Be. Leadership March/April 2017: Society – What’s really going on here?

April 2017

Our 2017 Leadership Programme is well underway, with our third session just around the corner. One of our leaders, Alice Campbell, writes about our second session, which took place in Auckland in March/April and here's what she had to say:

Towards the end of the second Be. Leadership session for this year, we were asked to each share one word to sum up the weekend for us. "Eye-opening", "Motivating", "Inspiring", "Movement", "Thought-provoking" were some of those words given. Summing up the weekend in one word was a difficult task because as we've quickly come to know and expect, the Be. Leadership team packs a lot of fantastic information and experience in a short space of time for these sessions!

I was buzzing for this session having had to leave a day early last time because I had a chest infection, and was keen not to miss out on anything this time. After a few issues with delayed flights and taxis I arrived with Tom to a room of people who have already become fast friends equally rearing to go.

First up we noticed two conspicuous absences as pointed out and explained by Philip in his session introduction. Lesley had another Be. obligation on the Friday morning, and Kramer had to leave the programme for personal reasons. Kramer was a part of my syndicate, and we felt his absence sorely but wish him the best.

Our first speaker of the first day was Fab 50 member, Red Nicholson, a Be. Leadership alumni, and a dean at Onehunga High School. His talk was titled 'Unraveling the myth of educational equity in Aotearoa'. Red was extremely engaging and his talk was insightful, highlighting issues including systemic racism, competition between schools, the decile system, and overtesting. While not necessarily directly related to some of us, with not all of us being parents, teachers, or students, Red's discussion bore relevance to all of us, making us keenly aware of how the education system impacts us all, and about the concept of privilege and how we each have responsibilities to use our privilege for good.

Our second speaker was Joe McDonald, who works for Affinity Services with Rainbow Youth. Their talk was about gender and sexuality diversity and issues with the mental health system and society in general, as well as issues and experiences of trans and non-binary people. The topic of privilege once again came up strongly and reinforced a lot of what Red had said about it. Joe also initiated their talk with discussion of colonisation and how that has affected and narrowed our potential experiences and understandings of the LGBTQIA communities.

I was very strongly affected by both of these speakers for their passion on their topics and particularly enjoyed them for the fact that they reinforced a lot of what I already knew from prior study. I found them very motivating but mostly appreciated their honesty, particularly in terms of not having the answers or solutions to the problems they were discussing with us. While this is a situation I am well used to, some of us also found it more difficult to not be able to see any immediate solutions, thus marking another growth challenge in our leadership journeys, and a personal challenge to come up with our own solutions to effect social change.

The last part of day one was spent with my syndicate sharing their personal journey stories. I volunteered first simply to get it over with! While I was very nervous at first, I was at ease very quickly as I was talking to friends. The stories shared were very personal and personalised and I gained a great insight into each person’s character and life.

After a big day, we all unwound with a shared dinner of pizza and leadership juice for some, and beers for others, kindly fetched by Aroha, Arturo, and Sam. It was a great evening of laughter, socialising, and chatter, before we all headed our separate ways home or into the taxi back to the hotel for the night.

Day two saw Annie Whitley from Capability Group coming in to run a workshop that gave us all tips for stress management and on how we can manipulate our brain into releasing good hormones like dopamine, oxytocin, serotonin, and endorphins to help us keep positive and resilient, and walked us through some mindfulness techniques. I found her workshop extremely engaging and practical and something I will be looking back on and using every day in my daily life.

I want to extend a special shout out to Sam and Hannah for all the work they put in in the background for these sessions, and to Hannah particularly in sorting our meals and making sure that those of us with special dietary needs are well attended to. I particularly loved how our lunch on day one was catered by Eat my Lunch, meaning that for each and every one of us, a schoolkid also got a lunch, tying in nicely with Red’s talk about equity in education and issues of child poverty. It was a really nice touch!

I really enjoyed this session and am eager for the next one in Wellington next month. I feel extremely blessed to be part of this programme.