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When it goes beyond your wildest expectations…

Sinds enkele jaren werkt Act4Change samen met ULEX, een internationaal trainingscentrum voor jonge, duurzame veranderaars. Ze organiseren hoogkwalitatieve trainingen rond duurzaam leiderschap en veerkracht in de Spaanse bergen. In de Coronaperiode lag alles stil, maar in 2022 mogen opnieuw 22 jongeren via Act4Change afreizen naar Spanje. Een van de eerste onder hen was Magdalee: internationale student, nieuwe vrijwilliger én geweldig schrijftalent. Zij schreef haar ervaringen neer in dit prachtige verslag.

Before starting a new course or training program, one question that is often asked is the famous “What are your expectations regarding this?” Simple enough. Though it can be a rather unsettling question, sometimes. Maybe because we hadn’t stopped to ask ourselves that and are left with a vague idea, based on prior experiences, of what may come out of this learning adventure. Maybe we don’t perceive it as an adventure that requires any deep precursory reflections. But this difficulty may also present itself when coming across a completely new concept or teaching approach as was my case when I was faced with the necessity to explain why exactly I was willing to go and spend a week in some remote mountains in Spain to learn about ‘Leaderful Organizing’. What on earth did that mean anyway? And why did this mysterious learning have to proceed in both physical and digital isolation (We were told that complete digital detox was recommended during the training)?

As I am writing this now, I just quickly paused to google Leaderfulness, which I am slightly embarrassed to admit that I hadn’t done before. On the bright side, it meant that I headed to Tremp, a municipality in Catalonia, at about three and a half hours to Barcelona, with a fresh mind, ready to be filled with great and inspiring insights. In truth, I was both curious and slightly apprehensive, not only because I expected my phone to be seized at the entrance (which didn’t happen), but also because it was hard to imagine how this week of living and learning with complete strangers might turn out. Not counting the trainers, we formed a group of 16 people from different organizations and countries such as Austria, Germany, Poland, and Belgium.

We had already struck conversations on the buses going up the mountains, but when taking ownership of our beds in shared rooms or at dinner that night, one could sense some degree of uneasiness as rules were set and as we started to get a glimpse at how the long week to come would be structured. It was indeed a long week but only because so much seems to have happened during that time. In reality, it flew by really fast, rhythmed by thought-provoking learning sessions, delicious vegan meals, and hysterical game nights. The first day was packed wi th team-building exercises such that at the end of it, we felt we knew each other a bit better (And we were finally able to remember each other’s names!). On that day, we talked about creating safer spaces for everyone to be comfortable showing vulnerability and I couldn’t have guessed at the time how important this would turn out to be throughout the training.

Through games, discussions, theatrical representations, and more traditional theoretical explanations, we learned a great deal about leaderfulness, decision-making within organizations, and power dynamics. For many of us, it felt, at times, overwhelming, with so much information to process and the effort required to appropriate this new knowledge and link it with our organizations and their particular contexts. But one could hardly deny that we were being given some important building blocks and the potential for self-exploration that they held within, for us and our organizations was undeniable. Moreover, from the so-called ‘Action learning circles’ that allowed us to get personal within our trusted base groups to passionate discussions that got transported from the classroom to the dinner table, so much learning happened outside of the formal learning sessions. And there were even more opportunities to create meaningful connections through meditation, acro-yoga, singing circles, and nature explorations.

As the reader might have guessed by now, this experience and the training provided by the Ulex have made a lasting impression on me. I couldn’t be more grateful to Act4Change for this amazing and humanly enriching opportunity that went above any expectations that I could have defined beforehand.

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