The Nature of Oasis as an Organisation Fostering Spiritual Life


In my post Valuing Spirituality in Organisations, I made some connections with how Oasis has been evolving as an organisation fostering spiritual life and some current research into organizational management: (short introduction), (longer explanation) .

In the light of this, there are a number of emphases we might keep in mind as we consider how Oasis may continue to evolve, learning from our achievements and challenges.

Oasis Emphases

  1. Establishing a culture of hospitality and inclusion. Historically Oasis was an attempt to address radicalization within the then Religious Centre – our response, cultural transformation, is now considered best practice with respect to pre-empting radicalization (Prof. Wesley J. Wildman, Boston University). Hospitable culture helps avoid polarizing confrontative argument that assumes only the rational mindset.
  2. With a focus on culture, our emphasis has not been programmatic, but on process, with the way we achieve our mission – creating a culture of inclusion and care by means of enacting a radical understanding of hospitality. Transformation occurs through appreciative inter-personal  relationships.
  3. In the process, Oasis is contributing to the development of culturally competent citizens, confident with cultural and religious pluralism.
  4. Creating an architecture conducive to providing a safe space for such inter-personal appreciative interchange – physically and symbolically, removing reinforcements to prejudicial stereotypes that block participation (such as by using inclusive, accessible everyday language, rather than that loaded with often ambiguous religious meaning, and creating inviting physical spaces that evoke ‘home’ rather than sectarian religious conformity).
  5. In this regard Oasis has a complementary role to the university’s formal (intentional) teaching, with our emphasis on the informal (ie we don’t ‘teach’, though we create spaces where learning takes place). The creating of space to allow processing of formal learning is acknowledged as essential in the learning process. In this way Oasis plays a significant role in the Academe. (eg Harvard Business School: Learning By Thinking: How Reflection Improves Performance by Giada Di Stefano, Francesca Gino, Gary Pisano & Bradley Staats)
  6. Wellness, not sickness. Even though Oasis volunteers may be highly regarded in a counseling function, the role of Oasis is not primarily to help people solve their problems, but rather create the space for listening and encouragement for people to take ownership of their own lives and the opportunities for ongoing emotional support in doing so.
  7. Bridging boundaries with a view to individuals and organisations benefiting from making connections for their mutual benefit. Being and feeling connected is essential for spiritual wholeness. Oasis may itself make connections with people and organisations for mutual benefit and work together collaboratively. For example, connections have been growing with, Health, Counselling and Disability, Social Work, Theology and Philosophy, International Services, New Venture Institute, Students Association and with various external individuals and organisations including alumni in Australia and overseas, educators, and religious, service and community leaders.
  8. Oasis also connects with other related organisations, such as chaplaincies, at a local, national and global level and contributes to ongoing developments in those spheres.
  9. The role of the Oasis Coordinating Chaplain and Administrative Officer, employed by the University, is to enable the evolutionary functioning of Oasis in all its complexity.
  10. The real work of Oasis ‘on the ground’ is undertaken by volunteers. An ease with the above emphases, the nature of their strengths, their life experience, self-management and life balance, and volition to advance the mission of Oasis are significant criteria for inclusion in the Oasis team.

I expect the next iteration in the evolution of Oasis will come from the points in the present where we may be seeing needs for adaption and where we are experiencing exciting new opportunities.

I think we may be able to clarify this by identifying and putting together the pieces of the Oasis jigsaw, various parts being achieved by members of the team, to create the bigger picture of what we are doing together, getting a more refined sense of the direction we are heading.

To grow Oasis I think we need to put decision-making closer to the roots to avoid a ‘top-down’ approach within Oasis organisation. To do this, I’m hoping ‘interest teams’ will develop – at least two people, preferably three, and up to five, to work together on the various parts of Oasis activity we identify. In this way, we might implant diversity, mutual support and opportunity for de-briefing and localized decision-making deeper into the fabric of Oasis. And we open the way to invite more volunteers into specific activities that comprise Oasis.

This process might be the subject of the Oasis Planning Day on September 21, 2016.

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