Space Bangkok, it’s not a furniture or interior design company. But it is about improving the space around you to make you a better and more productive person. And the woman that runs and started the organization is Jenn Weidman (seen above).
Before we get into what Space does, it’s important to learn how Jenn ended up here. She was raised in the Lancaster area of Pennsylvania, a couple hours outside of Philadelphia.
She first came to Thailand (Kampeng Phet) in 1993 in her junior year in high school as an exchange student with the Rotary Youth Exchange program.
She didn’t know anything about Thailand when she arrived – her choice had been either Thailand or Hungary, a quick look at the atlas (her flip of the coin) decided her fate.
Jenn knew she wanted to return to Thailand – what had cinched it was her work as a cultural/language translator for a man who had flown in to Kampeng Phet from Singapore to instruct engineers on oil rigs. It was her job to help him understand how Thailand worked and that struck a chord with her.
Back in the US, she attended Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, which is a two-hour drive west of Chicago. That’s where Jenn received her undergraduate degree in Southeast Asian Studies focusing on Thailand and Indonesia. She then moved back to Thailand to work at Payap University in Chiang Mai in their International Programs Office. She went back to Northern Illinois for three years to do her Master’s Degree in Cultural and Applied Anthropology with a concentration in Southeast Asia, while spending her summers in Thailand.
Upon graduation, she discovered The Rotary Foundation of Rotary International was starting the Rotary Peace Center at Chulalongkorn University, a professional development program giving certificates in an intensive three-month peace and conflict resolution program. Jenn joined the program and was with it for a decade spending the last seven years there as its Deputy Director. She specialized in facilitating and training and oversaw all aspects of the Center’s peace and conflict resolution professional capacity building program.
At first, Jenn was focused on practical aspects of the program, facilitating, and advising program participants as they designed interventions in conflict zones. But as time wore on, she came to see a different side of those participating in the course. “Attendees were mid-to-high level professionals working in a field related to peace and conflict resolution,” Jenn recalls, “whether it be human rights, humanitarian aid or development as well as journalists, and medical doctors all facing a time of transition in their lives.
“But many were suffering from emotional burnout and trauma — really skilled and talented people, just exhausted. And these were the people we were trusting to change the world, but they were not functioning at their best. The industry was chewing people up, spitting them out and then grabbing the next starry eyed 20-years old who wanted to save the world. So I thought, why do we have to harm a part of humanity to help another part of humanity? Who is healing the healers? Who is caring for the caregivers?”
In the Chula course, Jenn would help participants through something called “accompaniment”, a nexus of coaching, counseling and mentoring, basically accompanying them on a difficult part of their life journey, giving them support and assistance whether it be in analyzing a conflict or dealing with trauma.
And the impact of this burn-out and neglect is huge, not just on the individuals but the cost to business and industry due to lack of performance.
When asked about this aspect, Jenn quotes a survey in The Guardian on the Global Development Professional Network saying, “79% of aid workers globally experienced mental health issues. 93% said it was related to their work in the aid industry. 66% of aid workers cited lack of support at work as the principle factor impacting on their mental health. 84% of aid workers suffering mental health issues negatively impacting their work continued to work untreated. She also notes when it comes to productivity, “It is estimated US employers are losing US$63.2 billion per year in lost productivity due to insomnia alone citing an article in Science Daily quoting the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, ‘Insomnia costing US workforce $63.2 billion a year in lost productivity, study shows.’”
But as time went on, Jenn realized that the though the majority of people were not dealing with the same kind of trauma as front-line aid workers, we are all dealing with some form of dysfunction that restrains us from our peak performance.
So she left Chula and officially created Space Bangkok in 2016, recently moving the company into an office in the Modern Town building on Ekkamai.
So what is Space exactly? “Space between us, space around us, and space within us, we are creating space for things to happen,” Jenn says. “We work with everyone: governments, NGOs, universities, big corporates, and small corporates. We do process facilitation, the values underpinning that are tied to resilience, which is the ability to move through difficulty in a more positive and constructive way. We do strategic planning, problem solving, training, teambuilding, the theory of change (Is what you are doing having the impact you want?).”
“If you are burnt out that is a joint collaboration between you and your working environment. We help people and organizations solve the problems by encouraging creativity, innovation and resilience so you are better able handle any obstacles thrown your way. It’s about individuals and organizations working together to achieve that goal.”
So summing up, Space Bangkok specializes in facilitation, training, peace-building, leadership development and resilience work. It provides the time, space, and setting for people to make tangible progress in overcoming obstacles, discovering new approaches to their problems, and offers experiential lessons to help them overcoming their difficulties.
Space also offers retreats in both English and Thai. It is certified in implementing the Emergenetics tool to help colleagues gain a greater understanding of their interaction and to identify strategies to work more effectively. It offers a creative and dynamic approach that enables reflection and encourages innovation, connection, and strengthened communication. Space creates a pause from the frenetic pace of work and life to foster resilience and innovation.
To learn more about Space Bangkok, follow their blog at https://www.space-bangkok.com/blog.