A Reflection on Dialogue’s Documentation Project

An Interview With Dialogue's Founder & Director

Dialogue worked with Clowns Without Borders South Africa during 2017, in order to document some of their programmes and projects (click here to access the materials). When the project was complete, Clowns Without Borders South Africa interviewed our Founder for their newsletter. Keep reading to hear what he had to say about the project!

We asked the founder and director of Dialogue, Chris Blois-Brooke, a few questions about the fantastic work him and his team are doing:

How did you initially come across CWBSA?
When we decided to set up a project in South Africa, I was on the lookout for Community Performance organisations that worked with Young People in novel ways. When a contact mentioned Clowns Without Borders, I was immediately reminded of a past colleague of mine raving about the work of their Canadian chapter. Remembering how inspired she had been by their work, I knew I had to learn more about what their South African counterparts got up to.

Why did you select Clowns Without Borders as one of the three SA organisations?
Clowns Without Borders South Africa stood out as pioneers of Community Performance practice in many ways. Not only are they one of only two national chapters running in lower/middle-income countries, they are the only one to combine Clowning with other Performance-based interventions. Their model of partnering with Community Based Organisations was refreshing and, combined with the ambitious scale of their projects across the African continent, we were keen to see their work for ourselves!

Why is the documentation/archiving of such projects important for you?
Our passion as an organisation is to record and share the immense amount of knowledge, skills and enthusiasm held by Community Performance Practitioners. There is so much excellent work going on in the field of Community Performance but, put simply, not enough people know about it!

The documentation that we have generated about Clowns Without Borders South Africa now forms a part of our evidence library that will be used to support Advocacy initiatives, boost Funding applications, offer opportunities for Practitioners to learn from and network with one another, and advance monitoring & evaluation initiatives. In short – it’s a way for the sector to learn about, and learn from, the excellent work of Clowns Without Borders South Africa.

What moment really stood out for you when documenting the ‘Our Story, Your Story’ project?
Without a doubt it was watching the reactions of each class when one of their number bravely walked up to the front to share their story with the group. Whilst I don’t speak Afrikaans (so I couldn’t follow each story in its fullness), I was captivated by the excitable yet encouraging atmosphere that the Facilitators had endeared in the space. Sometimes the storytellers laughed, sometimes the storytellers cried but, each time, their peers remained silently engaged and incredibly supportive.

What is most rewarding/challenging about running Dialogue?
The most rewarding part of my job is when Practitioners get in touch to tell us that our resources have saved them time, or helped them to secure new funding and resources that they need to continue their projects. I also love connecting Practitioners with one another and so growing our network is very important to us. Whilst we are still a young organisation, our biggest challenge is responding to the sheer number of opportunities and requests we get to document more and more examples of practice in different places! This is, of course, brilliant to see and we hope we can continue growing our financial capacity so that we’re able to respond to as many of these proposals as possible.

What is currently on the Dialogue’s team’s plate?
At the moment, we’re finishing up some documentation projects in Ethiopia and Zambia whilst setting up some new residencies across Africa and Asia-Pacific. We’re also in the midst of developing a very exciting online open-access Resource Centre – so keep an eye out for our big launch announcement in 2018!