Wednesday, 26 October 2016

A Little Nudge Goes a Long Way!

Now that my touristy adventures have come to an end, it’s time to spill the beans about my actual purpose for being in The Netherlands*.

Nearly a year ago, I applied for some conference that was meant to bring young professionals together in order to tackle the hard issues surrounding sustainability**. I filled out the application, pressed submit, and pretty much forgot about it. So, when I received an email looking to set up an interview shortly after returning home from Uganda, I was somewhat reluctant to do so. However, in the end I went through the interviewing process, and ultimately was selected to be one of 10 Wildcard Participants*** for the Nudge Global Leadership Challenge.

The experience began the night before with a little pre-Nudge social. Those of us in Amsterdam were invited to a café to meet and chat before the intensive program began. It turned out that many of the anticipated 91 participants were able to make it, and the tiny, quiet café was overtaken by a mob of people asking are you here for Nudge?! Over the course of a few hours, the group quickly came together, sharing stories of where they were from, where they worked and what they hoped to get out of the Challenge.

The first challenge of the three days, however, took place early the next morning. Those of us taking the optional bus to the conference hotel had to be at the meeting point for our 7:30AM departure time. It was quiet evident approximately 20 minutes into the 45-ish minute drive to Zeist, who the morning people were!

A few of the views from early morning in Amsterdam, including my favourite - the Jesus Loves You building.

Over the course of the three days, participants sat and engage in a variety of activities. These included talks given by activists and business folk, workshops on how to improve our leadership capabilities and envisioning our future/ideal planet, and of course, lots of ice cream! They challenged us to think, be creative, listen, and most randomly – dance.

Just a little taste of the eye scream selection!
(Photo credit: Nudge)

The house I was a part of building during the dance-off.
(Photo credit: Nudge)
There were several highlights that come to mind now that I’ve had a few days to rest and process (although I’m willing to bet that a month from now, I’ll have way more questions and insights!). For starters, one of the first activities involved a group of kids between the ages of 10-12. We all introduced ourselves and learned the diversity of places and ages of the group. But we also gained some meaningful insight from our younger group members. It is incredible how wise kids can be. Many of us asked hard-hitting questions that most adults would struggle to answer. And yet, they confidently gave their thoughts and opinions without even batting an eye. And these weren’t simplistic answers either. No, many gave very thoughtful responses – responses that caused the adults in the room to pause and consider the honesty, and perhaps more importantly, the truth behind some of these replies. For me, it really put into perspective just how much of an unused resource kids really are****.

All 91 of us, plus the kids!
(Photo credit: Nudge)
The next morning, the second test of who is an early bird and who is not took place. Those of us willing to get up a little bit earlier were invited to join an early morning walk in the woods. It is, I’m sure, without surprise that I found myself on that list and in that group. Those 30 minutes or so were cleansing. The sun had not yet arisen, and so the darkness of the walk made it a bit challenging, but also allowed me at least, to really take in just how fortunate I am for my ability to see, hear, move, etc*****. If you have never allowed yourself to go for a walk in the woods after (or before) daylight hours, do it! I have never been disappointed by such experiences.

Doing a little reflection in the chapel following our early morning walk.
(Photo credit: Nudge)

Later in the day we were involved in the social-entrepreneur challenge. This was a group work exercise that involved trying to help an actual business solve a problem they were experiencing. Then, we had to present out solutions, with the best case winning. This was a bit interrupted by our one-on-one coaching sessions, which took away from the activity (and was probably the most disappointing aspect of the three days, as it produced a bit of unbalanced workloads in groups were all members were keen to participate). However, I was – for lack of a better word – blessed with a pretty outstanding group. Despite the fact that most of us had met the day before, we had a weird cohesion that made decision making a simple process, and the push to produce a good outcome equally so with our similar humours and positive energy. Everyone got along and supported each other. It was an amazing group work experience! In the end we came 5th place out of the 10 teams. Not too shabby considering more than half of us had to leave at some point for out coaching sessions!

Team Seedlings!
(Photo credit: Andrew Raisen)
The final highlight took place later that night, when after these presentations, we quickly transitioned from conference mode to dare I say, party? mode. Well, it was kind of a party, but one that involved eating things none of us probably imagine, like, for example, our menus! This took place at the Peace Palace in Den Haag (yeah – I got to go twice in one trip!), where we attended the Nudge Summit.

The Peace Palace from inside the gate.
The tasty menu - quite literally, actually!
A few of the beauts I spent 3 days with, as well as Ezekiel, a Masai Elder.
(Photo credit: Lucky Ofurum
The next and final day also held several highlights, but a blog post only needs to be so long! Let’s just say it was bacon, because, well, bacon. In all honesty though, there were so many aspects of these three days that were awesome, I’m not actually sure at this point I can even recall all of them******.

In the end, the Challenge concluded. And while I may not have been one of the three official winners, I was a winner (and arguably the winner), as I have come away with a new energy and motivation, and a crazy new group of incredibly inspiring people to lean on for expertise, advise, and maybe even a laugh or two. I am nothing short of grateful. So, thank you to each and every one of you – and not just the participants, but the organizers and facilitators, as well. A truly wonderful – although exhausting – experience.

Team photo - what a rad bunch of folks!
(Photo credit: Nudge)
The winners!
(Photo credit: Nudge)

And after a long, and fairly sleepless two days post conclusion I am happy, having returned safely back to Jinja. And now with an additional 90+ people to hold me accountable for what’s to come!

One of the many beautiful views on the drive home to Jinja!
Now, let the real work begin!

-the Orange Canadian

*Is it Holland or The Netherlands?
**My favourite word, I know! WHAT DOES IT EVEN MEAN?!
***Of 600 applicants, I, somehow was identified as a need-to-have participant, which granted me acceptance into the challenge, along with the 7 other individuals who were selected and attended the three-day conference. And, yes, I know that 7+1=8, not 10. But, two apparently had to drop out last minute.
****Not in a let’s exploit those youngin’s sort of way, but more of a why are they not involved in decision making process way. I mean, they are the ones most impacted by whatever decisions are currently being made. They have the longest to live with which ever ill-thought plans are decided upon, no?! Also, when do we lose that no fear attitude that so many young people have? The confidence, the ability to dream big without fear, the whole just being a kid?!
*****Following the walk, our first session was in the property’s chapel, where we were captivated by the musical talents of a local artist. It was the perfect way to end a tranquil start to the morning. Also, sorry to go all uber hippy on you!

******To be fair, I can’t even remember who I said so long too when we departed! ...or what my names is some days!

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