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“Vision with action can change the world”; an ebbf action lab experience by Martina Cini

ebbf member Martina Cinicola shares her direct experience of the ebbf action labs recently held in Milan. A concept originally launched by Stephanie Akkaoui Hughes, now spreading in new cities.

If you too wish to start your own action lab – write to Laura Grassi and Eleonora Ferrero at to find out how to join the next “train the trainers” session in Milan on April 13th.

“Vision without action is merely a dream. Action without vision just passes the time. Vision with action can change the world.”
(Joel Barker)

ebbf Action Labs have been created with one vision in mind:

Contributing to a prosperous, sustainable and just civilization, one conversation, one action, one community at a time.

Well the Action Labs in Milan have totally lived up to that vision. I took part in three special appointments that gathered a group of diverse ages and backgrounds who shared a common desire: to have a concrete impact in their work environment,  in the society where they live,  in their country and ultimately, in this world. So people who came with a desire to take action and to be the change!

During three saturday mornings over a period of four months a group of people who did not know each other just started meeting and sharing values and inspiring ideas but also the various issues they faced and in the end became like a family, a group of friends eager to help each other, who decided to be on a path together. A journey to both increase the awareness of their potential becoming more mindful and to make meaningful action happen in their everyday life, both in their personal and professional environments.

ebbf action lab milano co-creation moment

How did it all begin? Well the first appointment with the Action Lab gave us one of the most inspiring teachings ever , thanks to the introductory speaker Beppe Robiati, who in the simplest way told us how each human being is a mine full of precious gems and how if you keep this in mind, you understand how talents such as love, service will bring a unity that will allow each individual to be authentic to himself and to the environment where they live and work, pouring out all of their potential, emotions & values, showing the precious stone that we all are.

Beppe was able to give concrete examples of how in the work environment it is possible to respect the human being in all of his valuable complexity but most of all how it is possible to  make possible a “theory & value” in our everyday professional and personal life.

The ebbf Action Lab crowd was inspired but also “scared” to hear this and the main issue that came out and that has been a fil rouge of the appointments was “how do I take this teaching back to my reality, how do I make it happen, how do I transform a  vision into everyday action?”

There is no right answer or solution to this issue but one response we agreed on was that big changes come with small steps and that you need to believe in yourself and in what you are doing, not giving up but always finding some smaller aims to reach. Once those are achieved, you gain the strength to continue on that path of change, improvement and renovation.

Two important elements that have made the ebbf Action Labs so unique and difficult to find somewhere else, were the willingness to – act – and the family / tribe feeling that was created since the beginning, people being there to sustain you, to listen to your situations and problems and share ideas on how you can put into action the change you want to be and want to bring.

At the end of each meeting, each person identified actions they would take and partnerships amongst participants were made to allow each person to have a partner to whom to refer to and both give and gain support from.

At the beginning of every rendez vous, a follow up on the intended actions was made, underlining possible results, lesson learnt and next steps. This drove the attendees to do even more and to confront each other, sharing to learn from each other.

So, Vision & Action can be said to be the key words and the real protagonists of these 3 appointments. Two terms that have a specific meaning and content but also an issue that  was dealt with in the different circumstances of life: how can you integrate the long term vision with the everyday action and pragmatism, staying always  committed  and focused?

eleonora ferrero in the centre, co-facilitator of ebbf milan’s action labs with laura grassi

So many ideas, thoughts and examples came out but the main belief was that the vision gives you the values, the motivation to wake up everyday and make you act.  This action, lead by the vision, will have the power to influence and if you do little actions everyday, everyday you will take a step towards the vision you have, bringing about effective change.

Having this in the mind and in the heart, the attendees spoke about some of the projects they are creating and following, all of them linked to how to improve the society we  live in:

Toms – One for One – for every pair of shoes sold, a new pair is given to children in need: to bring the annual event to Italy and create awareness of how it is easy & simple to help.

Before I die project – “A community chalkboard is about knowing you’re not alone. It’s about understanding our neighbors in new and enlightening ways.”

Good Going Viral – Good Going Viral is a home base for goodness: creating a living journal of random and sustained acts of kindness to get good to go viral –

and something that shows the sincere wish to help and to be part of the change with what one can do, is the fact that one of the participants, offered his working space as a “stage” where to communicate & speak and present to many people the various ideas and projects

This is the collaborative feeling that binds the participants of all the ebbf action labs in the world.

I cannot finish without underlining how this main bond of ebbf and of the ebbf Action Labs with the common vision and the wish to act in order to make positive changes, was superbly presented & underlined from a wider prospective in the third action lab through the theory of change,  a real process that is operating in an Italian international enterprise.

This example pushed us even further to think , to create change and to act.

So our Action Labs have not finished, these three appointments were only the beginning and we are already organizing a “Share & Learn” dinner in order to continue the path together.

the author of this article, martina cinicola on the right

Allow me to say goodbye, leaving two gifts that we found inspiring: A link to the STORY OF CHANGE, so that you could be inspired to start this process wherever you live –

Part of the speech of a special man – Nelson Mandela – that underlines the value of each person and of their actions: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others.” Nelson Mandela

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