workplace accidents, migrant workers and families, sex workers, young people, teachers, etc. The Carney

and The Workers' Band (two performance groups that regularly perform drama and musicals) lead the way at community cultural events. Everyone is encouraged to perform on stage and to perform as appreciative audiences. As a way of getting to know one another and build community, teachers perform for unionists and migrant workers perform for young people.

New Article Asks: "Can There Be Justice in an Unequal Society?"


Charlotte Weinberg's, (IC 2006) recent article, "Justice is a Way of Being not a Moment in Court," was published in March 2011, in the issue of the British journal, Criminal Justice Matters 83:1, 22-23. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/09627251.2011.550154. In her analysis of the UK's criminal justice system, Charlie challenges the view that prison offers rehabilitation to those incarcerated and claims that justice is a myth in an inherently unequal society.   


Ph.D. Candidates Welcome the Unexpected at London Playground!


Esben Wilstrup (IC 2009) reports that Maria Damkjaer, a colleague he introduced to the Institute's performatory/improvisational approach, has developed a series of workshops for Ph.D. students at Kings College, London, entitled, PLAYGROUND! An Improvisational Teaching Forum (http://playgroundimprov.blogspot.com/). Esben led a workshop in May in London entitled, A Social Therapeutic Approach to Teaching, for a grouping of 20 multi-disciplinary graduate students. The workshop was designed to inspire playfulness and to encourage participants to build a group environment that welcomed the unscripted, the unknown and the unexpected.


Teens in Novi Sad Get New Youth Center


Bojan Drmonjic (IC 2011) and several of his colleagues recently opened a community center for young people in Novi Sad, the second largest city in Serbia. The Center for Self Improvement offers a range of activities and services for teens related to health, school safety and getting a job. Bojan and his team have begun leading workshops on assertive communication, conflict resolution and drug prevention.

Seniors Build the Therapy Group at Residential Community 

Simon De Abreu (IC 2009) has started a therapy group for elderly men at the Queens Garden Long Term Care residence in Hamilton, Ontario, and reports that he is succeeding at using what he learned about social therapeutics to support men's development. The therapy group, which participants have embraced, is one of several arts and cultural programs that have been introduced to support the residents and improve their quality of life.

About the International Class

The Institute has welcomed over 60 students to its International Class since 2004.  They come from five US States and 16 countries. Among them are psychologists from India, Pakistan and Brazil, applied theatre practitioners from Kenya and Canada, community organizers from Uganda and Taiwan, psychotherapists from South Africa and Argentina, youth workers from Nicaragua and Mexico, and educators and social workers from the Philippines and the United States. Coming from different places and professions, they share a desire to change the world -- and an eagerness to take advantage of the unique platform the International Class offers them to create a global support network, to engage the philosophical, political and psychological issues of their practice, and to study and train as developmentalists with creators of social therapeutic methodology under the direction of Lois Holzman.


Reports from the Field is published by the East Side Institute for Group and Short Term Psychotherapy in New York, NY. Readers are welcome to submit reports, announcements and story ideas to Helen Abelhabel94107@aol.com.