Charlotte Sawyer
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21 February, 2012

(Photo: Paul Briggs)
(Photo: Paul Briggs)

To a young person the lessons offered by history and experience are like the individual threads of a tapestry. They can only be understood as one completes a section and is able to stand back and take in the bigger view. A young person cannot achieve this through their individual experience and knowledge alone, something of which the newly formed International Support Team is well aware.

The International Support Team has been formed to bring greater capacity to the International Council and to the network of Initiatives of Change. We are beginning to sew our contributions to the tapestry and it is my pleasure to introduce a team of young emerging leaders. As a member of this new team I have considered the role of young leaders within Initiatives of Change and the wider global community, concluding that we need a hand to hold.

As a younger generation of those involved in Initiatives of Change we have inherited a culture of story-telling, and the practice of quiet times of reflection, the cornerstones of lasting change. Times of quiet and listening are two weapons with which to stand and fight against the threat of being a generation doomed to repeat the mistakes of the past. The warning heralded by George Santayana that those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it echoes in our collective ears.

Initiatives of Change is witnessing an emerging generation of leaders and change-makers. However without our hands firmly grasped together with the generations of change-makers who have gone before us, we will turn Hegel’s premonition into a prophecy when he asserted that 'what we learn from history is that man can never learn anything from history'.

Around the world there is a growing hope in young leaders. The consequences of mistakes made by governments and business leaders in the financial and environmental sectors have reverberated around the world. Evidence reveals that current graduates of the top 500 business schools understand that business can have a positive and meaningful impact on the world. In recent surveys graduates have cited issues such as sustainability, ethics and enhancing the not-for-profit sectors as their main business concerns. 

These few glittering threads in the world’s tapestry are encouraging. Yet they are just a response to recent problems with global consequences of which we are seeing the repercussions in our lifetimes. We need to also consider what problems are gathering momentum in the shadows? What warning signs are being ignored? Instead of reacting to loss, conflict and disaster, what lessons can youth learn from older generations in order to prevent such issues? Wisdom and a knowledge of the past are the ways with which to spot and prevent these problems.

In my own county I wonder if young people in the UK can spot the warning signs of imperial Britain’s past being taken off the teaching curriculum? Can the older generations warn us that a lack of understanding of and interaction with different cultures mixed with economic problems lead to conflict?

Young people have energy, enthusiasm and, at times, unlimited aspirations. However in order to lead we must learn from the mistakes and wisdom of people before us to have a comprehensive understanding of how to tackle the problems of this world. It is within this perspective that the International Support Team met for the first time over three weeks to work with the International Council in developing a strategy to support and enhance the work of the wider Initiatives of Change network and projects.

The IST sat and listened to the stories of Jim Baynard-Smith and David Young, both of whom had worked with the initiator of IofC, Frank Buchman. Questions such as "how does a team retain its unity?" and "what was your story of change?" were answered. It was a rewarding experience and I consider it to have been as important as our strategy and team building sessions.

To claim that there are eight new kids on the block might be an overstatement, an understatement or just incorrect! There are however eight dedicated workers who together form the International Support Team. To consider ourselves as a separate team with our roles, functions and vision isolated from the wider Initiatives of Change Network would leave us without much purpose or value.

 It is within this context that the International Support team locate ourselves amid the history and gathered values, vision and passion of Initiatives of Change. So please allow us to introduce ourselves within the framework of this wide and exciting global work of Initiatives of Change Click on this link to meet us.

Photography: Paul Briggs

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