Date: August 28, 2023
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August 28, 2023 – Interview with Network Facilitator Member, Anna Swisher.

Location: Galway, Ireland
Involved with the WTR since: 2013
Groups Anna works with: community-based, artists/dancers, XR activists, youth and young adults
Language: English

WTR Network: Hi Anna, could you share about your work?

Anna: I facilitate a 9-month Active Hope Community Resilience Program here locally in Ireland, aimed at supporting local collaboration, capacity-building, and action for change. We incorporate dance and movement as well. I also facilitate Active Hope/WTR workshops/retreats for local and national organisations and community groups that are working in challenging sectors. I also work with a community development organisation, and am engaged in developing and tailoring the Work That Reconnects for people working in this sector as well, both to support teams of staff, and for Community Development programs/organisations to offer to the communities they support. 

Over the pandemic, we ran two years of an online 3-month Work That Reconnects group, which was really incredible. We ran in 3-month cycles, and the amount of connection, intimacy, support, growth, and inspiration (across international boundaries!) that transpired over the seasons was incredible. This group included people from the U.S., South America, all over Europe, India, Africa, Canada, and Asia. We also started running study/action groups, where people connect with 3 or 4 other individuals from the large group to support each other in taking real action in their local communities. 

I also really enjoy mentoring people who are interested in facilitating the work. Most of my programs include apprenticeships, so that I get to support someone learning-by-doing.

WTR Network: Tell us a bit about yourself, how did you become involved in the WTR and what role does it have in your life?

Anna: I went to graduate school in San Francisco at the California Institute of Integral Studies, in 2011, where I first met Joanna and was fortunate enough to receive her teaching. I continued learning from her in local groups and workshops, and I started bringing the WTR into groups I was already facilitating.  When I moved to Ireland in 2018, I decided to take the Facilitator Development Training, as I recognized the need and importance of this work and wanted to devote myself to it more fully.  Since then, I have been focusing much of my life and work around the WTR. It has been a constant force of inspiration, nourishment, hope, connection, and insight. I have learned so much from the people I have had the pleasure of working with, all over the world. I have been inspired by all the different ways that humans relate, connect, create, and act on behalf of life. So many people, with many different perspectives on life, are showing up to face the scary realities, share their pain for the world, and find a way forward together. When I am struggling, I feel less alone. I know I am not alone in my struggles. And I am able to believe whole-heartedly in humanity’s capacity to make changes, because I have witnessed it in people all over the world. This work gives me great strength of heart.

I see the world changing very fast. The WTR is so alive, it’s able to meet people wherever they are, and it evolves with us. I am finding it becomes only more and more relevant, to more and more people. And it is not limited to environmental contexts at all; it can help us face anything and everything that troubles and challenges us. It has become for me like an inner map, compass, and orientation to the world. I don’t know where I would be without it!

WTR Network: What are you grateful for in the WTR world?

Anna: I am grateful for the impulse to evolve, to grow and change in order to meet the changing needs of our world. I am grateful for the open sharing of resources, information, and support. I am grateful for the honesty, the truthfulness; and the way we hold each other up when we are having a hard time. 

WTR Network: What challenges and struggles have you experienced as a facilitator of the WTR?

Anna: The biggest challenge I’ve met is around holding differences of opinion within a group. Not everyone who comes to the Work ascribes to the same belief systems, which I actually believe is very healthy. But then we are faced with the task of holding a safe space for people to share their feelings, without getting into debate, argument, and/or conflict. The challenge is finding a way for people to connect and support each other even across their differences. And then, this challenge extends also into our personal lives. What does it look like to love and support someone who actively disagrees with me? I think this is one of the most important (and challenging!) tasks we are faced with in our world.

Also, in Ireland, people love to chat! So getting people to simply listen to one another, without responding or interrupting, can be a big challenge! But it’s also incredibly rewarding, and heartwarming to witness people stepping out of their comfort zone and growing in this way.

WTR Network: What has been the most difficult moment in your journey through the WTR?

Anna: When someone left a workshop or group without an explanation. It has happened twice. I still worry about those people, and that I did something wrong, and what we could have done differently to support them.

WTR Network: What has emerged for you since you started facilitating the WTR?

Anna: A desire to continue finding more grounded ways to explain, share, and facilitate the work, with less spiritual language, so that it feels accessible and compelling to more people in various life circumstances. So much compassion for the “normal” person, just trying to get through the days. And through a lot of that compassion, I’ve discovered that I’m actually a lot more moderate in some of my views than I used to be.  I see things differently, I think about things differently. And I feel that I’m living a much more grounded life.

WTR Network: What are your next steps in this Work?

Anna: Developing programs for organisations that support marginalised communities.

WTR Network: What would you say to someone who is new to the WTR?

Anna: I would say that I love to talk about it, do you want to have a cuppa and chat? 🙂

WTR Network: Do you have a favorite practice? Why?

Anna: So hard to pick just one. Currently I’m really really enjoying exploring the 3 stories of our time in an embodied way. I put each story on a large sheet of paper somewhere in the room, and we go around as a group, inhabiting and talking about each one for a few minutes. As I mentioned above, I just think it’s incredible how people are experiencing and making sense of these stories. The world is changing so fast and it is continually coming alive in new ways for me.  I have found that people are really hungry for a way to make sense of things, and the stories make sense to them, and they adopt the language very quickly. Once people have the language to talk about what’s happening in the world, it’s a lot easier to get deeper into it. And doing this at the beginning of the workshop just sets the stage so well. We just jump right in and people realise straight away that they’ve been carrying all these burdens that they didn’t even know or understand. 

I also LOVE the Storyteller’s Convention. I think using our imagination is an essential skill if we are to create a better world.  It’s so fun to tell stories about the Great Turning, and to hear what people come up with; and it gives me real hope to hear so many possibilities and potentials for how the Great Turning could possibly come to pass.  I also love the Wheel of the Great Turning: finding out about so many diverse kinds of actions already happening around the world is so inspiring, and really makes you feel how every little bit counts!

WTR Network: Are you part of a hub?

Anna: I am a part of the Irish Active Hope Network.

WTR Network: Are you available for mentoring others?

Anna: Yes definitely. I really love mentoring!

Anna can be contacted via her profile page or her website.