30 youth activists from six countries; one year of training; three high-level seminars in leadership, project management and mindfulness; six projects to address social issues – AYUDH Europe completed its first long-term training in Social Impact Leadership
Challenges in today’s world are many – ranging from climate change and gender discrimination, to lack in quality education and cultural stigmatisation. Many young people are concerned by these developments, and wish to take concrete action by leading projects that affect real change on the ground. AYUDH Europe designed the Social Impact Leadership programme for such young change-makers, who wish to foster their leadership and project management skills, deepen their understanding of social issues and develop a mindfulness practice that supports them in their personal growth as compassionate leaders.
30 participants (aged 18 – 30) from Denmark, Greece, France, Spain, the Netherlands and Germany took part in the first edition of AYUDH Europe’s Social Impact Leadership programme. It was supported by the EU and SAP, as well as many international expert facilitators.
The learning journey started in October 2017, with an online platform providing articles, documentaries, talks and a discussion forum on six social themes: Climate Action, Education, Gender Equality, Human Rights, Intercultural and Inter-religious Understanding, and Peace and Security.
Three transnational seminars formed the core of the programme. Leadership expert, Joolz Lewis, from Enlightened Business Ltd. (UK) accompanied the youth in each one of them.
Seminar 1: ‘AMIBITION’ – Berlin, Germany (27.01. – 01.02.2018)
At first, participants explored the history and theories of leadership, analysed their leadership type and defined personal learning objectives. SAP, Germany’s most successful software solutions company, offered a two-day training in Design Thinking, providing participants with an innovative method to quickly and efficiently develop, test and apply their own project ideas. Julius Fischer, from the ‘Social Impact Lab’, shared best practice examples of the 500 successful social impact projects of the award-winning incubator. And to provide a tool for personal growth and introspection, a course in the IAM20 meditation technique was offered by yoga and mindfulness teacher, Julia van Koolwijk. Swamini Krishnamrita Prana, senior disciple of Amma, joined the youth through a webinar to discuss the importance of mindfulness in leadership.
Seminar 2: ‘ENDURANCE’ – Athens, Greece (28.04. – 03.05.2018)
In every team and project, challenges are bound to arise, and a good leader needs to know how to address and overcome these. The second seminar focused on the areas of leading with others, giving feedback (both positive and constructive), and learning how to coach each other to enhance empathy and improve performance. A webinar on ‘Perseverance and Achievement of Personal Goals’ was delivered by Br. Shubamrita, monk and meditation teacher from India. The IAM20 meditation technique was further developed, and an interactive creative leadership exercise was facilitated by an expert in the field of Philosophy and Anthropology of Arts, Dr. Rudi Risatti (Italy/Austria). With their wealth of professional expertise, Sarah Straub (Austria) and Max Renner (BOLD, Germany) taught participants how to fundraise and market a new project. Another highlight of the week was a private meeting with Maria Stratigati, Vice-mayor of Athens, who engaged the youth in a lively discussion around the city’s and participants’ own social initiatives. A cultural visit to the impressive historical sites of ancient Greece – the cradle of Europe – concluded this seminar.
Seminar 3: ‘IMPACT’ – Bilbao, Spain (01. – 06.09.2018)
With most national teams having already completed or begun local social projects, this seminar focused on measuring the impact of their initiatives. Susana Balet (Stone Soup, Spain) introduced many practical tools to help participants assess successes and challenges. New leadership concepts and tools were given around influence, cooperation and effective teamwork. The youth also explored the role of emotional and spiritual intelligence and its relation to decision making. An introduction to Amrita Yoga by Andreas Nath Hirsch, Director of AYUDH Europe, provided yet another tool for a personal mindfulness routine. To add a new angle to the discourse around leadership, the subject of ‘Gender and Leadership’ was addressed during a webinar with Prof. Rao R. Bhavani, Director of AmmachiLabs and UNESCO chair for Women Empowerment, India. To culminate, Irene Goikolea (PhD in Depth Psychology, Spain) led an engaging session on ‘Qualities and Values Needed for Sustained Leadership’.
Throughout the seminar series, each country group designed and implemented one social project aligned to one, or several, of the six social themes addressed by the course. These included a ‘toolbox’ with sustainable products to reduce one’s ecological footprint (France), a video documentary about gender discrimination (Greece), a ‘Human Library’ event to reduce stereotypes (Germany), a social media campaign to educate about the importance of sports and mental health (Netherlands), an initiative to enable children who are on sick leave to exercise their right for education through a digital connection with the classroom (Denmark), and a social media campaign to promote local sustainable consumption (Spain).
Through their participation in the year-long training course, participants have acquired essential competencies (knowledge, skills and attitudes) needed for Social Impact Leadership. They have been equipped with a toolkit of methods for designing and implementing projects to address social issues of concern to them. Beyond that, they have undergone a journey of personal growth, experienced new cultures and people, and through AYUDH, become part of a community of passion-driven change-makers.
Participation in the programme was formally recognised with Youth-pass, a certificate of the European Union to award non-formal learning.
100% of participants rated their overall experience at the seminars as either great or good. Comments by participants included:
“It was one of the greatest experiences I had. I’m thankful towards all the team for making this possible.”
“The truth is that I did not know what to expect, and that has made me enjoy everything even more. Everything has been really well organised and we have developed how to share and make ourselves understandable, think about new ideas, and learn a lot from every talk and person. Not only that, but also everything has been really joyful and I have felt very comfortable in the group, so I could not ask for more.”
“I did not expect the seminar to help me grow so much. Also on a deep and personal level. I feel more confident and hopeful about my future and what I can contribute to the world.”