Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders

by Global Diversity Foundation
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Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Support 100 Global Emerging Environmental Leaders
Reaching greater heights at the opening retreat
Reaching greater heights at the opening retreat

Following an intensive three weeks, GESA 2015 concluded on August 14th 2015, successfully completing our fifth summer academy. Participants departed the academy, held in Bern (Switzerland), infused with energy and purpose, celebrating newly found inspiration and the seeds of new collaborations sowed. The academy again delivered an enriching, transformative, and inspiring experience for both participants and organizers.

In this fifth year, 504 candidates applied from 94 countries. Following an intensive selection process, 21 participants joined GESA from all over the world: 5 from Africa, 3 from Asia, 5 from Europe, 5 from Latin America and the Caribbean, and 3 from Northern America. These individuals collectively speak some 31 languages and come from diverse disciplines with exceptional academic backgrounds and broad practical experiences. They clearly possess the potential to become future environmental leaders. Our website has a portrait and profile of each participant, now integrated with the profiles of all other GESA alumni.

This year’s GESA again opened with a 2-day Salvia Goethe Dynamic Engagement Retreat in the Swiss Alps (image 1). This grounded the group in an experience of our ecological identities, and provided guidance and inspiration on how to establish this as a lens for experiencing the world. The group engaged elements of Johann Wolfgang von Goethe’s process for knowing the phenomenological world (image 2); the practices of Joanna Macy’s Work that Reconnects; mindfulness practices; and deep ecology methods.

The learning community that emerged in the retreat was engaged, self-reflective, and mutually supportive. It enabled considered and critical dialogue throughout the remaining GESA sessions, which included plenary lectures, roundtables, practical workshops, and field trips (see here for an overview of the various types of sessions held at GESA every year).

GESA evolves every year. In keeping with this tradition, the 2015 edition retained the strongest elements of previous academies while introducing innovations. As in previous years, the academy placed particular emphasis on honing communication of environmental solutions through the development and presentation of TED-style talks and the much-loved video communications workshop (image 3). Novel elements this year included plenary lectures from Alastair McIntosh, a Scottish writer, academic and activist who spoke on spiritual activism and Ashish Kothari, founder-member of the Indian environmental group Kalpavriksh, who spoke on environmental justice. They also joined forces for a dialogue on spiritual activism (image 4).

In keeping with tradition, we held an interim evaluation halfway through the three weeks, giving us the opportunity to hone the schedule and approach to immediate needs, followed by an in-depth anonymous evaluation at the end of the event. Our participants were, as usual, full of enthusiasm throughout the three weeks, and are looking forward to the future as part of the Global Environments Network:

“Wow. What to say. You are all amazing and each of you has touched me deeply. I feel so privileged to have been here and to feel like even a small part of your (our? this!) family and community. I love how this course breaks boundaries beyond the conventional. I love how it is flexible and … willing to risk touching upon what would not long ago have been considered "taboo" topics. The selection of participants and resource people was also brilliant. It really allowed us to both learn and see new worlds, but also to feel so at home and be able to express ourselves to a group of like-minded people to whom we did not feel we need to justify or explain ourselves or to defend our views. Many new skills were gained (highlights are how to give good TED-style talks!).”

“I hope that the lessons learned, friendships and partnerships forged, networks created, and the intangible values of communion will continue to resonate in the hearts, visions, and lives of everyone who was part of it. GESA reminded me that the future is bright.”

We are also please to share these blog posts by Gloria from Kenya on her experience at GESA 2015.

We would like to thank all of our donors who supported us through GlobalGiving, ensuring the participation of four outstanding individuals from all over the world at GESA 2015 and allowing us to grow the Global Environments Network.

Next steps…

In the five years since GESA was launched, we have grown a global action network of over 150 emerging changemakers from 52 countries – drawn from a pool of 1619 applications from 132 countries. We have established connections, ideas and collaborations that had – and continue to have – important practical outcomes for individuals, communities and environments around the world.

At this pivotal moment in GESA’s history, we are excited by the Global Environment Network’s immediate and sustained power to catalyse transformative reflection and action. We are also deeply motivated by our remarkable alumni who have called upon us to propel the Network forwards, galvanising the existing energy of its members and amplifying it to engender the profound shifts in the course our planet needs. In this next phase, we will focus on activating the Network by implementing regional academies and community exchanges, and boosting its “nuts and bolts” – the online networking and communications platform and the Alumni Innovation Fund. Watch this space for breaking news!

