Affiliates' News

El Chen

El Chen

El has studied and worked in the USA and China, teaching and developing arts-based workshops that explore character strengths, relational wellbeing, and communal bonding. She has come to find performing arts as an incredible conduit for us to explore, practise, and integrate new ways of acting and being. El says that over the last decade she has had so much luck and support to focus on her passion. And, through a surprising turn of events, she landed in London a few months ago to set up her practice anew with great success. 

In her article she invites the reader to understand the important role imagination and creativity play in helping us to be attuned to our values.

Affiliate El Chen

In Search of Exquisite Medicines - Theatre Project

Dear IVET community,


It is a privilege to write to you at IVET's invitation. My name is El. I am an artist and an affiliate with IVET. Earlier this year, I created a theatre project named In Search of Exquisite Medicines to explore fusing value-based living with performing arts. This project took place over twelve weeks, where seven individuals from diverse backgrounds – some of whom had no prior acting experience – gathered to experience life-affirming values through engaging in performing arts activities. Shown in the photos below are Performing Ensemble members – Mikaela Dragon, Beatriz Do Ó, Kathleen Murtagh, Katie Quinn, Merlin Stevens and Holly Walters.

The ensemble shared their journey via four nights of public performances at Etcetera Theatre in London. A recording of the performance is now available here. In this article, I’d love to share with you the principles that inspired this project. 


The key principle that laid the foundation for this project is to prioritize play and visceral experiences as we explore life-affirming values. As an example, the first activity the ensemble engaged in upon arriving for their first rehearsal was to draw another cast member using their non-dominant hand under one minute before gifting the drawing to its muse. Like creativity, value-based living often thrives on constraints. Time limits and unfamiliar tools made it so that there was no space for judgement or perfectionism to dominate the exercise. Grace, joy, and curiosity were free to step in. As the ensemble “failed” together in creating perfect drawings of one another, there was an utter absence of analyzing or criticizing. Everyone shared their work with compassion for themselves and received drawings of themselves with childlike glee regardless of what they looked like. 


Another principle that guided our process was to move beyond “in order to.” A lot of the values we sought to engender – love, trust, and compassion, to name a few – relied on us coming from a space of vulnerability and unconditional connection. In our process, we dedicated time in every rehearsal for activities such as movement mirroring and silent eye gazing. Rudimentary as they may seem, these activities are the key pillars without which the project would not exist. 


When we mirror, we devote our attention fully onto another person: their movements, expressions, and emotions. We pay attention to the essence of everything they do without them having to be, act, or think a certain way. This experience sends a visceral message of love and compassion to the person being mirrored, saying “you can be as you are, and your presence is fully witnessed.” 


It’s important to note that none of what is shared here was disclosed with the ensemble until they were weeks into engaging in these activities. This was to facilitate their immersion in the experience of giving and receiving love and compassion without having a goal in mind. Sometimes, in establishing a goal, albeit one as noble as expressing love and compassion, we can get wrapped up in the inner chatter of “am I getting it right” and “what’s the use of this” at the cost of being present. And without presence, value-based ceases. 


One could argue that withholding intention might still cause the participants to question why they were doing the exercises and not be fully present. While that was certainly the case from time to time, it created a space for us to ask: Where else do we let our search for “why” keep us from expressing love? 


The last principle we adopted was to embrace risk. During rehearsal, we saw that compassion and trust were most strongly felt and exhibited in non-verbal exercises. We then made an intentional choice to bring most of the non-verbal compassion exercises from rehearsal into our public performances. What came with this choice was tidal waves of fear and doubts: What if the audience doesn’t understand? Will the cast look silly on stage? Is it too weird? In retrospect, these questions were indicators that we were on the right track. 


Creative processes are reflective – the obstacles that hinder our creative expression are often the same ones that stop us from living fully outside of studios and rehearsal rooms. Being misunderstood, seen as weird, or left in a place to explain ourselves are at times the entry ticket we pay for being loving and compassionate individuals. This is where integrity and courage come in. In acknowledging the risk and consciously choosing to take it on, we are putting stake in our stand for the values we seek to embody. 


I hope this reflection is helpful for you in some way. If you are seeking to explore integrating value-based living through the arts, please do not hesitate to reach out. It would be my pleasure to be of service. 




Newsletter updated 13.5.2024

Dear Affiliate


Neil is delighted that most Affiliates are now listed in our Directory. If you haven't sent Neil your details then please do so as soon as possible as the Directory is a wonderful resource for Affiliates to connect with each other and others outside the Foundation too. 

Other News


On the 19th April Neil Hawkes was honoured at the Saïd Business School, University of Oxford to be the keynote speaker at a round table conference devoted to discussing the need for the establishment of a peace-loving global society, through values-based universal education. The conference was initiated by Prof.Dr.Vishwanath D Karad, Founder of Pune University, who designed and built the world’s largest peace dome, who Neil is chatting with in the photo. He was so moved that Values-based Education and living is being seen as such an important key for world peace.

Professor Karad and Neil Hawkes

Please keep in touch with me and make suggestions about how we can further strengthen our IVET Foundation. Together we are making a difference, especially by encouraging others to join us.






Dr Neil Hawkes

Founder of the IVET Foundation and Values-based Education (VbE)



Trustees: Neil Hawkes, Bridget Knight, Nigel Cohen, Jane Hawkes and Sue Jones