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'Work should be fun. We should all follow what makes our hearts sing.' - Interview with Marianne Knuth, Kufunda Learning Village
Upenyu Makoni-Muchemwa,
August 30, 2011

Read Inside/Out with Marianne Knuth

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Marianne KnuthMarianne Knuth is the director the Kufunda Learning Village. Kufunda is dedicated to creating locally rooted solutions to the challenges of community self-reliance, through the use of people's own imagination and creativity. Kufunda Village runs residential programs for rural community organizers around developing healthy and sustainable community. Marianne additionally works as an independent facilitator and consultant in the areas of individual and group learning processes, and leadership development. In this arena she has organized several facilitation workshops (the Art of Hosting), and offers team building and organization development retreats.

What are you excited about?
It's not very tangible. I'm excited about this feeling I have of things bubbling, just below the surface. Both for me personally in terms of that sense of what's next, but also meeting all these people at the TEDxHarare talk. I know people who are doing great stuff, but it's still a small group. I'm excited because I'm beginning to see that there are more of us out there, and probably many more even than those who attended TEDxHarare. I resonated a lot with what you said at the very end of the event about what had inspired you to do this, which was wanting to have a space to have these kinds of conversations about the future that weren't political. I was also struck during the day, by the middle class-ness, and the sense that the middle class had bailed out on what is going on in this country. For me I'm getting a sense that I haven't had before, of something being possible as we begin to connect the dots of people who all want something better for Zimbabwe. Maybe I am delusional about it, but I'm feeling really hopeful. It's not that we don't have a lot of darkness to still pass through but lamenting that isn't going to do anything useful. Listen

What have you been learning lately?
A big theme that has been coming up in work I have been involved with recently is the issue of belonging. I have come to see that it doesn-t matter which group it is, whether it-s the white farmers or the military guys, they all feel the same way - a kind of disenfranchisement, a lack of being acceptance, and ultimately therefore a lack of belonging, alongside a very deep desire to belong. And it makes sense right? Most of us are kind of afraid of the military and their sense is 'I was a freedom fighter and now you hate me.- The same from the politicians, 'you-re not appreciating everything that we-re doing-. The Ndebele obviously feel disenfranchised - but really so many of us do. Everyone is expressing a deep need to be heard and embraced almost. I wonder what might be possible if we could work with this more intentionally.

What is your feeling about the future?
I think during the Inside/Out interview I said not having hope is a bad place to be. But I feel like I've had so many Zimbabwean experiences where we become very hopeful, only to have that taken away or not realised. At the risk of contradicting myself I wonder if what we need is to let go of hope, and just get on with doing the stuff that actually needs to be done, regardless of outcome. So it's not so that in ten years we can be here or there, it's that every day we get up and do the work that will build our communities and heal the scars. Then one day something will shift, and today even something will shift, even if it is not immediately apparent in our political structures . . . who knows. My recent work with Zimbabwean leaders from a diversity of backgrounds has made me realise that our situation is more complicated than I had initially thought. I-ve lost my more naïve optimism. I know that I love this country and I feel home here like no other place. And I have that sense of so many Zimbabweans having this deep commitment to their country; I have to believe that something good has to come out of that. I don-t know and I think that-s ok, because I have that feeling of possibility. Listen

What do you think you learnt from founding establishing and running Kufunda? What will you take away from that experience and process that will help you in what you want to do next?
I think the most important thing is probably just to begin. You have the sense of an idea or an inspiration, and if you have to have all the plans right and the money ready, it could take a long time, and you could be tired before you even start. There's something about Kufunda, from idea to action was almost overnight, and from there it grew. We used to talk about starting small, but I don't think that's necessary all the time. Listen

We need each other. I don't have all the answers and as I go, I can ask for help, and there are other people who can help. That's a big one. Sometimes people need help to believe that they themselves have part of the puzzle. That's been the big part of what the Kufunda journey had been about. Helping rural folk recognise that they hold part of the solution themselves. I've learnt that life is quite magical. I was speaking to a friend of mine recently and she said 'the Universe will not support anything that comes from a smaller version of ourselves.- When we make choices that are coming from this larger self, where you follow your joy and your passion, it works out. That was my experience with Kufunda. Listen

Another really important lesson is that work should be fun, and the distinction between those two spheres should be fuzzy. I think we should all follow what makes our heart sing. If there's one thing that I want to teach my kids, it's for them to follow their heart and their passion even when I tell them that they're being crazy, and to live a life of joyful contribution.

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