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Herrsching, you amazing and ridiculous place!

Rural Youth Leaders

Herrsching, an amazing and ridiculous place! I mean, who would expect a lovely, small town to become a symbol of international friendship and cooperation for a whole bunch of young and innovative leaders?

To answer that, I want to share some of my impressions from the 27th International Leadership Workshop for Rural Youth that took place in Herrsching am Ammersee in Germany from August 12-25, 2015.

Leadership

The first week of the seminar focussed on learning: leadership training. I have to admit that I had to take a deep breath when leaving home, anticipating long power points on “how to be a leader”. Usually, these lectures provide theory but don't manage to teach you how to fully grasp the meaning of the concepts explained, let alone apply them.

How wrong I was to expect so! I am very happy to say that I never experienced such useful and enthusiastic training, while getting to know new friends!  Our facilitator introduced us to the different stages of group work, to conflict management, working with different personalities, models of cooperation, motivating others, problem solving tools, conflict resolution and presentation techniques. A lot to discuss! But by presenting ourselves and our projects, playing team games, and evaluating what we did and observed, the theory fell into place.

For my work as a YPARD national representative, and this probably applie to most youth leaders in agriculture/ rural communities, our teams usually consist of volunteers. Indeed, we ourselves are working as volunteers! Developing skills to work efficiently is crucial when working with limited time, people and budgets. And in the case of volunteers, motivating, coordinating, sharing responsibilities and knowledge with your team is especially important as a leader. For YPARD Netherlands, as a new YPARD chapter, motivating others and presenting what we do in an attractive manner is something I hope to put in practice in the coming years!

The Infamous Stick Game

An example of the team games we played is “the stick game”, in which the team has to lift a thin tent-pole, each member supporting the stick with both index fingers. The idea is easy, but in practice it requires a lot of coordination and communication! We tried lifting this stick for hours before we succeeded: discussing why did not work and how to improve. It taught us about silent conflict, cooperation, group rules and how your own personality influences the way you interpret others’ behaviour. Afterwards, we evaluated our social styles of communication with questions like: did you ask questions or did you tell people what to do? Are you more people or more task-oriented? Great game to practice in any kind of team!

Friendship

This approach of games and presentations, not only made us grasp the theory much easier, it also created very fertile ground to form new friendships. By playing together, socializing and presenting our (personal and professional) lives in small groups, you get to know each other quickly. Is provided a safe environment to discuss cultural and international differences and share our work experiences. As our team mate Akrem put it: “We live together different lives”

Some lessons to take home

To finalize, I would like to share some lessons, that I regard highly valuable for my YPARD work:

  • Try to discuss your activities with others: seniors, other youth leaders, from another region or country or even province. Just to see the differences and learn from each other.
  • Secondly, the best presentations are not necessarily in power point, and it makes you dependent on electricity! Start preparing a presentation by thinking about the main message you want to give to your audience (preferably just in one sentence). Your presentation is just the decoration and ecosystem in which you share this message, so play around with drawings, pin boards, posters, a theatre play or a role play, and find your creativity and preferences.
  • Thirdly, prepare a specific “action plan” for your activities, addressing these basic questions as concretely as possible: Where are we now? Where do we want to go? Why do we want to get there? How are we going to get there? How do we know we got there/ arrived?
  • Try the stick game!

And as additional note: please pay attention to the YPARD site! Some of the other YPARDians will write about the other activities of the seminar.