Inspiration and Exchange

Does the dream of a better, sustainable world have to remain just that – a dream? DAAD scholarship holders met at the University of Freiburg February 25th and 26th to discuss this very question. The focus of this second “Millennium Express” event was “Inspiring Change Towards a Green Economy”. True to its title, the weekend conference offered plenty of inspiration.

What does an opera tenor have to do with leadership? In awe, 30 seminar participants watched a video of Placido Domingo belting out an aria accompanied by a full orchestra. At first the students seem dumbfounded by the question. But as they continue to watch, the answer soon begins to emerge. The conductor, by definition in charge of the situation, steps back in order to give the soloist room for improvisation. “Complex global issues can no longer be solved by a single person at the top looking down,” explains guest speaker Benjamin Kafka, using the video example to make his point. “It’s now about common goals and collaboration.”

The people who came to hear him speak – young professionals and executives from developing countries currently enrolled in Masters programmes at German universities – were there to learn about change management. The participants are sponsored by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) programme “Postgraduate Courses for Professionals with Relevance to Developing Countries”. The programme turns 25 next year.

Developing visions

Benjamin Kafka told his listeners that he’d teach them how to develop their own utopian ideas. He and his agency ImPULS specialise in training and driving change processes. First, workshop participants were told to draw their vision of a sustainable future. The pictures included rainbows arched about brightly coloured landscapes, a skyscraper city abutting a rural scene with tractors working fields and fishing boots in a river throwing out their nets. The students, exposed to a range of scientific theories, were then asked to develop their own theory for achieving transformation and to consider their own role in implementing it. “Ideally the people walk out of the workshop with the desire to turn a vision into reality and a clear idea of who they can work with to make it happen,” says Kafka.

The change management workshop is not designed to deliver easy answers or ready-made solutions. Its goal is to initiate and foster reflection. “One thing became perfectly clear to me,” says Joseph Faniyan from Ghana. “Change starts with the individual. You have to live the change you want to see happen.” Kelli Rose Pearson from the USA has taken it one step further: “I now have a small project outlined, and I’m really looking forward to discussing it with others.”

More impressions from the workshop in our image gallery on facebook

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