In the wake of global struggles such as the financial crisis and political conflicts, hope still lies within the increasing number of young people who want to make a real difference, believes WYSE – an organisation committed to the promotion of visionary leadership.
Taking place in a number of locations across Europe, Asia, the Americas and Australia, WYSE’s International Leadership Programme involves practical and experiential learning exercises, covering: diplomacy and successful relationships, self-development, the economy and the environment.
“Our approach works by supporting people, who feel inspired to lead change, in gaining clarity about how they can make a difference in the world,” explains WYSE. This is achieved through a diverse range of activities, containing elements of team building, physical activity, drama, music, art, discussion and writing, as well as the more traditional techniques of education. A coaching support programme continues after the training, to help participants realise their goals and stay focused.
WYSE has worked with 18-32 year-olds from over 100 different countries and has a dedicated team of professional facilitators, who generously donate their time to the charity. Young people attending the courses are inspired to address crucial issues through active global citizenship and from the programme, participants develop a worldwide network of friends with shared values and objectives. This is a key aspect in helping them make an impact in the world, says WYSE, who wants to capture, on a large scale, what it sees as a growing enthusiasm in young people to interact with others internationally.
Recent work carried out by participants includes that of a young Indian woman, who was inspired to help her own village. After raising the necessary money, she brought in the physical help of fellow WYSE participants and during the winter holidays, they built a school and rice-mill for the community.
Meanwhile, a young homeless South African man trying to support younger siblings, who had been thrown in jail and forced to endure beatings, discovered at WYSE that he was not alone. Through the programme, he felt empowered to bring about change and is using his experience to work with other disadvantaged youth.
In the Middle-East, Africa and Europe, young men and women have committed to changing attitudes around racial discrimination, violence against women, and awareness of sexual health. The influence of WYSE training also extends to the business world, where young executives from North America are seeking to improve communication within their large corporations, and influence their companies on environmental issues.
Bursaries are available for applicants from underprivileged areas or socially excluded backgrounds, while some participants have engaged in fundraising or acquired sponsorship to cover their costs.
Pranav Budhathoki, a young person from Nepal, who took part in the WYSE training, says: “It’s been inspirational – not just motivational; much deeper and more meaningful than that. I’ve discovered myself.It might well be the greatest discovery of my life.”
Another participant, Fabio Romano from Brazil, agrees, referring to it as the best experience he has ever had: “I feel I’m ready to start making a big change in my personal life and in my community.”
At the heart of the WYSE training is a values-based approach. It focuses on helping people to identify the guiding principles they use to make positive life choices. “Values are universal in nature and transcend the boundaries of nationality, culture and religion,” explains WYSE, adding: “These shared values need to be reawakened, nurtured and sustained for the advancement of the world.”
Through this approach the organisation is redefining the notion of leadership for young people. “Unfortunately,” explains WYSE, “leadership is often understood to be an authoritarian and hierarchical concept. Our research shows that many young people do not trust the more traditional approaches to leadership they see in the world today and believe the current leaders are responsible for many of the problems they will inherit.”
But WYSE believes that every person has the potential for leadership and the empowerment of young people needs to be based on the development of their inner strengths, rather than reliance on external factors: “Leadership is an expression of our willingness to engage in the issues and challenges that we see around us. It’s about finding creative solutions to global and local problems. Each individual needs to find something that works for them, and each person has the potential to find their own answers.”