30 July 2009

Report from the 2009 PROUT Global Convention in Denmark

This Global Prout Convention, held July 20-27 2009, was commemorative of the 50th anniversary of P.R. Sarkar's first introduction of Prout. From 27 countries and every continent, 240 participants came (including 42 Wholetimers). Attendees came from as far away as Venezuela, Brazil, Argentina, Colombia, Australia, New Zealand, and large contingents came from Portugal and Syria. The proceedings can now be downloaded from http://www.proutworld.org/proceedings/

Planning this event began nearly a year before. Ole Brekke (Vishvashanti) and his family led other Danish Proutists in organizing the infrastructure. He sent more than 200 individual sponsor letters to help participants from economically undeveloped countries get visas to attend.

The venue was beautiful Ananda Gaorii Master Unit in the countryside, one hour from Copenhagen, with lawns and gardens, apple trees and wild cherries. Dada Ambareshvarananda coordinated renovations which were done by Dada Rudranath, Pavan, Ashutosh (Brazil), Pam'kaj (Australia) and Dominic (Poland). Improvements to the kitchen, dining and accommodation facilities, painting, remodeling and cleaning went on for months, transforming the site so it can host large events.

In the lead-up, there was widespread speculation as to the value and even the legitimacy of the convention, which generated a heightened sense of anticipation and exceedingly high attendance.

Travelers who had to stay overnight in Copenhagen also enjoyed a greatly enhanced Global Prout Office, which is almost unrecognizable after renovations supervised by Kamal. Designated cars made many dozens of trips to the local train station to provide free pickups and drop-offs throughout the convention. On arrival, each person received a 40-page souvenir booklet with Prout Action News, thought-provoking strategy articles, workshop topics and job openings in Prout projects.

In keeping with Prout's emphasis on cooperatives, all participants volunteered to join working co-ops that managed different operations of the convention including program, child care, meal preparation, cleaning, etc. The system worked exceedingly well and helped to make everyone feel that they were directly contributing to the success of the program. Despite the pressure of numbers – more than double the expected attendance – the cooperatives were able to make everyone feel alright.

Dada Krtashivananda gave one of the opening speeches as well as an inspiring workshop on spirituality. He reminded everyone of the great legacy of Dada Tadbhavananda who built Ananda Gaorii Master Unit. Dada Vandanananda gave the news of India along with Prout activist representatives from the Vidharba, Utkal and Koushal samajas. Informative presentations were given by the staff of the Prout Research Institute of Venezuela, Gurukula University, Prout College and the successful Prout cooperative café of Iceland. Community development work based on Prout was highlighted in Maharlika (Philippines), Ghana and Haiti. Jaya from Denmark explained about the plight of marginalized workers.

Proutists from all groups and affiliations were present, both young and old. The diversity of participants from throughout Europe and the world and the process of meeting old friends and making new ones created a wonderful family feeling. Blissful kiirtan and deep meditation balanced the burning desire to change the world with the need to be spiritually centered and calm.

Whereas previous Prout conventions usually focused on lectures and classes, this program was generated from the bottom up. “Open Space Technology” allowed everyone to first express their personal interests, and then form groups to discuss how to practically promote Prout to the public. For example, how to present Prout to Western secular audiences, how to utilize social networking tools for this (blogs, wikis, twitter, etc.), how to design exciting Prout training courses, how to use the tremendous opportunity of the global financial crisis, country-wide strategies, Samaj and block level planning, frequently asked questions, Prout in the arts and education, effective websites, and much more. A dozen specific email lists were set up so that groups can continue their efforts and monitor developments from home. Most participants made personal commitments.

Some of the workshops included Ideation, Public Speaking by Dada Pranakrsnananda, Block Level Planning by Ravi, Use of Art in Social Change by Vishvashanti and Jaya, Personal Development by Dada Lokeshananda and Prout's Policy on Drug Abuse by Omkarnath.

The cultural programs each night were amazing, with professional artists like Phil Marriott, Dada Nabhaniilananda and Sukhadev, Vasudeva, Dada Vedaprajinananda, Malinii and Susmita and Didi Ananda Ragamaya. There were also more informal presentations, with songs in different languages.

In the global strategy workshop, we collectively chose to focus this year on the following goals:

1.Modernize Prout website with activist corner to attract young people.
2.Reactivate the Global Times magazine in electronic version.
3.Create exciting Prout training courses in order to create many more Prout activists.
4.Define simple Prout slogans for the public in different languages.
5.Create a powerful Prout response to the global financial crisis.
6.Develop and implement strategies for generating income for Prout.
7.Develop and implement an internal global Prout communication strategy: newsletter, email list, and collecting and spreading good news of Prout activities.
8.Create a system to follow-up all the targets and resolutions made here.
9.Hold yearly Prout conventions here in Ananda Gaorii Master Unit, Denmark. The next one is scheduled for July 20-25, 2010. The next Global Prout Convention is scheduled for Venezuela in early 2011.
10.Further improve our facilities and accommodations here so that even Proutists blissfully enjoy this wonderful place. Please return and bring your friends.

Please contact us if you would like to help with any of these projects. The heart of the convention, all the proceedings, resolutions and valuable resources, will be available within a few days at www.proutworld.org/convention09.

To improve future events, the organizing committee invited feedback through an evaluation questionnaire. 80% of respondents said the spirit of the convention was excellent. Critique included: need to further venue upgrade to overcome the stresses of so many people living together and to reduce meal preparation time; improve communication about program details and changes; too many good workshops and programs running simultaneously. (Organizers are confident most critique received can be acted upon for next year - apart from reducing the number of good program choices!)

In the closing ceremony, two slogans won a popular vote of approval:
“Exploiters look out,
here comes Prout!”

“Without a doubt,
it's time for Prout!”

No convention or conference can change the world. However the dynamism, synergy and inspiration made every participant feel empowered with new ideas and effective tools to make Prout a reality in their local place, as part of a global movement. Together, nothing is impossible.