Initiatives of Change International, in partnership with IofC India, convened an exciting international conference, at Asia Plateau, India from 7 – 11 February this year. Participants who hailed from over 30 countries were able to take part in contemplative morning activities, topic-driven workshops, hallmark IofC activities and engage with long-standing members in our network. To anchor the conference, each day featured a plenary of speakers who delivered their thoughts on one of the conference’s four themes:
Democracy: How do we make democracy real in the face of increasing populism, extremism and polarisation?
Sustainability: How do we speed the process towards a sustainable global society, tackling the environmental crisis and bridging economic divides?
Inclusivity: How can we work for a society where all feel included and able to contribute, whatever our wealth, gender, ethnicity, religion, sexuality, ability.
Trust: How do we heal broken relationships and rebuild trust?
Each plenary session, held before morning tea, set the tone for the day as dynamic speakers presented their perspectives. Each speaker was given roughly seven minutes to provide the audience with their experiences, suggestions and personal connection to the theme. Familiar faces, such as Rajmohan Gandhi, and newcomers to Asia Plateau, such as Ethiopia’s Chief Commissioner of Human Rights, Daniel Bekele, challenged participants to think about different approaches to the issue being illuminated that day.
‘I was inspired by the expertise of the speakers, many of whom I am now able to refer to in my workshops for secondary students as role models of people who are solution-focused, change-makers in our world,’ said Margaret Hepworth (Melbourne), author of The Gandhi Experiment. ‘This helps me give credence to the “Positive Reality” methodology I use in schools.’
Workshops allowed participants to go deeper into related topics and provided an opportunity to ask questions and engage with other participants. Themes ranged from ‘Smart Citizens in Democracy Processes’ to ‘Nurturing Consciousness’ and from ‘Sustainable Business’ to ‘Initiating Change: From within to beyond’, providing a balance of practical knowledge and inner wisdom.
Additionally, an important component of ‘Towards a Humane World’ was the community groups, which offered safe space for the deeper, and often difficult, conversations to occur. Reflective silence and guidance from a facilitator gave each person the confidence to share what was weighing on their heart and mind. Barbara Lawler (Brisbane), Convener of the International Panel of Elders‘ was at the conference to co-lead one of the workshops on ‘Accompaniment – a key to sustained changemaking’, but was also tapped to facilitate one such community.
‘It was a great joy and privilege to co-facilitate a community group, which met after the plenaries, to share on what had come up and our own personal stories,’ she said. ‘My group was open and ready to communicate their own experiences, some of which had been painful and required great courage and faith to share. This type of sharing makes all the difference in the effectiveness and shows how important international dialogue is.’
The conference brought together many different perspectives, not only on the previously mentioned issues, but also on how IofC can remain relevant in an ever-changing society. The conclusion of the conference left participants feeling vibrantly enthusiastic and inspired to continue developing their ideas for global change. Our society is a collective responsibility, and we can only make a measurable difference if we work together.