Detailed photo captions:

Image 1: Salvia Goethe Retreat facilitator Emily (centre) took participants to new heights with dynamic sessions in the Swiss Alps. (L to R) Sarah-Lan (Switzerland), Gloria (Kenya), Emily, Bryans (Uganda) and Serge (Benin).

Image 2: Janelle (Canada) reflects during a session on the Goethean method on the shores of Lake Oeschinensee.

Image 3: Heliodoro (Mexico), Mohamed (Bangladesh), Delicia (Peru), Chitradarsinee (Mauritius) work with Ruth (Germany; workshop leader) to interview Hasnaa (Morocco)

Image 4: Attentive GESA 2015 participants and GESA organizers Susannah McCandless and Gary Martin during a discussion session with Ashish Kothari and Alastair McIntosh.

Reflection during a session on the Goethean method
Reflection during a session on the Goethean method
Video communications workshop
Video communications workshop
Dialogue with Ashish Kothari and Alastair McIntosh
Dialogue with Ashish Kothari and Alastair McIntosh
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Dr. Henry Lickers speaks about his work
Dr. Henry Lickers speaks about his work

A Global Environments Network gathering in Northeastern North America

For four days in late June 2015, 40 Indigenous environmental leaders from Canada and the United States met on traditional Mohawk/Kanienkeha'ka territory at the Montreal Botanical Garden and in the community of Kahnawà:ke. Professionals, practitioners, elders and youth shared research, strategies and tactics, and stories of resistance, joy, tragedy, hope and transformation. We explored potential collaboration for environmentally sound solutions for critical issues facing Indigenous communities in the 21st century. A series of themes emerged from workshop sessions and conversations:

The link between Indigenous language learning, understanding and living one’s culture, and applying that to learning cultural uses of plants in-situ.

Dr. Henry Lickers (Turtle Clan Seneca) opened the workshop with a keynote address on Leadership and Biodiversity Conservation. Founding member of an environmental department that preceded the U.S. EPA and Canadian Department of Environment, he spoke on the ongoing challenges of advocacy, protection, and remediation as well as the urgency of regenerating our ability to know, nurture and marvel at the everyday nature that surrounds us – and be healed by it. Reflecting on the theme of the workshop, and the still-limited incorporation of Indigenous environmental knowledge in broader environmental work, he concluded, “The day we all declare ourselves part of biodiversity will be the day that we will have succeeded.”

The urgent need to form networks and stewardship alliances across Native nations and communities, to acquire and share information, strategies and tactics, and offer the advocacy benefits of alliance and collaborative organization.

Stemming from respect for the enormous experience and commitment present, a spirited desire for collaborative action filled the workshop. One idea that sparked plans for joint work was that of tribal parks. Eli Enns (Tla-o-qui-aht) shared the success of this context- and culturally-driven conservation model from the Pacific Northwest as a negotiating tool and path to increase autonomy and recognition of sovereignty in management of Indigenous traditional territories. He considers tribal parks as a type of Indigenous Peoples’ and Local Communities’ Conserved Areas and Territories (ICCA), and works with the ICCA Consortium and the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to advance recognition and establishment of such community-controlled conservation efforts worldwide.

The importance of the arts to learn, reflect upon, live, and share stories, values and cultural heritage. These processes bring people together in strength and beauty.

“The arts and creative expression are vital to the work we do in our communities,” says Monaeka Flores, Chamorro artist and activist from Guam. “Through traditional and non-traditional art forms… we revitalize, rejuvenate, and strengthen languages, customs, and sovereignty movements; restore cultural practices and life ways; give voice to lost narratives and counter narratives; educate younger generations and provide connections with elders; speak to injustices to repair our connections and relationships; and renew the spirit and provide medicine for our peoples and environments in need of rehabilitation.”

Community Exchanges like this one form part of the emerging Global Environments Network. This North American Community Environmental Leadership Exchange (NACELE) is a bi-annual, invite only workshop, co-organized by GDF staff and board members, and GESA alumni and resource people. Each convenes participants from a particular region, with additional representatives from across North America and the Pacific. The next NACELE has been proposed for Northwestern Mexico in Fall 2016.

Support from this GlobalGiving project helped us cover participants’ attendance costs, as did a Canadian Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) Convening Grant, support from The Christensen Fund, Quebec Center for Biodiversity Studies, the law firm of Fredericks Peebles and Morgan, The Cultural Conservancy, and McGill Institute for the Study of Canada.

