A little bit about this workshop

This is the masterclass program outline on governance – first notes by Steven Desangere

A huge thank you to all participants: Annelies, Anne-Marie, Claudia, Federico, Gabriella, Geraldine, Hanno, Lisa, Lynn, Martin, Matthias, Menno and Yuké. Also to Adolfo, Katja and camera man Axel, who visited us, and Wolfgang, who made everything possible for us: the great venue, the food, the trips, the party and his words of wisdom.
Steven Desanghere


On Saturday morning we got to know each other a bit. We mingled, interviewed and presented each other in pairs, our personal needs, played games, confessed to our favorite sports. We made agreements on our participation, on hand signs, language, objectives and key principles.

We listed some of our personal experiences and expertise we wanted to share, as well as our main struggles in running a circus school.In the afternoon we went to visit the interesting GOP in the center of town, we had some free time, and then we came back to Gleiesdreieck what is that? to be guided by Katja into the world of the Thinking Hats of Edward de Bono.

More info: 
After defining the concept, we brainstormed about our Ideal Circus School.

At the end of the afternoon session we split up in Learning Buddy pairs and did a short evaluation round in plenary. People seemed satisfied. In the evening we celebrated Wolfgang’s x’th birthday.

Sunday morning we mingled and talked in pairs about our greatest artistic circus experiences.
We organised some great discussions through the SPECTOGRAM, with two axes each, thinking about quality vs fun, participation vs clear directions, “freedom in a box”, professionalism, co-creation, etc.




We came up with a MINDMAP around possible artistic goals for our circus school.



We brainstormed in small groups about the CHOICES
to be made in a circus school when you want to challenge yourself artistically.


We thought about the recipes
for a good artistic chapter in a circus school.



Sunday afternoon we went to GOP Orangerie to look at the entertainment show Wet. When we came back we had a nice discussion on artistic circus critics, and which elements could be picked up when describing a circus show.
Three participants talked about their personal circus project.


We shared deep thoughts on possible benefits of artistic work, for four important layers:

– the participant the circus school teamthe circus project
– the broader society (parents, spectators, neighbourhood, etc)


And as before we ended the formal sessions of the day with a solo and buddy moment, and a short group round.

Later that night, we organised a small youtube movie night, with many interesting clips.


On Monday we tackled some pedagogical issues in the morning,
and tackled leadership in the afternoon.






We introduced the open Space Technology
the Law of the Two Feet.
More info:



We had some deep thinking on different topics,
and shared these experiences in a plenary meeting afterwards.
Facebook: “Circademics”




In the afternoon we had a role play on leadership,
and then put together some intervision groups, tackling the challenges of being a leader in your organisation.We also had three presentations on three different circus projects.



Later that evening, we visited circus Salto, the ‘new’ townhall, and the Xmas market…


Tuesday morning we had meditation with our buddy on the question “Why do I want to work with the circus school?”

Afterwards Matthias introduced the ‘Story of the Search for a Church’ by Circusplaneet Ghent. We discussed building issues.


After that, Wolfgang gave a small lecture on systemic thinking by going through the Ten Characteristics of a well-functioning team

We made small groups and talked about oneliners on Human Resources.

We sat down in small groups and talked about possible interventions and action points for our own working teams.
The perfect team does not exist of course,
and our plans of making our team stronger should perhaps
have a timeline of ten to twenty years.


In the afternoon we heard some presentations and made three open Space Groups, tackling administration, strategy and change issues.

On Wednesday we started with an argumentation duel between two groups on the subject “Society should give LESS/MORE support to circus schools.”

After that Lynn introduced us in the great theme of physical literacy.

More info:



This session was followed by one of Steven, who made us think about
the Key Competences for Life Long Learning.

More info: 1881/Trainer_%20Competence_study_final.pdf


We got final presentations from Fede, Geraldine and Hanno,
and we had a group talk about funding and writing down a project.




And then we did the evaluation, listed our personal action points, talked for a last time with our buddy, and had a final round on our feeling about the five day intensive Masterclass.



Read Reg Bolton!

Love y’all!

