This is part of a transformation journey that was initiated by Agami India in July 2019 by convening around 20 leading social innovators from the Law & Justice sector for a three-day Social Presencing Theatre-based retreat called Agamishala. The retreat aimed to connect participants with their core intent and collectively sensing into the social field of law and justice in India.
One of the outcomes of the retreat was the Agami Summit, which gathered over 300 stakeholders across various sectors. Seventy of them took a deep dive into Theory U and a journey based on Social Presencing Theater, in order to redefine the prison system in India. Here are the process and outcomes as recorded by Agami India on their Facebook page.
Agami Summit: People, Prison and Well-Being
For the first time in India, 70 changemakers who in different ways affect the prison system — prison administrators, released prisoners, jailors, civil society leaders, citizens, media, psychologists, judges — came together on an equal footing at the Agami Summit. Instead of panels or speakers, the session began with World Cafe, a safe space that enabled the participants in small groups of five to share their individual perspectives and experiences around questions such as “What is the first thought and emotion that is evoked in you when you hear the words “People. Prisons & Wellbeing”, “Why do we need prisons?” and “If you had all the power, what is the one change you would make?” This open process of listening enabled everyone to hear perspectives different from their own and harvest insights from unheard voices, many of which challenged the bias each of us held. For example, many administrators of prisons were advocating for not putting any undertrial in prison or having community sentencing. This process revealed that although many felt the words ‘prisons’ and ‘wellbeing’ seemed like an oxymoron, they felt this is the higher ideal any system of law must work towards. It also revealed that different actors kept in mind the wellbeing of different stakeholders (prisoners, family, jailors) and also the different understanding of the term wellbeing.
Building on this foundation, the participants took a leap of faith to invest in a 4D mapping of the system, using practices of mindfulness, theatre and embodiment. They embodied different roles of actors to surface and notice shifts in the system that might be key in moving from a current reality to an emerging future reality. This process, among other things, generated significant insights on the pain and burden jailors and family members of prisoners faced and the opportunity with mental health professionals.
On the 2nd day of the Summit, a group of 30 changemakers dove deeper to discuss these insights to design collaborative action that might help move the field. For example, while one group discussed the idea of creating spaces inside jails to listen to perspectives of jailors and staff, other groups mooted ideas for community sentencing, a deeper exploration of what justice means for victims, access to loans for prisoners to start entrepreneurial initiatives and creative means for communities to engage with prisoners and vice versa. Agami will work with the participants in the next few months to further crystallize the opportunities and take them forward.
Embodied Poetry and Dialogue
We continued our embodied exploration at the Agami Summit through an Embodied Poetry Dialogue. We read poems from the book “Trading Armour for a Flower” to reflect on deeper dimensions of sexuality & gender violence. We then created shapes with our bodies to represent how these emotions of stuck-ness show up in our lives. One of the most powerful insights was this: as a society, we need not just sex education, but also acceptance and appreciation of sensuality within men and women, to be more aware of our biological needs and boundaries. Perhaps this would heal the masculine and feminine energy and reduce sexual and gender violence.
Manish wishes to thank the Facilitation and Design team that helped him to make this happen: Supriya Sankaran from Agami India and Sonali Ojha from Dream Catchers Foundation. He is grateful to Agami India for embracing poetry and contemplative theatre for deeper exploration.