(Full) photo captions:

(above) Dr. Henry Lickers speaks about his work as Dr Nancy Turner, GDF board president, Verna Miller (Nlaka'pamux; future president of the International Society of Ethnobiology), and others look on.

(below) Monaeka Flores (Chamorro) of the Guam Humanities Council leads the creation of a collaborative art piece representing participants’ journeys and stories.

(bottom) 2015 NACELE participants gathered on the banks of the Saint Lawrence in Kahnawà:ke, Mohawk/Kanienkeha'ka territory. The Nation is working to restore its traditional shoreline, which was drastically altered by the Saint Lawrence Seaway.

Monaeka Flores leads creation of collaborative art
Monaeka Flores leads creation of collaborative art
Participants at Mohawk/Kanienkeha'ka territory
Participants at Mohawk/Kanienkeha'ka territory
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GESA alumni collaborate to create regional academy
GESA alumni collaborate to create regional academy

A brand new initiative is now taking form in the hands of six driven, committed Global Environments Summer Academy (GESA) alumni. After four successful Academies since 2011 (with the fifth now being planned for this summer), we are excited that a regional focus on Latin America will solidify the Global Environments Network (GEN)’s aim to train and bring inspiring and dynamic environmental leaders in a global action network.

The Latin American Academy of Socio-Environmental Leadership (ALLSA) 2015, or in Spanish, 1a Academia Latinoamericana de Liderazgo Socio-ambiental, will be our 1st regional academy. Entitled Transformative Environmental Learning: Our relationships with biocultural landscapes, this Academy will gather around 25 environmental changemakers from Latin America who are passionate about improving the relationships between society and the environment.

A regional focus enables GEN to recruit and support emerging changemakers who are not proficient in English, a gap recognised during our selection processes for GESA (see previous report on GESA selection process). Alumni from Chile (Antonia), Dominican Republic (Daniel), Mexico (Edgar, Thor and Yolanda) and Spain (Ana Elia), having experienced the transformational power of the GESA learning program and, knowing the potential of many in Latin America, are now joining forces with the unconditional support of GDF to create ALLSA. This pioneering event will be held in the Dominican Republic this November in partnership with Instituto Nacional de Formación y Capacitación del Magisterio de la República Dominicana (INAFOCAM). This strong collaboration amongst GESA alumni is a testament to the durable connections formed during GESA and the importance of the Network.

ALLSA aims to broaden and deepen knowledge, learning methodologies, social networking and communication skills of graduate students, professionals and activists interested in the human dimensions of environmental problems. It is designed for Spanish-speaking people studying or working in the field of arts and humanities, social sciences and natural sciences - as well as people working for the defense of the environment and social justice, audiovisual communication, policy and advocacy – focused on the relationship between environment and society. Community leaders are welcome to apply to ALLSA. Interested candidates can apply here.

Photo caption: Spanish Ana Elia, who joined GESA in 2014, is now working with fellow GESA alumni on the 1st regional academy in Latin America. ALLSA is designed for Spanish-speaking participants studying or working in the field of arts and humanities, social sciences and natural sciences - as well as working for the defence of the environment and social justice, audiovisual communications, policy and advocacy – who are focused on the relationship between environment and society.

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Daniel, a participant of GESA 2014
Daniel, a participant of GESA 2014

The first stage of the GESA 2015 application period, from 15 October 2014 – 15 January 2015, seemed to go by in the blink of an eye. Expressions of interest flowed in from around the world, and we were pleased to receive far-flung applications from Afghanistan, Azerbaijan, Burkina Faso, Eritrea, Guatemala, Jamaica, Latvia, Mongolia, Sudan, Yemen, Zimbabwe and other nations that are typically underrepresented in international courses. We have a record number of candidates vying for a spot this year, over 500 from 93 countries, up 63% over last year. Now comes the hard part: choosing the finalists from this talented set of applicants.

The good news is that we have a stellar jury to help us with the tough choices we have to make. We are pleased that many GESA alumni have agreed to help select their future peers, and this gives international breadth to the jury. For the 2015 lineup, we have Daniel (Dominican Republic), Rishi (Nepal), Chryl (United States), Manoj (Bangladesh), and Eda (Turkey). Their enthusiasm in taking on this task is an inspiration. Of this undertaking, Rishi said, “I take this as our collective responsibility to make GESA a dream academy for change-makers and I am honored to volunteer to achieve this mission.” Chryl agreed to these sentiments, responding, “I would be honored to serve on the jury as GESA has a special place in my heart.”