Steven Desanghere

The methods we used were:

In the seminars we tried out methods that can be helpful in general for teambuilding and in our case to find out the principles of „How to run a circus school“

a) Working together
>open space method
>Working groups
>Individual presentations
>Coloured hats
>Theatrical group presentations
>Language groups
>Buddy time
>Using circus equipment

b) Collecting results
> Constructing a book list
> Papers on wall
> Post its
> Games list or web infolist on the wall
> Pictures ( Diashow)

c) Presentations
> Mindmaps
> Power point and other projections
> Booklists
>Facebook groups

d) Literature on masterclass methodologies
> Facilitating
> Energizers
> Intervision
> Management
> Communication
> Human recources

These are the masterclass topics:

  1. General aims: Mission and vision of the circus schools in Europe
  1. The Hand of Bolton

  2. Social circus projects

  3. Pedagogical versus artistical goals

  1. Benefits of circus education
  1. Circademics

  2. Physical literacy – read: Physical Literacy – The_Impact_Circus_Arts_Instruction-2
  3. Circus as part of cultural education

  1. What can help you professionalizing running a circus school
  1. Systemic thinking


Systemic thinking is a simple technique for making sense of challenging situations and developing simple interventions for transforming them.

We had a look at 13 possible interventions and found them easy to practise in working with it in challenging situations, like conflicts in the team.

Look at it, if you have a conflict in the team and don’t know how to get out of it. It will help everybody who wants to give people help.
Read Asking the right questions

  1. Holacracy


Holacracy is a self management practice for organizations.

We found out that this system empowers people to make meaningful decisions in pursuit of your own circus schools purpose.

With it you can discover a way of working that follows the principles of good circus teaching practise. ( see the Hand of Bolton)

It is about:

– Agile organizational structure

– Efficient meetings and formats

– More autonomiy to teams and individuals

– Decision making process

If you follow the link you can improve your daily practise. It is also possible to attend seminars held in different European countries in English, German, French and Dutch.

  1. Knowledge of status and role

This is all about nonverbal communication. Everybody, who is leading a team has to be aware of his or her status and role.

But how can you improve? We found a good method in the “Improvisation theatre”

Who is interested go deeper in, just visit an Improvisation theatre course or read the text of Keith Johnstone , Improvisation and the theatre, 1981. It is available in different translations. Also there is a free download of the full text in the internet.

Divided into four sections “Status”, “Spontaneity”, “Narrative Skills” and “Mask and trance” the book sets out the specific techniques and exercises, which Johnstone has found useful and most stimulating. The result is both an ideas book and a fascinating exploration of the nature of spontaneous creativity.

  1. Life long learning in Europe

During all three masterclasses we focused on the eight key competences for life long learning and the competence profile for trainers in the European youth work.

Those are:

  1. Communication in mother tongue

  2. Communication in foreign languages

  3. Mathematical competence and basic competences in science and technology

  4. Digital competence

  5. Learning to learn

  6. Social and civic competence

  7. Sense of initiative and entrepreneurship

  8. Cultural awareness and expression

And their emphasis on:

  • Critical Thinking

  • Creativity

  • Initiative taking and problem solving

  • Risk management

  • Decision taking

  • Managing feelings in a constructive way

The outcome was, that through youth work in circus we are able serve all these key competences. Youth work in the circus field traditionally is international and fosters the competence in foreign languages by the way. Students learn a lot while exchanging youtube videos and being active in the social media. Even the mathematical and the competences in science and technology are an outcome of circus, because there is a stage to manage and it has a lot to to with a big variety of technical equipment. The emphasis on critical thinking, creativity, initiative, risk assessment, decision taking and management of feelings is part of every little circus project elsewhere in Europe. But we discovered an important key competence missing: The physical literacy. ( see the chapter “Physical literacy”)

For more information read the study: “The eight key competencies for life long learning” by Hendrik Otten and Yael Ohana, at:

  1. Change and resistance in a team

  2. Strategic planning

  3. Leadership

  4. Motivation

  5. Non violent communication

  1. Practicals
  1. Admin software

  2. Networks in Europe

  3. Partnership

  4. Social media and its use

  5. Funding

  6. Tents and buildings