Guide for every coordinator of summer school(s) in 3 acts

Justyna Turek

September 12, 2023

Unveiling the Holis School'23 Experience

Why is Holis School considered one of the most thrilling formats ever? Dive into the backstage drama, the magic, and the journey that led to the Holis School 2023 experience – an event that left a mark on everyone involved. Especially on the coordinator of Holis School and the CEO of We Are Holis - Justyna Turek.

Holis School stands as a testament to innovation, collaboration, and a passionate drive to empower individuals and organizations. Our overarching objective has always been to create an immersive learning environment that transcends traditional boundaries. We believe that knowledge should be accessible, engaging, and impactful. In Holis School, we aim to foster resilience, not just as a buzzword but as a tangible skill set.

Welcome to the Holis School retrospective (one of many!), seen through the lens of Justyna Turek.

Act 1: Own Your Decisions & Seek Immediate Feedback

Team Lolis / Hostetin / Holis School / Photo by: Photo by: Luc Kordas

Nearly two years ago, when I took on the role of CEO at We Are Holis, the idea of resurrecting the Holis School format seemed like a no-brainer. Having been a facilitator in the past, I was well-acquainted with the enchanting aura that surrounded it. Managing an event that had been dormant for two years, however, was no cakewalk. It involved countless emails, phone calls, and a fair amount of audacity to convince people to join us once more. The rebirth of a movement, especially one that had been sporadic, felt like a monumental task, especially when most of our groundwork relied on emails and good old word-of-mouth.

But in the end, it all boiled down to one fundamental thing – trust. Trust in myself and trust in the format, so that others could follow suit. Building such a promise entails a great deal of responsibility, particularly when it involves encroaching on people's cherished summertime!

Speaking of magic, the journey of Holis School was planned down to the tiniest detail, providing a safety net for those moments when the course deviated slightly off course. Flexibility emerged as a vital ingredient in the recipe of decision-making. One of the cardinal rules in sustainability is to anticipate the unexpected – which is why improvisation becomes an integral part of events like these. My favorite definition of improvisation is, "It's most likely that things won't go as planned." Having a Plan B is always prudent, but sometimes, life throws us a curveball – like last-minute program changes, experts unable to attend live sessions, or technical hiccups during online engagements.

Owning your decisions can also mean inviting others to challenge you, and testing your adaptability. In the end, it all comes down to taking the plunge and relying on your experience to steer the mothership of Holis.

Act 2: They Will Come & The Complexity of the Topic

They Will Come / Hostetin / Holis School / Photo by: Photo by: Luc Kordas

The depth of this year's topic was colossal – building the resilience of Early Childhood Development NGOs in the Visegrad Region. Why choose such a weighty subject for a summer extravaganza, you might ask? Having participated in numerous summer schools and events, I realized that while they all had a delightful summer vibe, they often lacked real-world context. I yearned for real-life cases, genuine problems, and the opportunity to craft something genuinely needed – not just another chair or bench (apologies to my designer friends ups!).

My journey as a designer, thrown headfirst into the real design world more than a decade ago, had left me demanding and critical. Living in the 21st century, I firmly believe that we need a modern approach to solving our contemporary problems. This year, we wholeheartedly focused on NGOs, aiming to build resilience within them while affording participants real-life cases in dire need of support. Only by working on actual cases can one gain an authentic understanding of the process. This is what Holis School is about.

I remember pondering if the topic was too weighty, if people would grasp it, or if it was just a product of my overactive imagination. Trusting my instincts and numerous discussions with Maxim Dedushkov and others reassured me that this was the right path to take this year. More than 50 individuals (participants, partners, experts, etc.) placed their trust in me and the Holis legacy, emphasizing the importance and urgency of our mission.

....and they came!

Act 3: The Metalevel of Partnerships

Team Wild Cats / Hostetin / Holis School / Photo by: Photo by: Luc Kordas

It's no secret that partnerships can be a complex landscape to navigate, especially for someone with a background in the creative arts (ego alert!) The enormity of the task at hand was undeniable, and the best approach was to dive in headfirst and learn as I went along.

Even though I've been teaching the art of collaboration and partnership, there's always room for growth. I've always been a perfectionist, striving for excellence and constantly aiming to be better than my previous self. However, Holis School taught me a valuable lesson – perfection isn't always attainable, and that's perfectly okay. It was a moment of revelation, a realization that perhaps, sometimes, I might be wrong. And indeed, I was. But what truly made this journey remarkable for me was the profound impact of partnerships. It all started with selecting the right venue (Veronica Centrum Hostetin), collaborating with experts, and receiving unwavering support from individuals who shared our mission.

Sure, it's tempting to shoulder all the responsibilities alone, believing that one person possesses all the answers. However, Holis School has reaffirmed for me that the real strength lies in sharing the load of responsibility among a community of knowledgeable and passionate individuals. Letting go is never easy, but it has been one of the most human lessons I've learned – understanding what and how to release control, and recognizing those moments when I just can't.

Holis School has been about much more than building resilience; it's been about embracing the immense power of partnerships. It's about understanding that we don't have to navigate this journey solo; together, we can achieve something truly extraordinary.

Team Dancing Dupetky / Hostetin / Holis School / Photo by: Photo by: Luc Kordas

Life after Holis School

In looking back, I've come to appreciate that there's always room for growth, especially when viewed through the lens of sustainability. The journey of Holis School 2023 was nothing short of a rollercoaster ride – marked by unexpected twists, invaluable lessons, and a tenacious spirit of resilience. Along this winding path, I found myself not only learning but also discovering different facets of my own self, experiencing a kaleidoscope of moods and emotions. It became increasingly clear that this is what I love doing, and it's a path I want to embrace as my future - collaboration.

I extend my heartfelt gratitude to all the incredible individuals who contributed to this journey. Your unwavering support and participation have been instrumental in making Holis School 2023 a resounding success.

As we set our sights on the future, the upcoming months will be dedicated to crafting the Resilience for NGOs Guidebook by Holis – a comprehensive publication summarizing the essence of Holis School and more beyond that. It's an exciting project that will help us distill the invaluable lessons learned during our event, offering a roadmap for creating a brighter, more resilient future, both for our participants and NGOs. The adventure continues, and I couldn't be more thrilled about what lies ahead!

Justyna Turek / Hostetin / Holis School / Photo by:

xoxo Justyna Turek / CEO of We Are Holis

#holissummerschool #resiliencebuilding #thankyou #partnerships #finalpresentation #summerschool #designschool #resilience #ngo #impact #socialinnovation