The other jury members are GESA coordinators and resource people: Gary Martin (United States), Sarah-Lan Mathez-Stiefel (Switzerland), Emily Caruso (United Kingdom) and Susannah McCandless (United States).

Many have asked us how we go about making the decision of who attends the summer academy each year, and we would like to make the process as transparent as possible. The jury members choose their preferred candidates based on the leadership capacity communicated by their personal statements and CVs, ensuring that the resulting class has a good balance of men and women, mixture of nationalities (with no more than 2 people from the same country), regional spread, age range and multidisciplinarity. As we want to continue expanding our network globally, we also take into account if the candidate is from a country not previously represented in GESA.

Photo descriptions:

Daniel, a GESA 2014 participant, will assist in the shortlisting process this year.

Group photo taken during GESA 2014: A great mix of participants is an important feature of GESA.

Group photo taken during GESA 2014
Group photo taken during GESA 2014

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Salvia Goethe Dynamic Engagement Retreat
Salvia Goethe Dynamic Engagement Retreat

GESA 2014 concluded just over a month ago, with high levels of enthusiasm for the connections forged and the promise of new collaborations, yet with sadness to be leaving such a cohesive, stimulating space of exchange. As always, it was an intense, fascinating, memorable experience for all who participated – this year brought together 18 participants (1 from Africa, 5 from Asia, 5 from Europe, 6 from Latin America and the Caribbean, and 1 from Northern America) who actively engaged with highly experienced representatives of academia, civil society, government and the private sector invited to GESA as resource people. GESA, once again, served as a meaningful platform for the exchange of insights drawn from diverse backgrounds and disciplines.

We would like to thank our GlobalGiving donors who provided crucial funds enabling participants to attend this year’s Global Environments Summer Academy.

GESA 2014, through pictures:

Salvia Goethe Dynamic Engagement Retreat

GESA 2014 opened with the 5-day Salvia Goethe Dynamic Engagement Retreat, a retreat that prompted participants to weave Goethe’s presence into the rest of the course, both in everyday interactions and reflections, and through specific workshops and discussions. In this photo, Silvia (from Italy) introduces her course-mate Eda (from Turkey) to different elements of nature during the Mirror Walk exercise, an exercise designed to provide a holistic lens and activate all pathways of perception. (Credit: Inanc Tekguc).

TED-style talks at GESA

The application of TED-style talks, a new feature of GESA, resonated throughout the course with the aim to develop participants’ communications skills through the practice of presenting their research and ideas, which came to be known as the GESAx talks. Here, GESA 2014 participant, Edgar, who hails from Mexico, delivers his presentation titled "My environmental education: A journey of theory and practice". (Credit: Silvia Forno).

Video Communications Workshop

For the fourth year running, our successful Video Communications Workshop was conducted, led by visual anthropologist and GESA photographer/videographer Inanc Tekguc, and journalist and videographer Ruth Krause. (Credit: Silvia Forno).

Visual note-taking

In keeping with the theme of enhancing participants’ communications skills, resource people Reinhold Leinfelder and Alexandra Hamann delivered a well-received workshop on making comics for communicating complex scientific ideas and innovations. Here is a participant’s experiment with visual note-taking and comic techniques to record the report-back from the mapping workshop led by Susannah McCandless. (Credit: Ana Elia Ramon Hidalgo)

Reflections on the Salvia Goethe Dynamic Engagement Retreat by participants:

Reflections, by GESA 2014 participant, Mel (Brazil)

“Many of us had the opportunity to get in touch with our deep emotions and our sense as part of a beautiful whole (with the wholeness within us).”-Mel (Credit: Silvia Forno)

Reflections, by GESA 2014 participant, Yuan (China)

“The method has triggered my interest in drawing, from which I discover many details I used to ignore. For my life, as now I am standing at the crossroads where many things could happen, I deeply appreciate this method so that I could describe and explore new paths, using my senses and feelings, which is quite new and exciting. I am not sure of how this going to influence my work in the future, however, for certain I will carry with me more emotions, feelings and imagination when I make decisions.” -Yuan (Credit: Silvia Forno) 

TED-style talks at GESA 2014
TED-style talks at GESA 2014
Video Communications Workshop
Video Communications Workshop
Visual note-taking
Visual note-taking
Reflections, by Mel (Brazil)
Reflections, by Mel (Brazil)
Reflections, by Yuan (China)
Reflections, by Yuan (China)

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Global Diversity Foundation

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