Imagine being abandoned in an entirely dark room, and being expected to survive for a couple of hours without any digital devices or any source of light.
Would you be excited? Or would you be scared and paranoid?
In most cases, darkness elicits fear.
The team at Dialogue in the Dark (DiD) however uses this very thing as a tool to empower their own visually impaired staff as well as business leaders, managers, and participants from all walks of life.
They conduct tailored workshops completely in the dark for teams of 16 to 36 people for about 3.5 hours.
It’s within these dark hours that there’s a unique role reversal between the team and their visually impaired trainers.
Teammates regardless of rank have to forfeit their reliance on vision. And they have to take a step back, slow things down and learn to rely on one another as well as their trainers to complete a series of challenges at hand.
They get to learn how to share, care, communicate, and cooperate better with one another during this time. This temporary loss of vision also provides them with an opportunity to confront the core values and beliefs that are ingrained within their ethos.
Once these challenges are met, the team is then escorted out of the darkness for a debriefing on the transition from disempowerment to empowerment.
“I will remember the experience today in the dark. Trusting my teammates, relying on the team, respecting leadership and actively solving problems. No experience has never been as powerful as what I’ve experienced today,” said a workshop participant from General Electric Company in China.
Even though DiD has other projects at hand like their exhibition in the dark (which will be reopened next year), and cuisine in the dark, they initially started off as a workshop provider.
DiD charges RM300 per pax (HRDF claimable), and this has been their primary source of income.
“We also do shorter sessions for educational institutions ranging from schools to universities, for a smaller fee of course,” Stevens Chan, the founder, added.
“Most of our corporates are often impressed with the idea. We pitch our workshops by inviting them to a workshop preview, or when available to our exhibition, so that they could experience the potential of DiD and the impact it could bring to their staff,” Stevens Chan told Jireh’s Hope in an interview.
“We hope to reopen the exhibition in 2018 and to also start the Dialogue in Silence, which is an experience without sounds to further expand our work to include other disabled groups as well.”
Each of these events are designed to relay their mission of building more empathy and appreciation through dialogue.
For Stevens, it’s also a bit more personal. It’s about appreciating your God-given eyesight and to also be a good steward of it.
He believes the public should have a different perspective of the blind and other OKUs, and that they too can be contributing members of society if given the opportunity.
Their facilitators—all of whom are visually impaired—go through an orientation training that lasts between 1 to 3 months.
DiD trains them through interactions with their clients and visitors for all their dark events before deciding whether to engage them as facilitators or to continue their orientation.
Right after 2 weeks of orientation training, they are expected to continue practising the things they’ve learnt and observed from their colleagues and trainers in guiding or facilitating someone in the dark.
“We also give other trainings in linguistics, communications, public speaking and grooming to aid in their interaction skills,” Stevens mentioned.
“Through this entire period we observe whether they have accepted their disabilities, which is the key to their progress, or are they still living in denial, which is the very bane of their progress.”
Dialogue in the Dark gives a community that’s often marginalised an opportunity that accentuates their skills despite their disabilities.
It’s quite inspiring to see them use their experience of being visually impaired to empower individuals from all walks of life.
In fact here’s what some of them had to say.
“The activities though simple, gave many lessons to learn.”
– Group HR, Sunway Group
“Gets the management team out of comfort zone, to think and trust again.”
– Founder, Grab
“This was really humbling. Recognising the need for all other team members… Great fun way to encourage effective teamwork… Loved it, very innovative.”
– Strategy Director, World Vision Malaysia
While I personally haven’t had the opportunity to witness their workshops—I’m hoping to one day—many of the participants came out of the workshops with completely new perspectives and appreciation for skills that are taken for granted everyday, such as communication and teamwork, and I’m also assuming vision.
This article was first published on Jireh’s Hope. You can read it here.