By Barbara Lawler, International Panel of Elders
The international Panel of Elders have mandated responsibility for maintaining the core spirit and values of Initiatives of Change. It’s a positive and challenging experience with many opportunities for strengthening global teamwork through sharing learnings and challenges and taking time in quiet together to progress our business. I am in awe of fellow Elders who are in Hong Kong, Canada, France, Burundi, Japan, India etc – doing effective work in their own countries and in outreach to others. You can see the Terms of Reference here (currently being revised) and who we are here.
I have been a member for the past 6 years, due to retire on 31 December this year. Let me know if you want to be nominated. Most welcome!
Unexpectedly due to COVID lockdown, we were able to develop for IofC an international accompanying and mentoring program especially so that people in more isolated situations who might have participated in an IofC program and need “sounding boards”, sharing partners, general support to go in the direction of current or new-fouund callings through inner listening and applying IofC values. It is a mentee-driven approach. You can read more here and access the documents here. Many Australians participating and supporting in different ways and we are grateful for them. We need more! Please contact me as the Administrator of the program. EAC now has participants in 20 countries. It is an evolving program because it needs to be agile to cope with the fast-changing context of our world and the welcome and enormous diversity of our participants e.g. a recent arrangement of a US Jewish peacebuilding “pracademic” mentoring a Syrian.
We have wonderful arrangements between Nepalese Trustbuilding team and Indian mentors. Burundi Trustbuilding team has French-speaking mentors and Indonesia building on what they have already started etc. etc.
The Elders play an initial role in conflict resolution with listening conversations and have been working on revised conflict resolution guidelines with the International Council this year – which we will share when finalised.
IofC is not unique in having organisational or even interpersonal conflict when our aims are to build peace. Many NGOs around the world are facing similar challenges just now.
“Engaging Constructively in Challenging Conversations” is an important program for IofC because we often overlook when applying “change starts with me” the discipline of seeking to know and understand our own triggers to react rather than respond – and the healing we personally need. What does loving others, having compassion for them, forgiveness, actually mean for us? We started to address that a little at the National Gathering in our shadow work session – building trust within and without. We know when our heart is closed to another person or when we are judging, and that is a sign that to start with, we need to work not on the other person! but ourselves a little more deeply. Otherwise, what’s our message?
There are times when disputes need professional mediators so the Elders at this stage will have responsibility for accessing them if and when required.
We will work towards more effective teamwork with our regional groups such as the Asia Pacific Regional Group on the above. The African regional group has already made great progress in organising their accompanying and mentoring partly due to the need for French language arrangements - accompanying-mentoring documents are translated into French.
Watch this space!