ICAI Revisited and ‘Growing a New Sense of Leadership’ in Nepal

This post was first published in ICA:UK Network News #48 and it was reprinted in ICAI’s Winds & Waves #3.

Nargarkot viewOver 350 people gathered from Nepal and around 30 countries around the world for the 8th Global Conference on Human Development, and the preceding Youth Conference and pre-conference training courses.  The programme was convened by ICA Nepal on behalf of ICA International, following the pattern of ICAI global conferences every four years since 1984.  Having missed Japan in 2008 it was eight years since my last in Guatemala in 2004, so it was great to be back.

A keynote presentation from long-time ICA colleague Robertson Work set the tone of the conference, with depth spirit and a comprehensiveness that was world wide and history long!  I attended the ‘Growing A New Sense of Leadership’ stream of the conference, along with ICA:UK Associate Kate Organ, and also a pre-conference ICAI Board meeting and a post-conference ICA global gathering – but more on those later.

The other five concurrent conference streams focused on Education, Environment, Peace-Building, Community Development and Resource Mobilisation.  Each stream developed its own learning community for the best part of three days, including site visits, between the opening & closing plenary sessions. There was also an element of virtual participation before and during the conference, but not as great as hoped I think. In our Leadership stream  of about 40 we shared perspectives on leadership and a series of presentations of our practical experience from which discerned signs and signals of ‘a new sense’ of leadership; we used this data as the basis for a workshop to articulate eight dimensions of this new sense of leadership; we tested our new model at our site visits to a forest meditation retreat centre and a rural women’s savings & loans co-operative outside the city in the Kathmandu valley; and we presented our model to the closing plenary along with recommendations and personal commitments to action.

In spite of and perhaps because of the inevitable challenges of working in such a diverse group, we had some great depth conversations and I thought a powerful product – our eight dimensions of New Leadership (beyond attributes, qualities competencies to a ‘way of being’), were:
1.    An outlook of possibility
2.    A capacity for boldness and innovation
3.    Awakening people to their significance
4.    Inciting an inclusive vision for sustainable life
5.    Building uplifting relationships of shared power
6.    Mobilising for deep collaboration
7.    Action aligned with internalised values
8.    Celebrating diverse and widespread leadership

dancing was everywhereMusic, song and dance were ever-present throughout the conference – on stage as cultural performance but also among  the group as an every-day means of expression, when language was not available or just not enough! Every meal seemed to be a gala buffet, coffee breaks were served outdoors in the sunshine, and we had some tantalising glimpses of distant snow-capped peaks from the conference hotel.

I was impressed by the very energetic and professional team of ICA Nepal, by the range and quality of their programme activities as well as their conference organisation, and by how very well embedded they seem to be into national civil society and even national life.  Another keynote presenter was a former President of Nepal, and every hotel and street lamp post in the city seemed to be flying a banner to welcome distinguished guests to the conference.  Several people I spoke with were profoundly moved by their experience of the conference, one describing it as the most important thing they had ever done!

You can find a wealth of material on the conference online, including programme and participants at http://www.conference.ica-nepal.org/, video and audio at http://www.virtual.ica-nepal.org/, hundreds of photos at http://www.facebook.com/ICAConference/ and a record of conference tweets at http://topsy.com/s?order=date&q=%23ICAINepal&window=a.  At least some of the conference streams intend to continue as learning communities of practice, so I’d be glad to put you in touch if you are interested in connecting and getting involved.

The ICAI Board took advantage of the very rare opportunity to meet face-to-face by meeting for a whole day prior to the conference, including both outgoing and new-coming Board members.  Retiring in December are Larry Philbrook of ICA Taiwan (President), Dick Alton of ICA USA, Kevin Balm of ICA Australia and Sabah Khalifa of ICA MENA in Egypt. Continuing are Shankar Jadhav of ICA India, Isabel de la Maza of ICA Chile and Gerald Gomani of ICA Zimbabwe.  Serving from January are Saci Kentish of ICA Canada, Seva Ghandi of ICA USA, Krishna Shretha of ICA Australia, and me.  It was enormously valuable to meet face-to-face, and get up to speed together on the current state of the member ICAs, the wider network, and of ICA International itself, and on some key issues facing us all.  It was also great to spend an evening together as the new Board, to get to know each other, our experience in ICA and ICAI, and our working styles and interests.  I am excited by the depth and range of experience and perspectives that we bring to the team.  We didn’t yet get to the end of who will play what roles exactly on the new Board, but I readily accept my invitation to succeed Larry as President, so I am looking forward to serving in that capacity.

welcome to NagarkotFollowing the conference around 45 people from around 15 countries gathered at Nagarkot, a village resort on the edge of the Kathmandu valley famed for its stupendous mountain views, for a two-day deliberative gathering on ICA and its mission worldwide. We reflected on the conference, shared country reports and met as regions, and raised and addressed around 25 topics in Open Space.  These included ToP global expansion, community development, IAF, ‘meet the new Board’, how to support each other and struggling ICAs, ICAI communications, and many others.

In the last week, since Nepal, four regional gatherings have convened online to hear & share reports on the Nepal conference and gathering, to connect with ICAs and colleagues who were not there, and to begin to prepare for the formal ICAI General Assembly, online on December 17.  Around 20 ICAs have been involved and shared country reports, and full reports of the Nagarkot gathering are also available.  Please let me know if you are interested to receive any of this or find out more.

ICA International and our global network have been through a very difficult few years since my last global conference in 2004 – involving setting up and then winding down a new international Secretariat team in Montreal, and involving ICA:UK and several other ICAs regretfully choosing not to renew their ICAI membership.  It could not be clearer now that all that is behind us, that the dust has settled, and that ICAI and the wider global network are reconnecting and actively re-imagining and recreating what it means to work together globally in advancing human development and enabling people to bring about positive change.  I hope that ICA:UK will seek to renew its statutory membership at the ICAI General Assembly in December, and that other non-member ICAs will do likewise.  It seems to me that the timing could not be better for ICA:UK to reconnect and get involved again at that global level, as it too reconsiders its strategy and structure for the future.  We can all be a great deal stronger and more effective together, so now there is clearly a real appetite for global peer-to-peer support and collaboration within the ICA network I hope that all ICAs and ICA colleagues will support each other and ICAI to make that a global reality.

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