The School for Changemakers (SfCM) marked its 5th Anniversary, that has arisen out of partnership between Liverpool Hope University and Initiatives of Change (IofC). The event provides a networking opportunity for participating young people, aged between 18-28, moving into internships, work opportunities and who have been identified as emerging leaders of the future. In partnership, these two organisations bring a very diverse group of young people from many different countries and backgrounds to learn about aspects of ‘change’ from personal, professional and spiritual dimensions. The hope is to develop leaders who create positive changes in themselves, communities, countries and throughout the world.
As part of the School for Changemaker’s annual summer conference (20-22 June), 64 young people gathered from all across the UK and beyond at Liverpool Hope University to take part in an intensive, 3-day event entitled ‘Leading for Change’. Laura Noble, a participant, gives her personal account and impression of the 2014 conference.
Perhaps SfCM's most significant and focused times are delivered through the ‘learning tracks’. These are afternoon sessions focussed around certain aspects of change: Vocation, Business, Communities, Education, Environment or Politics.
Participants were asked to choose a learning track as a path of discovery. The tracks focus around deepening understanding regarding change in their respective area. These tracks were delivered by Sasha Shimina, Scott Darby, Chris Evans, Fiona Daukes, Elsa Vogel; David Curtis, Param Bhatia Singh and Daya Bhagawandas who had joined us from Australia.
We were a diverse group - warmly welcomed into a lecture theatre. We started to get to know each other by asking the people sitting next to us what makes them special. This was a fun activity as it helped us gauge what they thought of themselves and what they took pride in.
After choosing our learning track, we went to our respective rooms and met the leader of our track. I was in Daya's ‘Improve your potential’ track, where I learned about how the different parts of the brain are stimulated through our actions; how this knowledge shows us that by going back to our origins as infants, crawling and rolling, we can look after our brain, improve our core motor skills and the coordination between our sensory organs.
I found this particularly fascinating because Daya explained how by through these exercises and meditation, we would function better in many ways. An interesting example that she gave, is that many people who do not crawl enough as children, will struggle with reading and writing, as well as basic hand-eye coordination skills, such as tying shoe laces.
Our plenary sessions involved external speakers telling us about their experiences as a changemaker and how they came to find their path. This included the author of 'Farmageddon' as well as a lady who spoke about ‘Conscious Capitalism’. They told us their own views on the subject and gave presentations with statistics about the situations they spoke about.
The first talk of the evening was with Pat Magee and Jo Berry. The gave first-hand accounts of how they came to work together, having started out as victims, with the troubles in Northern Ireland. They talked about the pain and cost in the context of the Northern Irish troubles and were an inspirational example on forgiveness and reconciliation.
Jo told her story first - from how she had learned of her father's death, up to how she is now giving talks with Pat. The hope is to encourage reconciliation and peace between others. I found this stirring, as it showed how Jo has channeled her anger at the situation to find a way forward.
Kindling Friendships and Connections
On the final evening, we had a ‘talent night’ where participants of SfCM performed with dance, song and comedy. This gave everyone a chance to get to know each other in a more relaxed environment and let go of their inhibitions. We ended the night relaxing in groups, some of whom began spontaneously singing together.
Whilst enjoying the experience of SfCM this year, I managed to rekindle old friendships, as well as getting to know new people, and making new connections. I learned a lot about the human brain, and how we can look after ourselves better in order to improve our potential for creativity and flexibility, as well as my social skills. I felt that my confidence was boosted, and I could see a change in others over the three days.
I wish it had gone on for longer, and hopefully it will next year. It is great to make connections, but to strengthen them you need time. Fortunately we have reunions throughout the year, so I'll go to those and I will be able to see everyone again and learn more about the world around me
'I was especially moved by the talk by Jo Berry and Pat Magee. To hear a story of such grief followed by genuine forgiveness really hit home that any social conflict can be reconciled when one is prepared to truly listen to another person's viewpoint and circumstances.'
Gemma Perkins, Sheffield, Teacher and entrepreneur
'As a first time participant of the SfCM, I didn't quite know what to expect. Being immersed with such like-minded and genuine people for an entire weekend was pretty inspirational. Filling time with a lot of quiet time, time for reflection (something which I have carried on into my daily routine) and sharing stories and experiences was a brilliant way to get to know everybody in such a short amount of time. The types of people I met were absolutely fascinating with the underlying theme between everyone being to create a positive change; something you don't tend to automatically associate with this generation.'
Panisha Pindoria, London, Junior Advertising Executive
‘The SfCM was yet again an opportunity to grow and develop. Not simply on a knowledge or professional level but on a spiritual and human level. I came away from the SfCM stronger and more determined to carry on with my own personal change and with a renewed energy to push ahead with the change that I wish to make in the world.’
Scott Darby from Sheffield and recently finished a masters degree in land restoration
The SfCM team would also like to acknowledge its indebtedness to the following friends for their generosity of time and expertise in delivering this year’s programme:
We would like to thank all who help SfCM to happen. You know who you are, and our funders: The Irene Prestwich Trust once again provided funding to offer participant bursaries; The Austin Trust and our SfCM Alumni helped to raise additional funds.
Photos by Charlotte Sawyer