Launch of unique and timely 'Eldership' programme

11 May 2022 04:43
Published by: Scott Callan

A unique nine-month programme is being launched to encourage greater understanding of diversity and conflict within communities and how to positively intervene.

Starting with an open day in Macclesfield on Saturday 21st May 2022, Eldership in the Community aims to provide a different perspective on topics such as the pandemic, social media, the environmental crisis and race and gender issues which have exacerbated social division and marginalisation within communities. The aim of the course is to provide participants with the tools to relate to, and engage with, issues on a personal as well as a community level.

Eldership in the Community is hosted by Owen Stevens and Hayley Stevens, co-founders of the big room cic who will facilitate alongside Process Oriented psychotherapists, Leah Bijelic and Milan Bijelic.

Mian Bijelic, who has first-hand experience of conflict resolution in Croatia and Rwanda, says: "Eldership isn't necessarily about solutions, or quick fixes. It's more about providing a space where the collective wisdom of the community is given a voice to express itself and also an opportunity to heal."

He goes on to say: "Society is becoming increasingly fractured by conflict and division and we need to find new ways to coexist. The Eldership programme is open to anyone interested in making a positive change within their community. It aims to enable participants to facilitate dialogue and promote understanding between people whose views may be wildly different, and that they themselves don't always agree with."

The idea of eldership (which exists in many different cultures, contexts and across time) is informed in this instance by the work of Arnold Mindell, the founder of Process Oriented Psychology. Mindell believes that for 'communities and nations to succeed today and survive tomorrow, they must be deeply democratic - that is, everyone and every feeling must be represented.' Elders in this sense must have the capacity to hold multiple and often conflicting points of view and provide the space for difficult and sometimes seemingly impossible conversations.

Hayley Stevens says: "We're really keen to hear from people who want to make a difference in their communities. There's no restriction on age, experience or background, we're much more interested in motivation. If we are to provide people with the ability to endure and embrace a world that is undergoing convulsive and rapid change, it is vital that we create spaces that welcome difference. With so many areas of conflict in today's world - the war in Ukraine, the globe refugee crisis, the increase in racial and sexual hate crime - there's never been a more important time to look at our differences and examine ways we can come together rather than be forced apart."

Milan Bijelic agrees: "I have worked in community development for 20 years and the focus of my work has been conflict, trauma and lingering community polarisations. I have seen the impact eldership can have on a community and the difference it can make. Eldership enables an openness to conflicting points of view and the welcoming of all voices with the aim of bringing individuals, organisations and communities together to learn from one another."

The opening event, Introducing Eldership in the Community, takes place on Saturday 21st May at Wood Street Mill, 45 Pickford Street, Macclesfield, SK11 6HB. The FREE event begins at 10:30am, finishing at 1:30pm. Tickets are available via Eventbrite. Simply visit and search 'Sitting in the Fire - an introduction to Eldership in the community'.

The aim of the open day is to inform, engage and inspire the wider community who will benefit directly or indirectly from the Eldership programme. Guests include speakers on zoom who have worked in their communities in Rwanda, Belarus, Greece, Scotland and Yorkshire. The morning will be facilitated by Milan Bijelic. Milan is a Process Oriented Psychotherapist and Facilitator, affiliated with CFOR - London and Who is Your Neighbour - Sheffield.

For more information about the Eldership in the Community programme, please visit or contact Owen Stevens on 01625 460455.

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