Dreams of the World: Promoting Dialogue Throughout Asia with Jost Wagner

Dreams of the World: One Dream a Time. This post is the latest in the series Dreams of the World, which profiles interesting people Kike meets during his travels.

German professional facilitator based in Bangkok. Photo © KIKE CALVO
Jost Wagner, 43, a German professional facilitator based in Bangkok. Photo © KIKE CALVO

“My dream is to change the way we meet and communicate. If we want to change our communities we need to create hospitable spaces where participants can engage in meaningful dialogue and take collaborative action on important issues whether it is education, health, protecting the environment or politics,¨ said Jost Wagner, 43, a German professional facilitator based in Bangkok . For more than ten years Wagner has traveled all over Asia and beyond, to design and facilitate engaging meetings and to advocate against the “Death by PowerPoint” – style conferences. “Only real dialogue can create trust and let people to be more open to other viewpoints and find the joint solutions needed for the many problems we are facing in our communities.”

¨After finishing high school my best friend and I decided to backpack in Africa, ¨ said Wagner. ¨We went backpacking through Southern Africa, visiting Zambia, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa, before the end of the Apartheid. I remember we were the youngest backpackers everywhere we went. And we were probably some of the most naïve too. We did not even know what Lonely Planet was. We had no preparation for the trip. We got arrested on the first day for photographing an official building. Lusaka was at that time the African Headquarters for the ANC. They took our passports and returned them only after an interview by the Criminal Investigation Department.

Traveling has taught this German-born world citizen many things. He learnt to respect different cultures, religions and lifestyles without questioning them through his own cultural lenses. ¨I learnt how to appreciate the privileges and opportunities I have had in my life,¨ said Wagner. ¨Good education, social security and chances to experience other continents have contributed to my professional outlook on facilitation.

¨I have also experienced genuine hospitality during my travels,¨ recalls Wagner. ¨I have fond memories of the Malawian family who hosted my travel partner and me in 1989. They invited us to their home in Lilongwe. They slaughtered the only chicken they had for us.”

Wagner is now permanently settled in Thailand. Since his arrival, Thailand has seen big changes. I arrived in Bangkok in 1990 at the age of 20,¨ said Wagner. At that time, it took two to three hours by bus get to the city from the airport. Now Bangkok is a major hub in Asia with some of the most modern transport systems. There is still a lot of traffic, but the black clouds have gone.”

¨Twenty years ago people seemed to follow the same style of fashion, ¨said Wagner. Advertising on TV and billboards promoted the same hairstyles and clothing. Nowadays, everybody tries to be different. Many urban sub-cultures have emerged since then. The city has also become quite expensive. Now many Indian, Chinese, Middle Eastern and Russian travelers are coming to Bangkok. Twenty years ago the Europeans, Koreans and Japanese were far more dominant in the cosmopolitan travel scene. ¨

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Learn More:

The Art of Facilitation: The Essentials for Leading Great Meetings and Creating Group Synergy
Facilitator’s Guide to Participatory Decision-Making
Visual Meetings: How Graphics, Sticky Notes and Idea Mapping Can Transform Group Productivity
The Skilled Facilitator: A Comprehensive Resource for Consultants, Facilitators, Managers, Trainers, and Coaches
Facilitating with Ease! Core Skills for Facilitators, Team Leaders and Members, Managers, Consultants, and Trainers
The Art of Facilitation: The Essentials for Leading Great Meetings and Creating Group Synergy
Death by PowerPoint

Additional Readings:

Lonely Planet Zambia, Mozambique & Malawi (Travel Guide)
Apartheid: The History of Apartheid: Race vs. Reason – South Africa from 1948 – 1994
Lilongwe: Webster’s Timeline History, 1955 – 2007
The Graphic Facilitator’s Guide: How to use your listening, thinking and drawing skills to make meaning
Rapid Problem Solving with Post-It Notes




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Meet the Author
Award-winning photographer, journalist, and author Kike Calvo (pronounced key-keh) specializes in culture and environment. He has been on assignment in more than 90 countries, working on stories ranging from belugas in the Arctic to traditional Hmong costumes in Laos. Kike is pioneering in using small unmanned aerial systems to produce aerial photography as art, and as a tool for research and conservation. He is also known for his iconic photographic project, World of Dances, on the intersection of dance, nature, and architecture. His work has been published in National Geographic, New York Times, Time, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, and Vanity Fair, among others. Kike teaches photography workshops and has been a guest lecturer at leading institutions like the School of Visual Arts and Yale University. He is a regular contributor to National Geographic blog Voices. He has authored nine books, including Drones for Conservation; So You Want to Create Maps Using Drones?; Staten Island: A Visual Journey to the Lighthouse at the End of the World; and Habitats, with forewords by David Doubilet and Jean-Michel Cousteau. Kike’s images have been exhibited around the world, and are represented by the National Geographic Image Collection. Kike was born in Spain and is based in New York. When he is not on assignment, he is making gazpacho following his grandmother’s Andalusian recipe. You can travel to Colombia with Kike: www.colombiaphotoexpeditions.com