Aspire Artemis is a 501 (c) 3 Foundation based in New York, USA. It highlights the achievements of change makers as a catalyst towards inspiring future leaders. The organization builds leadership capacity and teaches young people the skills they need to foster positive use of language that helps them utilize their voices in constructive and empowering ways while providing hands on opportunities to career advancement. They do this by providing solution oriented growth opportunities that increases self-confidence, makes a social impact, and enriches communities. One of their aims is that of discovering leaders and empowering them to face future challenges. The Organization works with international organizations, the private sector, relevant government partners, civil society, and other world bodies to actualize this objective.
The foundation, as part of its activities for international Women’s Month, in collaboration and support from several ministries in Saint Lucia including the Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development, international organizations, civil society, local grassroots organizations, the private sector and other relevant stakeholders, held a Women’s Empowerment and Youth Development Summit which kicked off at the Ministry of Infrastructure Complex.
The activities which took place in March 2018 at the American International Medical University (AIMU) were held in Room 315 from 11.30am till the end of the school day. Part of the activity was a game simulation entitled “The Enlighten Initiative” which was designed for use at the Summit in Saint Lucia by World +Global. World + Global provides a dynamic program of immersive learning experiences, tools, and a private network of resources that give transformational change agents the maximum opportunity to achieve scalable impact in a multitude of environments and under adverse conditions.
The students of AIMU along with participants from NGOs, civil society, youth from the local community, and other relevant stakeholders, gathered to participate in the game simulation. Participants were enthusiastic and curious about what was about to unfold. They were all given separate identities before entering the room. They were further told to leave their former identities behind and assume the roles which were given to them on their assigned name tags.
The game had an Ambassador accompanied by a team of Invisibles. The Ambassador was to play the role of the leader and the Invisibles had to practice leading through observation and facilitation. The role of the invisibles was not to instruct but to empower participants through trust and a spirit of confidence in the group’s capacity to deliver the goals at the end of the session. Facilitators (the invisibles) were instructed that there would be times during the experience when participants would struggle, become frustrated, and may want to quit. Facilitators had to encourage and sometimes deliberately ignore frustration to allow the participants to come up with solutions to their problems on their own. Everything was directly tied to leadership competencies.
Participants were to learn leadership skills without being told directly which skills they were learning, but rather to learn through doing. Those skills would then be outlined to them during the debrief session. The invisibles observed whether participants took notes, exhibited attributes of initiative, organization and planning. They were instructed to do this by the instructions built into the game.
When the game began, participants listened intently to what was being said by the ambassador; some took notes. Participants were fully submerged in the game simulation, considering all aspects of the game. Some argued with their fellow group members on what was best for the situation in the game. Facilitators took notes on the participants’ behaviors and leadership skills.
The Participants were separated into small groups of six members each; in all there were more than 10 groups. A Case scenario was given to the participants of a natural disaster occurring in the world and as world leaders they should provide their expertise in bringing solutions to save lives before, during and after the disaster. At the end, each group presented their findings based on the expertise ascribed to them before they entered the simulation exercise.
The Participants from AIMU were both from the faculties of Medicine and Nursing. A diverse group spanning numerous countries, continents, age ranges and religious backgrounds participated in leadership training exercises. Apart from students and faculty of AIMU’s faculties of Nursing and Medicine, participants from the Community, Family and Youth Resilience program (CYFR) and Rise Saint Lucia also engaged in the training activity. Importantly, this served as a “train the trainers” exercise so that the lessons learnt would have a spillover effect in various communities. Diverse facilitators have been empowered to share lessons about youth leadership and involvement.
Participants were read a letter by the Ambassador. This was the end of world instructions and the only directions given to the ambassador. It was designed to be deliberately complex in nature, somewhat ambiguous, demanding excellent listening and learning agility.
The type of detailed solutions and plans derived from the students were astounding. Their ability to think outside of the box and work together as a team made this exercise extremely beneficial to their learning and development. Students found that despite disagreements they had to work together. Some got into very real arguments but worked together as a team to find innovative and creative solutions to complex global challenges.
This type of problem solving, team-work and innovation can be utilized to re-channel the energies of youth away from violence and division towards collaboration and teamwork with a social impact. Students who often lose focus during normal classroom activities were incredibly engaged to the point that they did not want to leave the room neither during their lunch break nor at the end of the simulation. In fact, they wanted to continue past the end of their regular school hours.
At the end of the game, there was a competition in which the most outstanding leader was voted on by every single participant in the simulation. This was a mixed group of male and female students, as well as other youth and adults.
A winner emerged in the Person of Ms. Omotoyigbo Gbemileke Adenike of MD III via votes from her group members, participants and the Invisibles i.e. Faculties and facilitators. Finally, when the prize was to be given to the most outstanding participant, the prize winner received her prize rightfully because she exhibited excellent leadership skills from the beginning of the simulation.
A scholarship was given to her as the winner to participate in a leadership training event in New York with all expenses paid.
Hermina Johnny, the organizer of the summit and Director of Strategy at the Aspire Artemis Foundation, said, “It’s fascinating to see such transformational learning from young people. It highlighted that when given the tools and opportunities, youth can come up with innovative solutions to extremely complex situations and challenges. These young people exhibited out of the box thinking, with detailed, time bound and very practical solutions to a very real problem. Youth are often drivers of lasting and sustainable change. I am very happy to have demonstrated, through this simulated exercise, the leaps of imagination and depth that young people are capable of. The learning process was cross-generational. As a change, adults were forced to sit back and observe while the youth came up with practical and realistic solutions. I’m delighted by the potential of this form of leadership training and skills development and hope to continue working with universities to continue leadership development in this regard. I have to extend special thanks to the government of Saint Lucia, the office of the Prime Minister, the Ministry of Education, Innovation, Gender Relations and Sustainable Development and all of its partners who had a truly collaborative and integrated approach to International Women’s Day events on the Island. I would also like to give special thanks to UNICEF, UNWOMEN and UNFPA for their support.”
Overall this exercise focused on leadership skill building and development with a social impact. Trainers had to be quiet listeners. They listened to allow. The focus was not on “Here’s what you need to do”, but rather “What do you think we need to do?” This was a very innovative approach to leadership development, team building and skills training that we hope to repeat at AIMU in the future. We hope to work more frequently with the Aspire Artemis Foundation in the near future to actualize our shared goals of student learning and development.