By
Chris Evans
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10 July, 2012
SfCM group photo
SfCM group photo

The 2012 School for Changemakers summer conference took place June 22-24 at Liverpool Hope University

A wet Friday afternoon in June, and participants are registering at a desk in Liverpool Hope University for the School for Changemakers (SfCM). Behind the desk is Denny Braggins, one of the two from Initiatives of Change (IofC) who direct the SfCM, showing no signs of the short nights which seem to be part of the event for those responsible. He is assisted by several alumni of previous SfCMs.

At registration, some received 'henna' markings
At registration, some received 'henna' markings
There are 68 participants in all, of which 18 are alumni who are there to help and perhaps to refresh their own original experience, and 10 are faculty or 'IofC  veterans', of whom more later. The rest are students from all over Britain, eager and seemingly well prepared for ‘what could be a very important weekend’ as one described it to me.

On the first evening, and twice again during the weekend, we divided into four learning tracks:

  • Vocation and the heart of IofC
  • Being a social entrepreneur
  • Education – the only way to bring change
  • Justice, integrity and the flourishing life

I found myself in the first of these, where separate groups studied and discussed clips from the film Crossroad about Frank Buchman and For the Love of Tomorrow about Irene Laure, with the help of ‘IofC veterans’. They were intent not just to learn what happened at key moments in IofC’s development, but to understand as completely as possible how, why and what it must have felt like. Finally, on Sunday afternoon, each group presented its conclusions to the other, putting across a lively understanding of the inner changes that took place and their impact on events.

Participants at a plenary
Participants at a plenary
Meanwhile the mornings were taken up with group meetings facilitated by SfCM alumni, and by plenary sessions at which speakers shared something of their own journey and took questions. The main speakers were Krish Raval (the other director of the SfCM), Barry Crisp (head of communications for iGenius), Dr Omnia Marzouk (President of IofC International) and Dr Bob Doherty (of Liverpool Hope University, one of the pioneers of fair trading).

For those of us designated ‘IofC veterans’, it was an inspiring weekend, not least because of the warmth of inclusion we felt from the much younger majority. Rarely have I been asked so often how I came to be involved in IofC, and the war-time experiences of Fiona Daukes and Elsa Vogel clearly went deep with participants.

And the participants themselves? One of them summed up her reaction on facebook:

'Back home after a life changing weekend at the School for ChangeMakers in Liverpool! Time to step outside my comfort zone, take risks and not be afraid of making mistakes and even failure. Time to change me as person because its only after I change myself, I can change the world.'

Prof. Pillay addresses the SfCM
Prof. Pillay addresses the SfCM
The SfCM is a partnership between Initiatives of Change, Liverpool Hope University and iGenius – a company that promotes social enterprise all over the world. It enjoys the enthusiastic support of the university’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Gerald Pillay, who spoke at the final meeting. Its website (www.schoolforchangemakers.org) describes it as a residential programme for young people who want to initiate and sustain positive change in their lives and beyond.

The SfCM is a year-round programme, with the stated promise that ‘following the programme you will be part of a dynamic network of future leaders who are making a difference to the world’. A few of the participants and many alumni will take part in the Initiatives of Change Conference series in Caux, Switzerland this summer, as interns or in other capacities. The autumn will see the first of several re-unions, where participants meet to extend their initial experience and develop an active network of alumni. And of course it is not too soon to be thinking who should attend next year’s SfCM, whose date is now set for June 27 - 30.

Photos by Getty Musiiwa

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