Red Cross volunteers Markus and Laura participated last month in Solferino Academy in Italy. During the one week meeting, volunteers had the change to meet people from all over the world and discuss about humanitarian issues.
Life is like a box of chocolates. You never know what you are going to get. This well-known fact also applies to Solferino Academy.
The point of the whole Solferino Academy initiative is to bring people around the world together to come up with ways how to make this planet a better place to live in. This year special focus was put on fundamental principles. Academy consisted of five days Agents of Behavioral Change (ABC) training, half-day long Roundtable dialogue and finally, the traditional Fiaccolata march with torches. Sounds vague? Well, to tell you the truth, it is. It certainly is like a box of unknown chocolates.
ABC training was the reason why it seemed worth the effort to figure out what kind of sweets were hidden in this box. It is a peer educator training for ethical leadership that was developed a few years ago by International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies. This training is aimed at giving participants the interpersonal skills and tools to be able to have a positive change in the mindsets of peers. The methodology of ABC training is experiential learning through the use of games and simulation exercises followed by discussions.
The ABC training was everything that it promised to be and even more! The group of 14 participants was as diverse as it can get in all aspects; geographically, professionally, age, Red Cross experience… This diversity, combined with the way the training was run (by challenging the participants to think, to be active and to try out the tools themselves), ignited many moments of reflection, some of which turned out to be paradigm shifting!
This, I bet, is the point of the whole training. If one wants to see a true behavioral change on someone, it has to start from an inner change in the person. And in order to understand such an inner change, it is beneficial to know yourself how it feels.
It would be perfect if all the participants would use the skills to create projects that have positive change in the society. But even if not, these lessons gave great personal value. I would imagine all the participants learned something about themselves during this course. Therefore a positive change was already made in the lives of the participants.
After five days though, this training came to an end. There would have been enough material to use for several weeks on learning and practicing this material, but we were about to move on to the Roundtable discussion.
In the Roundtable discussion a lot of effort had been used to bring important key note speakers, for example Mr. Elhadj As Sy, the Secretary General of the IFRC. It was great to hear these excellent speeches from inspirational speakers but the “think-tank” part of the Roundtable wasn’t as good as I was hoping for.
The week ended in the annual Fiaccolata. Fiaccolata is a 10 kilometres walk from Solferino to Castiglione delle Stiviere; the same walk that was taken by people helping the wounded in the battle of Solferino. This walk takes place in the night and everyone have torched with them. It is a magical walk and a befitting ending for Solferino Academy. A real cherry on the cake. Or on the box of chocolate.
Markus Neuvonen, photos Laura Musta