No comments yet
09 July, 2011
School for Changemakers 2011 (Photo: Courtney Straker)
School for Changemakers 2011 (Photo: Courtney Straker)

Courtney Straker assesses the enduring impact of the School for Changemakers on her and others:

After a sensational School for Changemakers week in the summer of 2010, it wasn’t surprising to discover that 15 alumni and six IofC stalwarts flocked to help make this year’s event even better. They did just that. After months of meticulous planning and organising, the School for Changemakers 2011 swung into action.

The four-day leadership development course, 24-27 June, based at Liverpool Hope University, brought together 54 carefully selected, mainly British, fresh-faced recruits. They were mostly in their twenties to early thirties, and represented a diversity of faiths, occupations and social, educational and geographical backgrounds.

School for Changemakers 2011
School for Changemakers 2011
With the busy four days as varied as the participants were, there were plenty of thought provoking and inspiring activities to really test and question the ways in which the spiritual, personal and profession dimensions of change can manifest in today's world. Following daily 7.30 am quiet times for personal reflection, morning plenaries hosted many speakers, some of whom had travelled far and wide to join us. Each keynoter offered inspiring and provoking ideas based on his or her own experiences of how positive change can occur in the world, starting with oneself.

The range of speakers, topics and ideas included:

  • Social entrepreneurship presented by i-genius creator Tommy Hutchinson;

  • Houston-based space shuttle engineer Douglas Mallete’s futuristic thoughts on sustainability;

  • Paul Moore speaking on his time as the Head of Risk Management at HBOS when he 'blew the whistle' on corporate recklessness;

  • Consultant Paediatrician and IofC International Council Member, Dr Omnia Marzouk talking about how the golden thread of calling can be of practical relevance in forging successful careers;

  • Dr Bob Doherty, Head of the Business School at Liverpool Hope University referring to his pioneering efforts to foster fair trade, farmer-owned enterprises in the chocolate and nut markets;

  • And Liverpool Hope University Vice-Chancellor Prof Gerald Pillay's spellbinding valedictory address in which he affirmed the School for Changemakers as an initiative that would help his institution to prepare learners ‘not only for the world of work, but for the work of the world’.

Intense Question and Answer sessions with each speaker were followed by mid-morning Community Groups. These were a chance for the participants to reflect further on the morning themes and safely discuss opinions and ideas with people of vastly different perspectives. The Community Groups were facilitated mostly by prepared alumni of last year’s School for Changemakers.

Open Space plenary session (Photo: Courtney Straker)
Open Space plenary session (Photo: Courtney Straker)
Opportunities for discovery and shared wisdom continued after lunch in the four 'learning tracks' or workshops led by experts and learners from a variety of backgrounds. The 'tracks' allowed participants to have an in-depth 'taster' on topics that they had a particular interest in.

The Initiatives of Change track featured testimonials from Fiona Daukes, Howard Grace, Gerald Henderson, Judith Henderson, Claire Leggat and Omnia Marzouk. It included interventions from younger facilitators who had been experimenting with Quiet Time and the four standards of absolute honesty, purity, unselfishness and love, advocated by IofC, since the last School for Changemakers.

The track honed into IofC founder Frank Buchman's Keswick experience and the promptings that lead to his 1938 declaration at Visby, Sweden; the life of French post-war politician Irene Laure, her forgiveness and apology to the Germans in Caux, Switzerland, and subsequent work of reconciliation. The track raised the philosophy and methods of Initatives of Change as practical tools to lead a fulfilling life and will be consolidated in future reunions and follow-up events. As with last year, the IofC track went down like a storm with participants who were visibly stirred and affected by its contents.

The chance offered by the School for Changemakers to hold in-depth debates on serious personal or world issues, with people from all walks of life, is one rarely found in our society today. With conflicts and prejudices scattered across Britain, it is joyous and refreshing to form meaningful friendships across vastly different cultures in a safe, alcohol-free and friendly environment. While being honest about their differences, participants soon realised just how similar they were in their desires for change and a supportive network of motivated individuals who can collaborate to improve the way society works.

This is the brilliance of the School for Changemakers. It brings together proactive young people and offers them a transformative vision in an environment designed to help them grow and learn. It provides the inspiration needed to get the ball rolling to help to listen to the voice of conscience. It is a starting block for those who have the potential to do great things in the world but who are yet unsure about how to realise or apply their gifts.

Connections in community (Photo: Courtney Straker)
Connections in community (Photo: Courtney Straker)
There are few better ways to enlighten people than to have them be part of a community comprising wise older friends who have had a lifetime of experimenting with the truths of IofC, significant experts in a host of disciplines, experienced teachers, intimate group debates, times of quiet, discussions into the early hours of the morning, stories over breakfast and jokes over dinner, heartfelt poetry, music and dance, and a sharing of talents of all shapes and sizes.

The School for Changemakers spanned only four days, yet for many people like me, its impact has been indelible. Having attended last year and this, I notice that some of my fundamental ways of doing things have begun to change. I was most affected by Omnia Marzouk's sessions in both years. Whereas before I would be likely to harbour grudges against those who have treated me badly, I now know that forgiveness is the better path. While I am not always successful, I now try to pause, reflect and then strive to do what is the right in a situation and not just what appears to be best for me.

The personal and community journey that began for my peers and me during the School for Changemakers will continue during reunions in Sheffield and Greencoat Place, IofC’s London centre, at the IofC international centre in Caux, Switzerland, and elsewhere.

Whatever paths our lives may take, as School for Changemakers alumni, we are confident that we have met something significant and special not just for ourselves but for those around us. The residential aspect of the School for Changemakers has ended for another year, but its spirit endures.

Courtney Straker

Courtney is 20 years old and has just completed her first year of undergraduate studies at Brunel University in London. She met the School for Changemakers through her association with a Learn to Lead programme in Sheffield.

Related Posts