2010 diary insert by Melody Hossaini, InspirEngage International.
When InspirEngage International delivers its skills development training we always say to reflect on experiences to make the learning stick- well true to form, I thought I would reflect on the year gone by for InspirEngage International.
2009 saw the launch of InspirEngage- and the start of many exciting global projects! You can see more details on our websitewww.inspirengage.com but to name a few- delivered first of its kind training in the Middle East and wrote a ‘Youth Engagement Strategy’ for Philips Lighting. 2009 also saw InspirEngage project manage an overland journey and preparations across some 100 countries for United Nations Climate Talks in Copenhagen for our client British Council, where we also co-managed the youth programme for the inspiring climate advocates.
One young person stood out in my mind. Her name; Caroline Carolissen from South Africa. A young girl who one night, over milk and cookies shared her moving story with me which brought her (and I) to tears. She inspired me greatly. Where she came from she had little opportunities and suddenly she found herself at this very important United Nations conference where you were likely to run into some of the most influential people in the world (such as Barack Obama), and the way Caroline embraced this opportunity taught me a lesson. At the end of each day, she would have a glow about her as she would proudly and humbly show all the business cards she had gathered that day and all the people she had forged links with- links which clearly meant the world to her. It taught me a lesson in never taking anything for granted- a lesson that there are endless young people who just need an opportunity to shine. An opportunity to be on a platform and have a voice. Young people who may not have been born into favourable circumstances to allow them to otherwise. People who have nothing but give everything.
She crumbled me to pieces, when on the last night (I was working late and was unable to say goodbye to her before she left for South Africa), I came back to find she had bought a beautiful flower arrangement as a gift for inspiring and supporting her. But what she didn’t know, is that she inspired me, much more.
2009 ended deliciously with InspirEngage featuring on the Queen’s Speech (never thought I’d see the day!) for our work at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting where I delivered a key note speech ‘How to Change the World’ as well as skills development training. (experiences in the Caribbean are for another day- suffice to say “Gaza mi sey”!!)
2010, was the year to take stock of InspirEngage’s growth and finally take some time out to launch our online presence- website, facebook, twitter etc! I would like to deeply thank the very talented Mohammad Bilal for his support on this.
I have continued mentoring the several amazing young people who may have needed guidance at times, and highlighted this year a lot more the importance of young people being able to go into business and enterprise. In mid 2010, InspirEngage supported an event hosted by Bloom Trust International around encouraging young people into business and increasing the number of start-ups.
In the summer of 2010, InspirEngage partnered with LEAD International to deliver advanced climate skills development training for British Council’s Challenge Europe Climate Advocates from countries across Europe. The training covered Leadership, advanced Project Management including managing relationships with Stakeholders as well as the development of successful partnerships. Importantly, this training had an aim of ‘Cascading the Learning’, meaning we trained the Advocates to be able to train others (Train the Trainer). Met some incredibly talented young people with some fantastic ideas (waiting for that climate change friendly dance floor in Finland!). Must also say, how much I enjoyed working with Edward Kellow from LEAD.
More recently, InspirEngage International was invited back to the Middle East (this time Kuwait) to follow up on the extensive work we have undertaken in the region to support the growth of youth leadership in a sustained framework of support. In 2009, we learned for the first time what working with Gulf countries was like- new and very interesting experience! It is in Arabic culture, to generally, be very relaxed (more relaxed than the Caribbean I may add!). They get things done in their own time (with much style and elegance at that). This year we had visitors from Italy and China. In 2008, we worked in East Asia and saw the unfathomable hard-working nature of East Asia who work to 8.30-23.00 working schedules! You can imagine the confusion of the young person from China named Jenna who said “Why is everybody sitting around and just talking- we aren’t working”- to which the Middle Easterners confidently replied “don’t worry- this is how we work, all will be done in time!” and it was!
An aspect of InspirEngage which I think brings me most pleasure are moments such as this- moments when you learn something about another culture and that, one way is not perhaps the right way! There is no ‘right’ way. Cultures are different, and we must have faith in that.
A special mention to Aalia Al-Shalan, who has astounded me with her growth. In the first training last year she was too shy to say her name, and now is the team-leader in Kuwait and hosted the first school event on climate change in Kuwait! She accredits the InspirEngage training, but I know better- she had it within her- sometimes we just need the right opportunities and circumstances to test our skills out.
A funny memory was when she very kindly invited me to a Kuwaiti wedding. I was so touched and keen to go and learn more about the Arabic culture- however the small problem was that I was at the mall when she asked me and had to go straight from there and was wearing jeans and sandals! Can honestly say, I have never felt such shame! It would’ve been alright if it were a normal wedding but this particular wedding looked like the Couture Collection of 2010 in Vogue! Aalia proudly stood by me and introduced me to her friends and I was touched by her kindness.
I could go on forever about the incredible people I have met and worked with this year- but I will leave you with this.
Have you ever read something that resonates with you so deeply, you feel it life-changing? I read a quote by Ralph Nader which brought on the epiphany that true leadership isn’t being able to create followers (contrary to popular belief) but a true leader is someone who creates more Leaders. I experienced something this year (which I am unable to talk about as yet) which challenged me and made me learn that I am the sort of leader who wants to make it my purpose to create more leaders- not followers, that’s what my purpose has been with InspirEngage, and it will continue to be my vision in the year to come in 2011.
Finally (I promise!), I would like to extend a profound gratitude for, first of all for reading this far down (!) and secondly for all the support you have shown me and InspirEngage. Thank you.
My warmest wishes for a prosperous 2011!
Founder & Director, InspirEngage International
31st December 2010.