Writing a report of an event that took a year to plan and involved over 500 student and teacher delegates is a challenge, as such this report is divided into the following sections:
- Compassionate Action: Catchy theme or guiding principle?
- How do you live up to the GIN mission?
- Keynote speakers: Afterthought or corner stone?
- Student empowerment
- Sustainable Action Plan (SAP) Workshops/Pyramid2012
- ICARE2: Actions speak louder than words
- Michael Furdyk/TakingITglobal (TIG)
- Post GIN reflections
Compassionate Action: Catchy theme or guiding principle?
The 2012 EARCOS Global Issues Network Conference took place at the International School Manila during the period 17-19th February 2012. GINManila2012 was based around the theme Compassionate Action, a theme that was designed to reflect what the ISM student-faculty steering committee identified as the two key prerequisites to tackling global issues; an appreciation of humanity as a whole and a willingness to act in the interests of humanity as a whole. Compassionate action was more than just a catchy title for GINManila2012. The reference to ‘compass’ alluded to Alan AtKisson’s compass of sustainability that the entire conference was based around. The word ‘action’ was included in the theme to emphasize the central role of action at GINManila2012 whether it is the sustainable action plans or in the day of ICARE2 service action in Manila.
How do you live up to the GIN mission?
The mission of GIN (as detailed below) is simple in theory but extremely complex in practice.
‘To empower young people to collaborate locally, regionally and globally in order to create sustainable solutions for global issues’
At GINManila2012 we were dedicated to living up to the GIN mission but felt strongly that students needed to be provided with a solid structure in order to achieve this; after all we are asking them to achieve where adults have failed.
In order to support students in achieving the GIN mission GINManila2012 did the following:
- Recruited Alan Atkisson as an opening keynote speaker and adopted the use of his pyramid tool so as to provide a structure to the conference and a method to the workshop sessions
- Trained our students in the use of the pyramid tool so that they would be empowered to take control of conference workshop facilitation
- Our student-faculty steering committee created a blog full of online resources so our student leaders could begin the pyramid process prior to the start of the conference proper. In effect the conference began over two months prior to delegates arriving in Manila, as that is when the workshops began.
- The entire conference of over 550 students and teachers all participated in a day of action in Manila so as the development of action plans was grounded in the reality of global issues in a developing Asian mega city.
- Recruited Michael Furdyk as the closing keynote speaker and awarded twenty grants to the TakingITGlobal Sprout program (an online mentoring course for young people with brilliant ideas for global issues focused initiatives but need support to make them happen).
Although there were many other important speakers and components to GINManila2012 it was the 5 developments above that provided us with the essential structure i.e. a means of making maximum use of the three day conference time, of directing students towards focused outcomes and providing them with the platform to implement their ideas post conference.
Keynote Speakers: Afterthoughts or cornerstones
‘What an inspiring speaker Mr AtKisson was. His sustainability compass is such a sensible way of viewing our life on Earth and the actions we should take.’
GINManila2012 had four keynote speakers:
- Alan Atkisson
- The Stairway Foundation
- Jurgenne Primavera
- Michael Furdyk
The choice of the opening and closing speakers was essential for the structure of GINManila2012 but as important as they were the significance of the Stairway Foundation and Jurgenne Primavera should not be ignored. Both Stairway and Jurgenne are local Filipino organizations that are involved with incredibly important work.
Stairway works with sexually abused street children and their keynote was in fact a theatre production performed by former participants of the program. Their performance was on the evening of the first day when most people were tired but the power and energy of the performance had everyone on the edge of their seats. As delegates left the conference to return to the hotel for the night they were left with plenty to think about prior to their day of service action in Manila.
Jurgenne Primavera was the Time Magazine environmentalist of the year in 2008 on account of her pioneering work on the vital importance of mangroves. It is something of an irony that despite being an internationally acclaimed award wining scientist Jurgenne is as unheralded in the Philippines mainstream as mangroves are among the average people on the street. Jurgenne’s keynote address on the final morning of the conference was sharply intelligent and delivered with humor much appreciated by the audience.
