Tandem Meeting in Odesa, September 2017. Photo by Constanze Flamme Beyond a Network: Tandem Reflects on its Challenges and Opportunities From 23 to 27 September 2017, 140 members of the Tandem family, participants from three Tandem programmes – Tandem Turkey, Tandem Ukraine and Tandem Shaml –, alumni and the team came together in Odesa. It was the first time our team tried such an endeavour: although being logistically very challenging, it was worth it. This gathering confirmed that the Tandem programme is more than a network and a series of projects spread across different geographies, it is a movement with a common language and values that we all agreed could be shared beyond the programme’s own network. Here’s a short reflection based on the week-long meeting. Tandem Meeting in Odesa, September 2017. Photo by Constanze Flamme. On the final day of this Tandem Meeting in Odesa, all participants have gathered near the poet Taras Shevchenko’s sculpture in the eponymous park, to say our goodbyes, the Tandem way. An 8-year old boy, Maxim, and his dog Gerda, sat down at the statue’s feet and started observing this very big Tandem family doing one of their farewell games. Maxim not only watched, he also talked with a few of the participants, telling about his family and friends, his dog, the countries he has visited and the different places where his family is living. He was also curious about what all these people were doing in his city’s park. Tandem, Maxim and his dog Gerda had a very nice conversation. Many other people walking in the park also stopped to watch the Tandem group which was playing giants and elves, making all sorts of very weird sounds and movements, creating many puzzled looks, but also a lot of laughs. “If we have meetings in different cities,” said one of the participants during the final feedback session, “we ought to have more contact with the street”, highlighting the danger of becoming too close a group and forgetting to interact with locals – with “the street” – while our purpose as a programme is to thrive towards creating social change. Throughout our programmes, we do design our activities so that we can interact with local organisations, collectives and individuals involved in culture and civil society, but this valuable comment pushes us to think further about the possibilities Tandem could bring to – and learn from – interacting with a more general public when we organise joint meetings such as this one, especially in a city that most participants know less, which was the case with Odesa. Tandem Meeting in Odesa, September 2017. Photo by Constanze Flamme. Odesa is a city with a strong feeling of locality and diverse cultural identities which we have been thrilled to discover together. That is why, on the Network Day, following each programme’s own two-day meetings, we have divided all participants into several groups and sent everyone on a city quest. Each group received instructions to follow and a list of tasks to do, which included: learning about the Ukrainian migration politics in the park and making a small poll among the Odessans, discovering the city’s public and private spaces through a quest for abandoned leaves, looking for Georgian food, searching for “extraterrestriality”, and more. These different interactions showed again how important it is to truly “be” in a place, as opposed to only be a passer-by. Tandem Meeting in Odesa, September 2017. Photo by Constanze Flamme. This approach – which we have tested in a previous meeting in Elefsina for the Final Meeting of Tandem Europe back in January 2017 – could have been beneficial during what we call the Exchange Days, which happened in the last two days of our week in Odesa. All participants had the chance to share their experience, knowledge and passion through a series of workshops: 16 sessions in total were offered by 34 Tandemians, including screenings, interactive workshops and discussions covering a wide range of topics from implementing social art projects with disadvantaged groups or in official institutions, to alternative ways for rural tourism and different methods to work within the performing arts. Only one of these sessions, a workshop on how to make art with earth, took place in a public space, in open air. Making art with earth at the Tandem Meeting in Odesa, September 2017. Photo by Constanze Flamme. This series of workshops and talks are also an opportunity for participants from the different Tandem programmes – who don’t all know each other – to connect, share experiences and lessons learned, outside of their usual contexts. Not all activities could be fit for a general public, but it is worth looking into this possibility in the future. Tandem meeting in Odesa, September 2017. Photo by Constanze Flamme The need to interact with locals during the Tandem meetings is linked to the whole ethos of Tandem. “Our values make this network invincible,” said one participant during the feedback session. With another participant adding that we do have “a common language because of the values we share”, while some participants have also voiced the need to define these values. Tandem Meeting in Odesa, September 2017. Photo by Constanze Flamme. All Tandem participants face similar issues and challenges, which they experience in different social and political contexts. Joint meetings such as this one offer a space for everyone to discuss their experience and to learn from one another. Trying to find that common language that will allow us all to open up the network to people outside the Tandem programmes is one of the opportunities and challenges we face. Tandem meeting in Odesa, September 2017. Photo by Constanze Flamme Some participants have defined Tandem as a movement, even a political one. By creating working methods to support individuals taking action in their own environments, by enabling voices and experiences to mingle and learn from one another, by allowing spaces for trial and error, all of us in the Tandem programmes keep empowering each other to make a difference in our own local contexts, but also in each of us, individually. Participants, partners, alumni and the team, we all try to grow with our experiences, and we share the process with others, working together to advance our shared values and ideas to make a difference in our local communities. That is indeed pretty close to the definition of the word “movement”. We are happy to embrace that definition as we continue to work on making the Tandem programme better and stronger, together with the whole Tandem Family and communities beyond it.