Conversations #4 - Ronni Abergel

  
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A Conversation With Founder & CEO, The Human Library Organization, Ronni Abergel—

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Hey Eclectic Spacewalk subscribers!

“Hej fra København!” - Those are the words I attempted to say in Danish at the beginning of this podcast, which translates to “Hello from Copenhagen” in English. Not sure I succeeded…

This month I traveled to Copenhagen, Denmark to speak to Ronni Abergel, Founder & CEO of the Human Library Organization (HLO), and also to document one of their events during Copenhagen’s Culture Night on October 11th, 2019.

“Menneskebiblioteket” as it is called in Danish, was created in Copenhagen in the spring of 2000 by Ronni and a few others. HLO has grown significantly since their humble beginnings and now operate events in over 80 countries.

“The Human Library® is a global innovative & hands-on learning platform helping create more inclusive and cohesive communities across cultural, religious, social and ethnic differences.”

HLO meets their goals by, “creating a special dialogue room, where taboo topics can be discussed openly and without condemnation. A place where people who would otherwise never talk find room for conversation…a place where difficult questions are expected, appreciated and answered.”

“The Human Library® is, in the true sense of the word, a library of people. We host events where readers can borrow human beings serving as open books and have conversations they would not normally have access to. Every human book from our bookshelf, represent a group in our society that is often subjected to prejudice, stigmatization or discrimination because of their lifestyle, diagnosis, belief, disability, social status, ethnic origin etc.”

Dialogue can be fruitful when a safe framework is the central tenet for these quite personal conversations. The conversations help to challenge prejudice, aim to help rid of discrimination, prevent conflicts, and contribute to greater human cohesion when both parties come to the dialogue genuinely wanting to learn from one another. All of the human books are volunteers with personal experience with their topic.

“Un-judge Someone!” is upgraded from “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover”

The improved statement honestly presupposes our biological judgements (based on evolution & survival techniques) of others, but - critically - allows us to consciously rise above them. Companies can also utilize these unique experience stories to create a more progressive cooperate cultural that is more humanistic in nature.

“The Human Library offers diversity, equity and inclusion training for companies that wish to better incorporate social understanding within their workforce, as well as grow their cultural awareness for deeper partnerships with clients.”

Ronni and I had a fantastic conversation about the journey of HLO, growing pain key learnings, as well as future plans of expansion. Our conversation also got into the natural mechanics of judgement, identity, and community. I thank Ronni for his time, and the wonderful discussion we had.

Enjoy the conversation, and until next time - Ad Astra!

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Timestamps

  • Growing up with a French Moroccan family heritage in Copenhagen (00:01:39)

  • Different influences & role models (00:07:22)

  • “I don't know if it's about seeing myself in them. It's more about understanding the world and their understanding of the world, and maybe will help me better my understanding of the world.” (00:12:12)

  • After spending a year in the US, the reverse culture shock of going back to Copenhagen was indeed “weird” (00:15:11)

  • Judging is an integral part of humanity’s biological repertoire of defense mechanisms, but HLO is saying: “Become a NON-Judge because we know you already judged.” (00:23:12)

BEGINNING OF PART TWO (28:31)

  • What is the Human Library? (00:28:55)

  • “All of us have unconscious bias and all of us judge.” (00:30:05)

  • The non religious epiphany or insight that started it all. (00:33:21)

  • “Unjudge someone” is an upgrade from “Don’t judge a book by it’s cover” (00:37:28)

  • The content of conversations depend on your courage to have them (00:39:59)

  • Human Library’s corporate model (00:43:26)

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More on Ronni Abergel:

Human Library' Website: https://humanlibrary.org/

Human Library’s Twitter: https://twitter.com/TheHumanLibrary

Human Library’s Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/humanlibraryorg

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