Youth Community Leader Dialog

Since last August, I’ve been involved in a Tohoku restration project, “Youth Community Leader Dialog (YCLD).” This initiative is taken the lead by NPO Miratuku (meaning “Emerging Future”), the Berkana Institute, and KEEP Foundation as a result of 311.

YCLD aims to offer an opportunity for us who reside in Japan facing the gigantic crisis to co-create resilient community where we can lean to each other for today and tomorrow. We specifically focus on nurturing youth (but not excluded) leaders who are to take the initiative on the current challenges. Nonetheless, interestingly enough, a wide variety of generations gather to support the younger generations and mentorship is generated.

YCLD is a three-day workshop held in Kiyosato, Yamanashi Prefecture, the foot of Mt. Fuji. Our facilitator team (we call it a “hosting team”) consists of Japanese as well as foreigners. Amazingly, the foreign hosts fly all the way from the States, Latin America, Oceania, or Europe to Japan just for this workshop! Therefore, the workshop is conducted bilingual with excellent interpreters.

Participants have a series of intensive dialog that rarely happen in our busy daily life, revisit their fundamental values, become aware of who they are and how they are connected to society, and discover an elegant minimum action step to take from now on. We strongly believe that conscientious and deliberate communication is the core competence that today’s leaders must have because the leaders are required to form the new teams, organizations, and systems to respond to rapid social, economic and political changes. The workshop is designed in a way that the participants experience deep dialog to open up themselves and develop trustworthy and lasting relationships with others. It is stunning to witness how much we are able to accomplish and build rapport with strangers for merely three days. As long as we know how to liberate ourselves just a bit from our old nutshell and accept the way we are, others come closer to us automatically.

We, the hosting team, has very very intense meetings during the workshop because we improvise and decide what we do with the participants along the way. We roughly design the program (how the workshop flows throughout three days) in advance (the day before!) but continue to make adjustments and sometimes major changes as we listen to the participants’ voices. This design process isn’t a piece of cake, but enables me to develop an active listening skill and refine an ability to sense “ba.” A phenomenon arises and passes by at each and every moment. We can never anticipate things perfectly. Even if we design a beautiful program of three days, it might not simply fit the participants’ needs or particular situations where we happen to be. Therefore, we create a few plans, carry out one of them, sense the space (ba) to see if that works or not, and persistently revise it.

Another remarkable characteristic of the design process is that we use dialog as a method of planning. In general, dialog is considered to be unpractical so that time is wasted while nothing is decided. It’s true in many occasions. Nevertheless, once you learn how to get rid of your attachment to your “good” ideas but tap into your honest thoughts based on your intuition, dialog can be a powerful way to stimulate ideas and make a decision.

Many participants reach to striking realization of self and go through significant shifts in their mind and heart. Positive impact that the participants get seems to be much bigger than I imagine, even when I feel that I could have done differently. This makes me more humble, and more cautious about my behavior and words because I can’t expect how and when I possibly influence others’ life and because I can’t control whether influence is positive or negative. That’s all up to recipients.

We have hosted the workshop four times in 2011 (I missed the first one, though) and the fifth one is upcoming in March. I’m excited to plunge into the new community that will be presenting itself.

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