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10 May, 2013

(Photo: Diego Casagrande)
(Photo: Diego Casagrande)

 

When Professor Gerald Pillay, Vice-Chancellor of Liverpool Hope University asked Initiatives of Change to deliver ‘Caux on Campus’ in Liverpool, it led to the birth of a ‘School for Changemakers’. His idea was to offer his students an experience that would be as inspiring to them as he himself had found at the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Caux, Switzerland.

 (Photo: Rupal Maru)
(Photo: Rupal Maru)
The School for Changemakers took place on the LHU campus over six days, 18 to 23 June, with some 80 participants from all over Britain. Several members of the University's academic staff made an invaluable contribution. The results exceeded expectations, with an outpouring of energy that gave an emphatic 'yes' to the relevance of IofC to Britain today.

The programme comprised a daily routine of early morning times for quiet reflection, plenary sessions with guest speakers, such as former Leeds West MP John Battle, facilitated discussion and reflection within small community groups. The plenary sessions covered changes in vocation, community, education, politics, business and the environment.

The School for Changemakers also offered ‘Learning Tracks’ running during the main programme—short courses on a range of change-related themes. The week concluded with an evening programme of fun, debates and entertainment.

(Photo: Mohammad Shabuj)
(Photo: Mohammad Shabuj)
My going to the School for Changemakers was the result of a chance intervention by a friend who had done a Learn to Lead course,’ wrote Martie Griffiths, a psychology student at LHU, afterwards. ‘The Track has such an impact on me, as I went with no expectations. It was a basic introduction to the founding of IofC, which in itself was deeply moving and gave me the feeling that it is acutely possible to create positive change in the world. To have Elsa Vogel, a part of that IofC history, in the room, talking to us and sharing her experience, was possibly one of the most meaningful experiences of my life.’ Frenchwoman Elsa Vogel, living in Birmingham, and her British husband had served with IofC in Brazil and other Latin American countries over decades.  

The later sessions gave us tools for creating change in the world,’ continued Griffiths. ‘This was particularly difficult for me as the week had raised up very personal issues to do with prejudice and discrimination. With the help of one of the facilitators I was able to let go and actually use what was taught within the last few sessions to create a change. The track was not a walk in the park by any means—it was very intensive but jam packed with some extremely useful information.’ 

For Blanca Carioni, a medical student from London, the School was ‘an amazing experience; first getting to know more about the history of IofC, then little by little I discovered more about what I wanted to do in life. I had an idea but now I am completely sure; all this by doing all the different tasks, and listening to really interesting people.’ 

(Photo: Barry Crisp)
(Photo: Barry Crisp)
Others, such as environmental scientist Scott Darby, said that the School had encouraged them to search for their vocation in life. ‘I met people that have truly inspired me,’ he said, while Adam Papka, a psychology student from Sheffield, added that ‘Learning more about IofC and its absolute standards was nothing short of inspirational. Above all, much of what we learnt went beyond the surface of each of us to something deeper, almost anthropological, which relates not to just some people but the very essence of our shared collective human consciousness. Through this, the wisdom we learned gave everyone a huge boost to seek their vocation.’

The success of the School was built on three things that I hadn’t seen before,’ reported one of the young IofC organisers. ‘First, it allowed younger people to discover the history of IofC, its four absolute standards [honesty, purity, unselfishness and love] and the idea of quiet time, directly from IofC veterans who had firsthand experience of IofC as a phenomenon that had changed individual hearts as well as public policy.

Second, while the message of IofC was unfettered and uncompromised, it was expressed in a culture with which most Western young people would be comfortable; it was on their turf and devoid of antiquated conventions or attitudes that sometimes come across as unthinking and prejudiced.

School for Changemakers 2010
School for Changemakers 2010
Lastly, the programme was not a one-off, quick fix, once in a lifetime event. It was understood as one stage in a lifetime’s project which, for most participants, built on the excellence and a near decade long one-to-one mentoring programme by Learn to Lead, an independent developmental initiative for adults and young people, whose organisers are IofC people.’

For many who attended the School for Changemakers, the daily practice of the morning quiet time has become a habit, say the organisers. They trust that this will lead to far-reaching changes in their personal, professional and spiritual lives and, through this, in the world. 

For more information, and to read a report written by participants, please visit www.schoolforchangemakers.org.

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