Many years ago I worked for an organisation that ran residential projects for young people that explored issues of identity, peace building and conflict resolution. As part of those residentials my co-facilitator and I would run a session called “Crossing the Line”. The premise was simple, a contentious statement was read out and the group had to decide where they stood on the issue. If I compare it to the methodologies practiced by 3FF, Crossing the Line was more debate than dialogue, but it was a good way of flushing out lots of ideas and opinions and showing the diversity in the room.
On the morning after the election of Donald Trump my thoughts went immediately to that workshop and one of the most contentious statements that we used: “People get the leaders that they deserve”. The groups that we were facilitating were diverse – young people from the UK, the US, Israel, Palestine and Indonesia took part. My co-facilitator (and good friend) was Serbian. Within the context of the discussion of that statement, it did not take long before names like Milosevic, Suharto, Mugabe were mentioned. Participants would argue the point back and forth: “If we are not engaged and campaign for what we believe, then yes, we do get the leaders we deserve”, “But what about a young person growing up somewhere that they don’t have a say in choosing leaders, do they deserve a leader that does not represent them?”
The back and forth would eventually peter out into something resembling a score-draw which to me pretty fairly reflects the complexity of the question, however, and this is where 3FF comes in, I do believe that we can stack the deck to give you the best chance of getting the leaders that we do deserve.
Earlier this month, I had the pleasure to attend 3FF’s Second Interfaith Summit. That event exemplified the 3FF approach – create spaces and opportunities for young people to set the agenda, enable them to engage with traditional power structures in order to provide thoughtful and critical reflection, showcase examples of inspiring youth leadership.
While I would not want to speak for the 300 or so people who attended, I think I can be pretty confident when I say that the vast, vast majority of attendees were deeply dismayed by the election of Donald Trump. Nonetheless, and this again was what was so inspiring about the Summit, none of them were about to throw their hands up in despair and walk away.
Regardless of how the election turned out, the need was already there to re-double our efforts to work to create models of leadership that are inclusive and representative – it is just that the need has become clearer! We need more events like the Summit that are intentionally designed to be future oriented and responsive to the needs of communities, that give spaces to call out and challenge hateful and divisive rhetoric, and to give people, young and old alike, hope that there are people out there who care, who are passionate about change, and who are working to build more inclusive, safer and stronger communities and societies.