The past few months has been a series of really amazing conferences, all very different from each other: From the BMW Leadership Forum Meeting to Sustain 2020 to CTS 2020 the past week. The theme of the conferences was radically different from each other: from building a strong support network and putting ourselves in a position of making a radical change in the world to the role and sustainability of open source ecosystems to how to make systemic change in the education systems and be active collaborators with the younger generation. The underlying theme across all the conferences was the power of the network and the strength of collaborations.
I really liked the structure and format of the conference. The discussions were long (2 hours), which allowed deep, layered and interactive conversations. The audience was active participants during the whole session. There was a lot of writing, dance and play mixed in the various sessions. A huge tip of the hat to the facilitators: Sucheta Bhat, Chinnappa Das, and Padmaja Nagarur who really kept the energy levels high and did a good job of including everyone in the group. The conference was organized using the creative experiential model which combines experiential learning, group facilitation, and arts-based practice with assistance from Partners for Youth.
My goals before the conference were two-fold: The first one was to get a better understanding of the space and educate myself. The second was to meet individuals and other NGOs working in the space. I met both the goals, and the conversations got better over the course of the event as people got a lot more comfortable. A few thoughts, comments and takeaways from the conference.
- The conference did a really good job of integrating and highlighting the youth voice and making them a core and central part of the conference, which included a youth facilitator and a session run by youth focussed on answering some of their issues. I also loved the diversity of the attendees. It was evenly split between male and female, a good variety of folks from NGOs, school leaders, youth, government, and the consulting firms.
- The amount of time dedicated to mingling and networking (meals and multiple tea breaks) really facilitated multiple conversations between different sets of people. I did make a concerted effort to sit with different groups of folks at different times. This helped me get a pretty good perspective of the participants and interesting discussions about the education space, the role each of them plays and their thoughts on the work and impact that Dream a Dream has on either the institution or individual.
- I did realize that based on where you are in India, your family culture and upbringing, the expectations and pressures are so different. The youth (and many of the young professionals also), made the point about how family and society pressured them on the choices they did or did not make. This brings us to the main point, that while we think a large part of the system is government, schools and the external world, an equally important part is the social aspect and influence but there is not a lot of work happening in this area.
- Reinforcing the above, one participant commented that it is easier to have conversations with third parties than within your own social network especially on topics like abuse, religion and increasingly in politics.
- Probably due to the strong bonds between the participants, there was a lot of frank and open discussion where people did talk about their vulnerabilities and failures. It was nice to hear Vishal talk about his learnings and growing, and the evolution of Dream a Dream as an organization and its objectives and realizing the importance of collaborating and working with the larger ecosystem to bring significant changes.
- I did not fully understand or grasp the end goal of sessions which were based on theatre improv and dialog. While the session did result in a pretty good dialog at the end, I was not sure if it was random chance.
- My only minor complaint (and a totally first world problem), was missing really good cups of filter coffee. We were in the heartland of great coffee and I really missed a good cuppa
To summarize, I’m really glad I attended the conference. I learned a lot and made some really good connections. I walked away coming away really impressed with the amount of thought and organization behind the event and the amazing work that Dream a Dream does.