By Esther Barfoot

‘A tribal meeting for people with a passion for change.’ The Berlin Change Days is an annual forum for change makers, change facilitators and transformation agents, where you can learn, network and celebrate together with 150 people from around the world. In 2018 Yannis Angelis, Mary Alice Arthur and I hosted the conference, that had the wonderful topic of ‘Courage and Corporate Activism’.

In the current, huge, environmental, societal and business challenges, we all have to do something courageous. Something that maybe scares us a bit. That means we have to leap, climb or even crawl over our ‘courage edge’ and act on it.


What really matters to you? What can you do to serve it? Does it scare you? What is, so to say, your courage edge? Do you think you can get over it?


At Berlin Change Days 2018 we offered the participants the chance to experiment with that. To discover their courage edge and to practice leaping from it. And, in the meantime, do something activist with it. And they did.


Photography: Esther Barfoot

Our hosting principles

The principles of our hosting of the conference were:


  • Capacity Building: Since the birth of BCD, the participants come to the conference with their dual identity, as participants and as practitioners (most of them are themselves facilitators, change agents, change managers, (corporate) activists, etc.) So, we will approach both parts of their identity. We include them in the structure and flow of the conference. We let them undergo things and explain before or after what they have undergone. Also, we let them reflect on it, we discuss it, etc. In short, we work on capacity building of us all as facilitators of change.
  • Transparent process container: We find it essential to create the safety and trust needed by the participants to have valuable conversations and learning. Therefore, we make things explicit, such as, ‘who is in the room’, ‘what are we doing’, ‘why does this possibly make you feel uncomfortable’, etc. We bring all the voices in the room. From the very beginning and whenever the entire group comes together in the plenary, we sit in a circle.
  • Participants as a self-organising system: The programme is jam-packed with interesting things and experiences. We will try to inspire participants as follow: “You can only learn and be open to interesting things and experiences if you host yourself. So, don’t let FOMO (fear of missing out) rule your conference life. No part of the programme is obligatory, everything is an invitation. Have the courage to step out and work parallel to the programme if you like”.
  • We undergo courage and activism. We don’t just talk about it. Courage running loose in Berlin 😉 Participants go out into Berlin and do an activist intervention. They pick one of 5(?) topics. For instance, social inclusion or sustainability. They will be given a tight brief, with a number of principles. For example, ‘action has to be positive’. They will also be asked to take photos and add them to the feed (same tool as last year?). They will undergo courage and activism and learn from experience.


Other ideas for the conference
  • Before the conference we invite a few ‘senior’ BCD-participants (who have been here a couple of times) as Keynote Listeners. Four people or so who listen deeply and they are witnesses to specific topics/questions and share their learnings with us all at the end of the conference. We could call them BCD Fellows.
  • Part of making the process transparent, is that we also make the flow and harvest transparent, by asking the person who will do the visual recording to do it on paper/on the wall. Working on an iPad is kind of hidden, we feel.
  • We can also experiment with other kinds of creative harvesting (we have lots of ideas).
  • We use the lobby as an incubator space, an inspirational space with a vibe. Where people can meet, have a conversation, work on a plan or action together, bond and get inspired.