Experience of Youth Leadership Summit 2014: Relevance

Last week, I had the opportunity to attend Youth Leadership Summit 2014 organised by Bangladesh Youth Leadership Center in Dhaka. 450 delegates (both national and international) and 50 speakers took part in the Summit. The delegates were selected out 2000 applicants. The delegate group consisted college (12th graders) to Masters students and young professionals. I tried to live blog each of the days, you can read more about those by going to day 1, day 2 and day 3.

Delegates of Youth Leadership Summit 2014. Credit: BYLC Facebook Page
Delegates of Youth Leadership Summit 2014. Credit: BYLC Facebook Page

The first point I would like to point out here that this youths represent a biased portion of the society due to couple of facts: 1) Unlike other BYLC summit this time, there was a fee of 3000 Taka to become a delegate, which for many was too high. Specially for those studying in public universities. 2) Application was received from 2000 youths out of millions, which does show only the portion willing to come were there. So, when these delegates are treated special, I beg to differ. Also, there were outliers like me who went in there to witness what the summit or the delegates have to offer.

Most were university students, specially from undergrad level. A few were Master’s students and young professionals. According one such graduate student:

I felt that the summit was suitable for college and first or second year students, not for people who are in masters level or doing jobs.

Next comes the point of relevance. How relevant the model of the Leadership Summit is in the context of Bangladesh? Many would just feel stunt of me making the question. But bear with me for few minutes.

If you ask a Bangladeshi about a leader, he or she would point directly to any politician. That may lead one to the conclusion that politicians and leaders are the same. Are they?

No they are not.  Jim Sniechowski, one of the Linkedin Influencer pointed out the differences well in his post. The post uses good example to explain. He also tried to find if there is any common area/interest/role among the two. He wrote:

Can a leader, as I define it, be a politician? Yes, but the combination is infrequent. Can a politician be a leader? Of course, but again the combination is infrequent, because he or she by character is more attracted to the nuts and bolts of carrying out operations than that of dreaming, musing, envisioning what is not yet in practice.

Now, the reason I bring this point in the table is—in a country where most do not know what role is played by whom, are they sure whether they want to be leaders or politicians? Or both?

Though a number of political party leaders and government officials were present in the summit, I did not find any youth who is affiliated with political parties or with government agencies. Two points can be made out of it: 1) No one with that population group is involved with political parties or with government agencies. or 2) They do not care about summit’s like this.

So a group is excluded from the process when you leave the youths who are in politics, who may become future leaders, policy makers and officials for government. How does it effect the whole process of Leadership enrichment should be explored in future.

I did have the privilege to attend two of the summits organised by BYLC. In both of the times, I tried to understand what did I learn, or what changed in me or what effect did it do. As Ejaj Ahmed, founder of BYLC repeated pointed it out that each year youths come in, get motivated during the sessions and pledge to change a lot of things. But after a week of the summit, everything goes back to as it was.

Learning includes what they take as motivation, the links they build and the certificates they take with them after the completion of the summit which may help them in career.

So, what is not clicking?

I talked with few delegates who also thought about it and turns out that these youths are already motivated. What the summit does is increase adrenaline. What these youth require is the guidance or learning the process to use their motivation to something substantial.  As I wrote what one foreign delegate commented:

It feels like they are just touching the surface, but not going to the root of the problem.

Also the sessions need to be planned with a different approach, it should not necessarily follow a model that is too much pre-designed. Even during the sessions, I found two sessions with speakers who were not ideal to talk about the topic. I think next time the organiser should think about a different approach rather than going for a north-american or European model.

Now, back to the point of relevance. I must share two experiences I had during the summit, here. After the first session of the first day, I went to the Gent’s Toilet to urinate. And I found the toilet left dirty by my previous user which reminded me what Gowher Rizvi just about half an hour ago in his inauguration speech said—to think and care about others!

The next experience I had during the afternoon tea break where a line was formed in front of the queue where tea was served. I was in line and to my surprise people just came in and took tea without caring the line. I did try to ask them after the incident what they think of their action. They did say sorry, but I feel they do not feel it by heart.

Though both of the examples are small and simple, but there are coherent and correlated. They show that we do lack the practice even though we complain about bribes, corruptions, misuse of property.

The change should be brought in at personal level first. They should know who they are, why they are doing what they are doing and how. Self-realisation is important. I found many lack knowledge about leadership, what leader is, the stakeholders they want to work with and most importantly the process they want to work. I found many with dreams of working on different topics without knowing the basic facts (Such included: Minority rights, traffic condition, bicycles, youth empowerment, energy condition etc.)

I heard almost all wants to do something for the country, and everyone, even the foreign delegates appreciate that. But the gap between reality and dream—how to mitigate that should be the focus of a Leadership Summit if such again takes place in future.

Please do comment if you think something fruitful can be added or some of the facts that can be argued about. I believe the intention is there, but the execution is not bringing the desired result. So I would love to hear what you think.

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