A new Forum is like a bud on a tree - it has huge potential locked inside it, but much of that is not yet visible. And inevitably, it may be experiencing challenges: it usually lacks a clear working structure, members ideas about roles and discipline may be vague, leadership may not be well established, and members may not feel that they are getting value for their time.
At a first Retreat it is important for the participants to get to know each other really well, so the Retreat includes different "getting to know you" exercises. These activities help break down barriers and give members the chance to learn about one another in a fun and interactive manner. Instilling respect and a sense of intimacy help turn the group into a functioning and nurturing team, and a driver for change.
The first Retreat is also a place to develop and refine a Forum's constitution, to ensure it suits its members' needs. Estelle uses engaging psychological exercises to help members look at various aspects of a Forum - its mission statement, norms, roles, and processes such as active listening - in a refreshing and open way, to maximise the Forum experience.
Issues of fears and beliefs are another worthwhile focus for early retreats. Core fears and beliefs often lie at the heart of why we act as we do and who we are, but we rarely set aside the time or enter the mindset to examine them properly. Subconscious fears and beliefs are also the cause of destructive or derailing behaviour. These workshops will teach members about themselves, and, with this knowledge, how to alter undesirable behaviour and harness its energy in a positive direction.