The perceived gap that some say exists between the democratic system and the individual can distance a person from participating in the political process. Principles that form the foundation of a democratic system can also be applied to everyday life, and conversely, individual life experiences can shape the political process. Interactive, experiential workshops play a large role in linking these two spheres, connecting the individual to the system through the group process.
As part of Mellem’s Personal Democracy program, the Betzavta seminar, invented and developed by the Adam Institute in Israel, is implemented. Betzavta uses games and interactive activities to explore the democratic decision-making process in a more personal way, thereby giving the participants a more fundamental understanding of democracy. This helps them view democracy not only as a system in which they function but as a way of life, in which they can reflect on their own roles and responsibilities. The Betzavta seminar best functions as an immersive experience,
rather than a series of disjointed workshops.
In the Personal Democracy program, the following thee options are offered:
1. Immersive 4-5 day training: The Betzavta program is offered in this training. This program, meaning “togetherness” in Hebrew, presents a creative conflict resolution strategy for democracy education. Decision making is at the core of this seminar, and democratic principles are explored through this decision making process: equality, freedom, majorities, minorities, communication and conflict. As participants work through a fun and at times rigorous interactive process, they are faced with dilemmas and are given strategies to move from conflict to dilemma to resolution.
The International adaptation of the Betzavta program began in 1996, initially in Germany at the Centre for Applied Political Research (Centrum für angewandte Politikforschung) at the University of Munich, then subsequently through the Adam Institute cooperating with international partners in Northern Ireland, Switzerland and South-East Europe.
Participation in all 4-5 days is mandatory, and the group size is limited, to ensure maximum efficacy (max: 20 participants).
2. 1-2 day training: A less intensive training using the same principles as the above but taking into account the priorities of the intended audience. Participants should still fully participate, but the group can be slightly larger.
3. One off workshop: This option is available for conferences, guest lecturing and other opportunities where only an hour or two are allotted. This gives a taste of some of the activities and is a starting point for discussions about educational conflict management and personal democracy.
All workshops can be delivered in a diverse audience, considering different ages and abilities. The first option is required for a “train the trainers” seminar.
Mellem’s philosophy is one that looks past the barriers of nationality, religion and culture in order to unify people based on their common humanity.