A few months ago I received an email that made my day: the Principal Go Abroad Fund 2014 would help fund to my trip to attend and manage a conference team at the annual Caux Dialogue on Land and Security (CDLS).
CDLS is a unique meeting of a range of stakeholders focused on the security aspects of land degradation. CDLS proposes that restoring degraded land helps to build peace, provides employment, eases food insecurity and helps climate change mitigation through carbon sequestration in plants. Yet these issues rarely feature in international climate negotiations or peace conferences. The Caux Dialogue combines experience from practitioners, grassroots activists, world leaders, corporations and scientists who gather here to discuss and exchange best practices on land restoration for building peace.
What is even more unique about this conference is the holistic approach that they take in delivering sustainable change. The Caux Dialogue is organised by the Initiatives for Land, Lives and Peace (ILLP) – a project of Initiatives of Change (IofC). IofC typifies Gandhi’s frequently quoted teaching: “be the change you wish to see”, seeking to create change beginning at each individual. It is this top-down, bottom-up approach to peace and land use/climate change that was particularly attractive to me. The invitation to manage team of eight conference interns to deliver an efficient and successful 2014 conference was simply the ‘cherry on the cake’!
But, it was also a challenge at an order of magnitude higher than many I had previously faced, particularly in relation to the size and length of the conference, the complexity of the agenda, the seniority of participants, and the diversity of the team with whom I was going to work. Arguably, doing this whilst writing a postgraduate dissertation was perhaps somewhat foolhardy, but access to world leaders on land restoration and peace and visionaries of sustainable development was reason enough to take the risk. It was an incredible opportunity, not only for personal growth and learning, but academic and career skills too.
So off I went, into the stunning Swiss mountains above Lake Geneva at Montreux to a tiny village called Caux and a magnificent historic hotel. While the physical setting certainly added to the magic of Caux, IofC’s principles of honesty, unselfishness, love and purity, form the basis for open and respectful conversations and relationships between colleagues. Herein lies the biggest lesson I took away from CDLS. It is clear that existing, silo-based systems are failing to deliver a just, equitable and sustainable society. In order to deliver truly transformative change, we have to reframe the underlying principles and values on which our production systems are organised, our choices of partners and our relationships with them, to a more holistic and fair vision. On a small scale, adopting these values to team management helped to deliver a successful conference. But I am also inspired to incorporate this approach into my daily life and career to create lasting change.
Thank you Principal Go Abroad Fund for supporting my enlightening trip!