As the world remembers Nelson Mandela’s 100th birthday, we are reminded of his important impact in the world of sport and leadership. A year after Mandela gave his speech on the power of sport at the first Laureus Awards event in Monaco, 2000, I was fortunate to volunteer as a Facilitator with Civic Concepts International in Prague, Czech Republic. By participating, speaking and facilitating at the 2001 International Youth Leadership Conference, this was not only my first overseas trip as an American citizen, but it was the first time I was an international volunteer in what was to me a new region of the world.
Our role as facilitators were to create a positive and inclusive environment for cross-cultural learning and dialogue on political and economic crisis simulations. The facilitators also acted as chaperones for the participants on social and cultural excursions. For example, my group (see photo above) visited the Japanese Embassy, toured Radio Free Europe/ Radio Liberty and ate an authentic Czech meal. The combination of activities fostered a genuine exchange of ideas and modes of cooperation. It was not always easy to find solutions during the crisis simulations given different points of view, however by practicing mutual dialogue, negotiation and advocacy skills participants were better equipped to tackle real political, economic and social issues when they returned to their countries of origin.
If you are a parent, educator or coach of a recent college graduate, I recommend that you nominate a young individual to participate in forums such as the International Youth Leadership Conference which currently hosts events in the Middle East, Africa, Asia and of course Eastern Europe. In addition to the skill-building activities, there are opportunities to network with leaders from all walks of life and explore a new part of the world to gain a different perspective on your own beliefs and values. If we are to truly create the world that Nelson Mandela envisioned for the future, then today’s youth might want to consider participating in an International Youth Leadership Conference close to you.