It is has been an eye-opening experience to interact with Bob Stilger from The Berkana Institute over the years in his short trips to Southern Africa. Bob has been around the work we do at the eThekwini Municipality’s INK Area-based Management and Urban Renewal Programme as a friend, a co-learner, a coach and consultant. Through his multifaceted roles and relationships, he has helped us to navigate our landscape and made us feel that is in fact okay to have questions and not have all the answers. Our practice is deeply embedded in co-creating with communities be they not-for profit community organisations, local business, Councillors and other government departments. Bob has been precise in identifying the need for internal practices and rhythms which provide a foundation to take our work to the next level. He has made these suggestions without prescribing, but rather encouraging us to find our own answers. We have been honoured by his sharing of the Berkana experiences through insightful presentations and the depth of Bob’s view as a community development worker. The community of Inanda Ntuzuma and Kwa Mashu is now richer through his thoughtful, dynamic and easy manner in which he made the development practice easily understood by both ordinary people and professionals. As a programme, we salute his tireless and continuous efforts to enable community to collectively create and hold a vision. Through Bob’s commitment to learning we are now able to appreciate the thread that connects various community learning centres in South East Asia, America, Africa and elsewhere. Bob’s work has been overwhelmingly positive in the lives of many people he has met, and I hope he never stops giving in to what he has called `the energy of yes’.
Linda Mbonambi, Area Project Manager INK Area, Durban, South Africa
I have had the privilege of working with Bob Stilger and the Berkana Institute over the course of several years. My first experience was in Clark County, WA when I contracted with Bob to assist the County and our community partners to begin to examine how we work together through a World Café and Open Space process. Bob helped us begin to plan a future together. I then was invited to travel with Bob to South Africa and Zimbabwe to experience learning communities first hand. It was amazing watching Bob work in different cultures pulling all of us together and honoring our differences and our unique contributions, Bob has a gift as a mentor and teacher.
After a long and demanding year as a new start-up in Pierce County, WA, I really wanted my staff to receive the gift of Bob so I could thank them for the incredible work they did as individuals and as a team and to rejuvenate them by using personal and shared experiences, to identifying lessons that would drive our future path as an organization. By facilitating open and honest group conversation, Bob was able to create a safe environment that allowed us to maintain our authentic selves to build on our organizational and individual strengths. He has a gift of listening to each individual and translating numerous contributions into one coherent and united theme. Bob urged us all to explore multiple levels of our own awareness to help us realize that through personal and organizational wellness, we will have the capacity to continue to listen to, grow with, and strengthen the Pierce County mental health system one day at a time. Everyone involved left proud of the work that had been done in and for our community, and hopeful for the work we were once again invigorated to continue throughout the coming years. Bob’s work has left an imprint on my life personally and now a positive influence on my staff. I am quite sure that Bob’s work across the world has been overwhelmingly positive in the lives he has touched. I call Bob “the holy man” and now you know why.