WISE Emerging Leaders is a yearlong fellowship program that aims to cultivate the next generation of systems leaders in education with the tools, skills, community, and mindset required to transform their communities and change systems. iACT’s Team and Operations Manager, Danielle Kercher, was selected as part of the first contingents and shares a few insights from the experience below.
My participation in the WISE Emerging Leadership Program was my first experience in any sort of fellowship program. To be honest I wasn’t sure what to expect and was quite anxious about how the program experience was going to be. Was it going to be competitive? Do others have more professional experience than me? Were their projects better? Would I get along with everybody?
My worries ended up being inconsequential. During the first three out of the ten days we were there, instead of talking about our organizations or our projects, we focused on ourselves, the “emerging leaders.” We talked about our lives, our dreams, our hopes, our failures. We learned about each other and we learned about ourselves. We worked together to create a vision of what we wished the world looked like: access to quality education for everyone, climate stability, economic prosperity, etc.; ultimately paving the way for a flourishing, peaceful, and joyous world.
Then we dove deeper into what systems in the world look like, who are the actors that play a role in a system, how to catalyze systemic change by embodying the system itself, “weaving leadership” and how to align different people, groups, and organizations to a common goal, what does wellbeing, communication, and collaboration look like for ourselves, our organizations and our relationships…
To whoever is reading this, I’m sorry if it sounds like unintelligible jargon. We covered a lot. So much that I cannot fit it into 400-700 words. But on my flight back home, as I tried to process the ten day whirlwind adventure I had just experienced, the clearest idea that kept coming back to me was human first.
To become a changemaker, you have to know who you are. Know yourself as a human first, before you know yourself as a professional or a leader.
To facilitate true collaboration that yields true impact, you need to feel connected to each other and put aside your professional and organizational egos. Know each other as humans first.
To create true change in the world and help others, you need to know who you’re helping and what they truly need. Know people as humans first, and keep the goal in the center, not yourself or your organization.
Everything exists to satisfy a human need. From basics like being fed, having shelter, feeling safe to being loved, valued, and having purpose. Every business, every nonprofit, every corporation exists fundamentally to serve a human need. We can get so caught up in the world and all its distractions, even organizations that are trying to do good. I think sometimes we lose sight of who we are, who we’re trying to help, and how we go about doing it.
If there is one thing that was reiterated upon to me throughout this journey, it was that when everything feels complicated, too complex, and overwhelming, stop. Put the human being first, and everything else will fall into place.
These programs are entirely community-led. They made every decision from which day to run the program to what hours and to who will be on the teaching team each day. The teams are diverse and yet they have committed to working together.
Trust in the process. Trust in the modeling before the explanation. Trust in the people. Trust in the children, and they will trust you.
If there is anything that can foster community between people and across cultures, it is sharing a meal and a cup of tea. While we do that, we will also be sure to sprinkle in some early childhood development, mindfulness, and games!