Reflective practice, collaborative social change and rural community development were the focus of an international workshop at the Asian Rural Institute (ARI) that took one Antioch Seattle core faculty member and three alumni from the MA Programs in Leadership and Change (CCC) to Nasushiobara in northern Japan in February.
Core Faculty member Britt Yamamoto and recent CCC graduates Micah Anderson, Kierstyn Hunter and Melissa Campbell led sessions of the three-day workshop for ARI instructors, who offer a nine-month training program in sustainable organic farming, leadership and community development for rural leaders from developing countries in Asia, Africa and the Pacific. Now in its 36th year, ARI was one of the first international, non-governmental training organizations in Japan.
Yamamoto, core faculty in the Environment and Community master’s program in the MA Programs in Leadership and Change, had spent a year as special lecturer at ARI. He is also executive director of iLEAP: The Center for Critical Service, a nonprofit organization that designs and develops international training programs focused on social change and global citizenship. It was ARI that extended the invitation to Yamamoto when it wanted to bring a group affiliated with a university to its working educational farm in rural Japan for the workshop. All three CCC alumni are former students of Yamamoto’s and currently serve iLEAP as staff members. As such, the group represented both Antioch Seattle and iLEAP on the Japan trip.
“I felt the workshop was a great success. Among other things, I was reminded of how relevant and widely applicable the MA Programs in Leadership and Change’s unique approach to reflective practice is,” says Yamamoto. “Because of how our emphasis on social reflection for collaborative change goes beyond the conventional model of personal reflection, it really resonated at ARI as useful to them as trainers who are working to facilitate positive social change in communities around the world.”
Hunter, a 2007 whole systems design graduate, says she led a session on global funding, philanthropy and social entrepreneurship. “For me, it was a great opportunity to look back on what I learned, facilitate and share my knowledge on those topics,” she notes, adding, “We definitely got amazing feedback, too, that the workshop was significant and relevant to how they work.”
Anderson, a 2007 environment and community graduate, agreed. His session was devoted to trends in rural community development. “It was a learning experience and it put into practice what I learned in the MA Programs in Leadership and Change,” he says.
Anderson, who served in the Peace Corps in Zambia, where he focused on rural community development and sustainable agriculture, also presented a session with Campbell, another 2007 environment and community graduate, on trends in alternative energy.
“There were several collaborative pieces to the workshop which was great because we were all bouncing ideas off one another. A lot of our planning took place sitting around the dining room table,” Anderson says.
Campbell, who also presented a session on climate change and agricultural development, notes, “The experience of teaching at ARI offered the opportunity to put theory into practice. We discussed real world issues like climate change and then used the collaborative reflective cycle to process what this means and to discuss how ARI should move forward, as a collective.”
She says relationships created during the workshop enhanced its impact.
“The best part of the workshop,” Campbell says, “was the fact that we were living with and among the participants for the entire week. We created relationships that went beyond the dining hall and extended to the classroom. Had we not been able to establish these relationships and not been offered the time to get to know the participants, our workshop may not have been as meaningful. We were able to draw upon previous conversations from the week and use those as guides for our teaching. I felt this provided a more authentic experience than what the traditional consultant or teaching models might allow. It was steeped in relationship.”