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What creates and inspires global change? This was the guiding question for the conference, ‘Exploring the vital link between personal and global change’, at the Initiatives of Change centre in Switzerland. The conference, which ended 31 July, aimed to examine how individuals can translate their personal passions into global change.
The conference was largely participant-run, opening with morning reflections, daily plenaries and ‘snapshots’. Individuals offered their snapshot of a personal moment that inspired them to take global action, in areas that were often entirely unrelated. The individuals offering their stories spanned continents and generations, and had vastly diverse experiences. An Egyptian father felt empowered to protest in Tahrir Square because he shed his fear of politics following a legal battle for custody of his son. A young Canadian woman told her story of how forgiving an abusive ex-boyfriend liberated her; this internal change allowed her to follow her passions, and she is now active in promoting fair trade. They were able to ‘break fear barriers’ and ‘turn judgment into curiosity’. The concept behind these snapshots is to show individuals that anyone can create their own path to global change.
At the beginning of the week, participants learned about the history of Caux and various chapters of Initiatives of Change in workshops and dialogues, which switched to smaller-group discussions.
Part of what made the vital link conference so unique is its emphasis on the transformation between, among, and within people, ‘the most overlooked factor in global affairs’, as well as its flexible format. Rather than following a rigid conference structure, the vital link planning team used Open Space Technology, which allows participants to create and lead workshops on topics of their choice. Workshops covered a wide variety of subjects, from music, to affluence and the state of the economy, to homophobia and prejudice.
Participants explored the shifting role of the four absolute standards of Initiatives of Change, and the difficulty of bridging the gap between believers and non-believers in what has long been a spiritual movement. On the penultimate day of the conference, participants collaborated, in complete silence, in creating a ‘visual representation’ of the vital link.
The intimacy of these workshops allowed participants to explore deeply personal topics. During the closing plenary, a young Rwandan woman spoke about the shame she experienced before coming to the vital link because she could not forgive God and her fellow Rwandans for the 1994 genocide that fractured her country. Thanks to the dialogue, the opportunity to hear and be heard, she found the power to forgive.
Who we are: Initiatives of Change (IofC) is a world-wide movement of people of diverse cultures and backgrounds, who are committed to the transformation of society through changes in human motives and behaviour, starting with their own.
Purpose: We work to inspire, equip and connect people to address world needs, starting with themselves, in the areas of trustbuilding, ethical leadership and sustainable living.
Omnia Marzouk, President, IofC International
'Nothing lasting can be built without a desire by people to live differently and exemplify the changes they want to see in society.'