ISH Youth-led Youth Empowerment and Leadership Training 2019

by Naia McPherson

In April of this year, I had the opportunity to travel to Cuba to teach students from the International School of Havana. In previous years I have taught at the annual CYCLe event in Chiang Mai, Thailand. This was my first time co-facilitating a group of students as part of an independent event. The overall experience was very enlightening not only because I got to travel, teach, and inspire (three of my favorite things) but mostly because I got to meet a group of students who are genuinely concerned about the wellness of our earth and are actively seeking means of being involved in the sustainability movement. In other words, I got to meet the leaders and change agents of tomorrow, or as I like to say, TODAY, because there’s no time like the present. It was very inspiring to watch them grasp important concepts and get excited about the chance to make a difference.

Roughly 40 students from ISH traveled to Varadero, Cuba, to attend this 3-day training centered around sustainability, leadership, and systems thinking. Over the course of the training, students were introduced to various systems thinking tools created and/or adapted by Compass Education to teach people about non-linear thinking, systems mapping, and creating action plans, amongst other important topics. The training provided ISH students with a collection of tools that, with practice, help develop critical thinking, problem-solving, and leadership skills in and outside of the classroom. For example, the Systems Iceberg was introduced as a method of analyzing a situation and identifying its root cause. This tool can be used to tackle a big-picture/world problem, or a smaller more personal issue; either way, it challenges students to dig deep in order to search for and find an answer to any problem they may have identified. This event was highly successful in my opinion as the students walked away from it confidently with tangible action plans and a better understanding of the importance of sustainability. It was an experience I would recommend to anyone and everyone.

Action Plans for Mae Kapiang from CYC 2017

Compass Youth Camp 2017 Reflections

During the last week of June 2017, high school students from seven countries met for seven days at the Traidhos Three Generational Learning Community in Mae Rim, Thailand for Compass Education’s annual Compass Youth Leadership Camp. Known to its alumni and team as CYC, this camp bonds together aspiring leaders from around Asia who are keen to deepen their knowledge and abilities to direct meaningful work in their home communities and our world. By learning more about systems thinking, sustainable development and working in a team, they are further empowered to be community change makers.

The week revolved around four main strands. The first series of activities were the learning modules. These 15 workshop styles sessions were the main “learning” of the camp taking place in our cozy classroom and led by five youth facilitators. This team consisted of past campers whose energy and experience bolstered the atmosphere and fun of the camp. As one camper commented, “I was inspired by them”, and they certainly helped accomplish a lot this week! These sessions taught about systems thinking, sustainability, the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGS), the Compass Tools designed by Alan Atkinson for systems thinking, and prepared campers to apply their learning to real world applications.

In fact, they had to apply their learning during the camp as part of our community investigation and homestay in Karen village, Mae Kapiang. Here, campers inquired into the opportunities and challenges this village faces in promoting sustainable development. Through observation, interviews and learning more about Karen culture, the campers were able to gather real data to create system maps about the Mae Kaplan community and thus identify opportunities for their future prosperity.

Campers recommended to the village that they consider creating a study room to help young villagers learn in a collaborative environment, Ted style talks hosted bi-weekly to share ideas about sustainable agriculture, job opportunities and other community knowledge, and using more sustainable agriculture techniques, reducing the need for chemical pesticides, like using Biochar. Innovations were shared through presentations to representatives of the community including the assistant to the village head, our host family and representatives from the local Women’s Group. Ultimately, the decision rests with the community as to whether or not they will try any of these ideas, but hearing their feedback helped the campers learn more about the importance of context and perspective in community development work.

Alongside this new learning and community investigation, campers engaged in a series of team building and leadership activities on the beautiful Traidhos campus. Reflection on her camp experience, one camper  commented  that she “… loved how the activities and team-building were connected to leadership”. Whether building protective casings for fruit or attempting to navigate challenging group tasks while blindfolded, these activities encouraged campers to take turns leading their teams to develop their communication and creative problems solving. Being put in leadership positions not only helped to grow confidence, but it helped them work together and prepare for their culminating task of the week: community facilitation.

On the last day of the camp, campers tried their hand at leading a workshop on systems thinking. We welcomed guests from around the Traidhos and Chiang Mai area to learn more about Systems Thinking as our campers broke into teams and took turns facilitation and leading the group through activities like the web game to understand the complex interconnections of a system and systems maps to help keep track of those connections and find opportunities for change. Though challenging to manage a big group, our campers handles this with determination, resourcefulness and strong teamwork.

All in all, this year’s campers demonstrated tremendous energy, creativity and passion! We, at Compass Education, are eager to see how they will apply their learning to projects in their home communities and hope to share their stories  with you in the not too distant future.

Compass Youth Camp 2016 Comes to a Close

A Glimpse into the Action at the Compass Youth Camp 2016

On Opportunities, from a Youth

Learning to Lead in a Changing World

Student Empowerment Training at Dalian American International School (DAIS)