The decision to train our students in the use of the Pyramid toolkit and appoint them as workshop facilitators was based on the reasoning that GIN is about student empowerment. This decision also benefited our students’ conceptual understanding, knowledge base, trans-disciplinary skills development, dispositional awareness and emotional intelligence. An additional benefit of this decision was that it saved money that would have been spent on hiring workshop leaders, especially as all training of our students was in-house. Rather than recruit outside experts we worked with our students in the year preceding the conference and thus we developed as a community in the process. Observing the personal development of our students before during and after the conference has been quite awe inspiring!
Sustainable Action Plan (SAP) Workshops/Pyramid2012
GINManila2012 named the pyramid sessions Sustainable Action Plan (SAP) workshops, as the outcome of the process was a specific action plan developed using a sustainable methodology to tackle a specific problem. Below is a brief overview of the process (for instructional videos and other resources see www.ginmanila2012.wordpress.com/sap-methodology/).
‘Really, really fun! LOVING all the PYRAMID making.’
(Jerome de Jesus)
Stage 1: What is happening?
- Split into compass groups
- Identify a central challenge (in this case one of the issues from High Noon refined into a manageable sub issue)
- Identify common visions
- Identify indicators of the issue in each compass group and create behavior graphs of the trend
Stage 2: Why is it happening?
- Make connections between indicators
- Create systems maps
- Identify feedback loops and leverage points
Stage 3: What can we do?
- Idea brainstorming
Stage 4: How can we do it?
- Gillman’s equation
Stage 5: Let’s do it
- Ending debrief
- Sprout program
The decision to invite Alan and use his Pyramid toolkit provided the spark that created www.pyramid2012.wordpress.com, a global event with GINManila2012 at its centre. Alan was so inspired by the ISM invitation to open our conference, and by the fact that we were basing the entire conference around the toolkit that he created, that he felt obliged to take it further. Alan declared that the period February 17-19, 2012 would be the launch of a global pyramid-building event that would last until the end of March 2012. The viewers of the live stream of GINManila2012 from 23 different countries bare testament to the scale of the event that unfolded around GINManila2012 as do the reports that are being published and communicated on the Pyramid2012 Facebook page and website (a few of which are highlighted below).
ICARE2: Actions speak louder than words
‘What makes this conference special is the ICARE trips. I get to go hands-on action rather than staying and talking about problems and how to solve them. During the trip, I get to take a lot of photographs and interact with the kids living in the community.’
As stated previously we felt that it was imperative for students coming to Manila to discuss global issues to see more of Manila than the luxurious bubble that is ISM and its surroundings. ICARE is the name of the service week that all high school students participate in annually at ISM and thus we simply did it again for one day only and without leaving Manila. Although this was clearly an enormous logistical challenge, the feedback from students and teacher delegates was that ICARE2 was one of the most valuable components of GINManila2012 because as well as opening their eyes to the reality of life in Manila, and providing many examples of successful service projects, it provided balance to the conference and gave delegates a different context in which to network. Below is a selection of images from ICARE2.
The Tzu Chi Foundation
Renovate to Educate
Constructing Learning Through Technology/SPECS/Rags to Riches
Michael Furdyk/TakingITGlobal (TIG)
While Alan Atkisson provided the guiding methodology of GINManila2012 with his pyramid toolkit, Michael Furdyk provided the platform for continuity and actualization of the sustainable action plans developed during the SAP workshops. TIG is the world’s largest social network focused on global issues and Michael’s story of how he came to create it at an astonishingly young age had student and teacher delegates alike awestruck.
Michael performed four speaking engagements at GINManila2012; his first two sessions were held with the teacher delegates of the conference. While the students were working on their sustainable action plans Michael was opening the eyes of the teacher delegates to the potential of TIG to be of use in their classrooms and as a launch pad for student project ideas. Neither the student nor teacher delegates were yet aware of the fact that GINManila2012 and TIG had collaborated to provide grants to the students of each SAP workshop identified as the most likely to bring each plan to reality. The grants awarded were for the TIG Sprout program, an online course that pairs up young people with great global issues focused project ideas with mentors who have been their and done that. The objective of the course is to provide the young student innovators with the necessary toolkit and support to turn their plans into reality.
And so by the time that Michael came to give his closing keynote address the conference was alive with expectation and he did not disappoint!
Post GIN Reflections
It is my firm belief that GIN conferences should not be judged on the events of the conference proper but rather on the actions that they inspire. Right now it is far too early to measure the positive outcomes of GINManila2012 but it will be absolutely fascinating to see just how many of the project ideas generated during the conference materialize.