Muhammed Kisirisa (26) from Uganda runs a community based organisation that helps hundreds of youths from Kampala’s poorest slum to get vocational training and get out of poverty. Lia Weiler (26) from Germany co-founded an energy-saving stoves project to produce healthier stoves as an assembly set for developing countries. Tanvi Girotra (24) from India established a youth-led education foundation which tackles problems in the most marginalised communities, such as sex trafficking and women empowerment by trying to revolutionise India’s education systems. And Edgleison Rodrigues (22) from Brazil coordinates a policy-monitoring programme that encourages youth to become involved in the policy-making process and suggest actions that will improve public services.
The EU Policy Lab team was given the incredible opportunity to organise a one-day workshop with these and eleven other exceptional young people ahead of the European Development Days 2015 (EDD15). They were selected from 172 applicants as the Future Leaders to participate in EDD15 high-level debates about development policy and international cooperation.
Objectives of the workshop
The aim of the EU Policy Lab was to:
- introduce the Future Leaders to holistic and long-term strategic thinking;
- help them formulate a vision broadly related to their area of activity and thus boost their contribution to the upcoming EDD15 debates;
- foster their positioning as agents of positive change in the coming decades.
For us, it was also a welcomed opportunity to experiment with new participatory, visual and communication tools and to work under time and space restrictions. The workshop was designed in period of just three weeks by a team of eight. Space was also an issue. A room of approximately 45 m2 that we normally use for our meetings needed to accommodate 24 participants plus a filming crew all at the same time.
Here are the most important lessons learned through this process:
Limit the use of PowerPoint and privilege a more interactive format whenever possible
We were determined not to lecture our workshop participants about how they should think about the future. We prepared a 10minute presentation of global trends that are likely to shape the world in the coming twenty years. They were printed out in big font and together with a couple of illustrative statements stuck on the wall one by one as we presented them. The groups then discussed the possible impact of these trends on the visions for the world that they had earlier developed and based on this, reflected on the challenges and opportunities to reaching their vision. Having the trends with illustrative examples placed on the wall as a reference point was very useful for stimulating and structuring the debate. Sticking them on the wall was messy at times but its brevity and physicality was clearly an asset for the dynamics of the workshop.
Extra effort in clearly designing and communicating the flow of the workshop pays off
The choreography of the workshop had a logical flow to it, thanks to the clearly communicated instructions for each session and time allocation. Despite the intense and complex schedule of the workshop, there was little confusion and need for further clarification among the participants.
When group work is involved, enough time should be allocated for the discussion of synergies between groups
The participants were divided into various groups throughout the day. When groups present their discussion outcomes, more should be done to engage the rest of participants into the discussion. Reporting-back sessions after group discussions should foster interaction between the groups rather than just be a succession of parallel presentations. We should have allocated more time to discussion of synergies, common points and potential areas for collaboration between the groups.
Prepare for the “after-lunch fatigue”
In workshops lasting a full day, activities/exercises with different rhythms and levels of engagement should be included. The choreography should take into account especially the “after – lunch fatigue” and prepare a less intense and/or more energising activity to bring everyone back to life.
There are advantages to working with young people
When it comes to attitudes towards work and career, working with under-30s and building a vision 20 years ahead is likely to be met with a more enthusiastic response than when working with 50+ who in 20 years’ time will be in their retirement age. This workshop clearly demonstrated potential advantages of connecting with young people within foresight projects.
If you are interested in the actual visions that were produced and a brief summary of the discussions we had with the Future Leaders, see the workshop report and 90-second videos of individual Future Leader’s pitches.