The power of personal leadership programs for (young) adults in heterogeneous groups
Personal Leadership programs are often executed in rather homogeneous groups. So what happens if you mix cultures, ages and backgrounds? Here is what we experienced in our work for the Mountain Child Care foundation.
Initially, my partner Mark Simons and I founded Mountain Child Care in 2011 to help Nepalese orphans and street adolescents to bridge the gap with society. The personal leadership program aims to support these youngsters in their journey into adulthood and a working life. An important part of the program is the QuestTrek, a six-day leadership hike through the Himalayas. Soon the idea arose to introduce Dutch youngsters and professionals into these QuestTreks, treating them all as equals. With this mixing of cultures, ages and histories, something magical happened.
We saw that working with these diverse groups helped to shift perspectives and made it more difficult for participants to fall into learned behaviors. The participants connected at a more basic, human level, which is exactly what we want for our participants. Incredibly meaningful experiences and connections were created when the participants connected at this human level, sharing dreams and fears, and experiencing that the big questions in life are universal. For many participants, it was a life-changing experience.
The Co-Active framework forms the basis of the QuestTrek together with Otto Scharmer’s Theory U. The QuestTrek connects the participants to the four cornerstones of the Co-Active model: people are naturally creative, resourceful and whole; dance in this moment; focus on the whole person; and evoke transformation. In this way, it connects them to their authentic being and to taking responsibility. When people get to this core space, differences disappear. Leadership is timeless. In its essence it is simply being who you are. Theory U shapes the process we go through in the six days, moving from closed mind, to open mind, open heart and open will. During this process, we are constantly dealing with the saboteur voices that surface — the “yes, but.” In the final one-and-a-half days, the key step is made: bringing the learning into everyday life. We discover how to forward the action and make concrete what we have experienced.
The Co-Active community has supported me in many ways. First of all, the leaders I met along the way challenged me to make my dream a reality, and I am very thankful they did! And second, by giving me a scholarship, they enabled me to certify as a Co-Active coach and follow the first retreat of the Leadership program. Everything I received I can pass on and help enrich the lives of many (young) people, both Nepalese and Dutch.
At Mountain Child Care, our goal is bigger than inspiring (young) people. We aim to enrich the Dutch educational system with personal leadership. That is why, in 2014, we founded the social enterprise MyQuest. All the youngsters we work with feel that this is what’s been missing: learning at school, but not in school, to look at yourself in a deep way, and learning how to move your life forward. We were so proud to be awarded best practice in educational innovation in 2014 at the “Education of the Heart” conference. This congress was inspired and attended by the Dalai Lama. The students feel that this kind of experiential learning in nature, based on the principles of positive psychology, should be part of their school curriculum. There is a hunger for this kind of education.
We offer strong programs for students aged 17 to 23, mixing our students with refugees or seasoned professionals. In this mix, there is a bonus for everyone. The students, for instance, become more grateful for the privileges they have and get a more realistic view of their professional career. The refugees feel deeply welcomed and establish a profound network. And the professionals experience how young adults think and can recruit those with strong potential. More than ever, companies realize that young adults are the motor behind tomorrow’s innovations. What works in Nepal now works in the Netherlands.