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.