There is part of me that wishes I could say that I spent last week in Prague as a tourist enjoying great sites and beer. However, that only encompasses about 0.0001 percent of my perception of what was an unforgettable and valuable experience. A truly rewarding chance to share ideas on the development of civil society with my new colleagues from Hungary, Poland, Czech Republic, USA, and Russia.
According to Visegrad School of Political Sciences‘ website, the 2018 Transatlantic-Russia Civic Workshop is “designed to support and strengthen civil society, bridge the U.S.-Russia-Visegrad cooperation and promote collaborative projects between participating countries.” I am here to attest for the coordinating team’s success in this aim and thank them for allowing me to be apart of such program. The most important part of this whole workshop was explained to us on the first day and still rings true. That was, the relationships we would form throughout our time at the workshops were equally valuable to anything we were taught about the subject matter (Leadership, Public Speaking, Networking, and Public Diplomacy).
The workshop started with a full day focused on public speaking, however, luckily for us the trainer chose to put a little twist on her presentation, and help us look intrinsically towards what archetypes drive our everyday actions, while simultaneously casting a ‘fore’shadow’ over the next day’s topic. Throughout this day Warsaw based trainer and consultant, Susanna Mazurek, expanded my self-awareness and allowed me to accept my natural leadership characteristics. I learned that I most closely associate my actions with the archetypes creator, hero, and magician; all of which, fit under the cardinal orientation of ‘ego’. At first I was scared that this meant I was an egotistical person. But, after some careful reading, I noticed that this orientation did not necessarily make me self-centered, luckily. A ‘creator’ is defined as an initiator, originator and a visionary, making it a very necessary architype for any leader. The ‘hero’ is someone who makes you believe that anything is possible and a ‘magician’ is a motivator and ignites others to action. Again, traits that serve well to anyone who desperately believes in the theory of servant leadership. Even though the Ego orientation is driven to fulfill ego-defined agendas, this presentation taught me to reinforce my deep rooted belief in servant leadership, because when my subconscious agenda is to be a servant leaders, I will use all these traits for the betterment of those around me for that is in my best interest.
The second day of the training was led by former US Marine, Jason Worlledge, and focused on Situational Leadership. For me, the best part of this day’s training was the examination of a case study written by Norman Maclean (Young Men and Fire) which chronicles the true story of a deadly forest fire. In this situation, sadly more than 80 percent of a fire squad perished, and the main reason for this unfortunate outcome resulted from one main breakdown in the team dynamics. This element was a lack of communication. The fact this was a true story reigned in our ears a bit truer, and I believe each participant is now conscious of the need to continuously communicate with our teams before and throughout a crisis moment when placed in a leadership role. We should never fail due to a breakdown in communication.
On the third day we focused on networking skills. Led by trainer Joanna Jasirska, midway through this day we were stuck in a role playing situation. The simulation was an event at the US Ambassador’s residence in south east asian country. The roles varied from Ambassadors, Ministry Members, Businessmen, CEOs, Investors, a University Professor (my role), and even a Party Crasher. At this point it is good to note that this type of event scares the life out of me. But, after this simulation I became more confident, because I was able to see my colleagues in these large positions. This calmed me down and allowed me to see how I fit into the bigger picture. A great was to help me identify who to collaborate with throughout the simulation. As I told the group after the simulation ended, I finally realized that each conversation in this setting is like a mini-negotiation. All I must do is go through the steps of conflict resolution and hone my collaborative nature. A valuable moment of growth for my professional abilities.
On a personal note, the moment when I felt closest to each participant came during a coffee break. The interesting part of this situation was that about 45 minutes before we went on the break I talked about my fear of coffee breaks and small talk. So, when we got up and went for coffee, almost each participants was excited to talk with me. Even when I engaged one person in conversations, I would look up and everyone would give me a little glance to check how I was doing in the conversation and if there was an opening for them to step in. Can you imagine? A group from different backgrounds looking to help a colleague after less than 3 days together.
On the last day of training we had the pleasure of hearing from Katarzyna Pisarska, the director of the European Academy of Diplomacy. We spent the the day discussing public diplomacy, learning how to develop a personal brand, and collaborating with are colleagues to develop a project. It did not take long for me to realize that my initial assumptions about public diplomacy (that I knew nothing about public diplomacy) were totally wrong, due to the fact, this is what the Peace Corps is all about. I have literally embodied public diplomacy for the last three years. However, this was a great opportunity to break down the meaning of public diplomacy and make connections to public diplomacy and day-to-day actions. Due to this training, I now internally reference this day and make the conscious choice to practice public diplomacy. As far as the piece where we learned about developing a personal image, my group had the opportunity to examine Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau. This was a good time for me to practice my vision board/ illustration skills.
After lunch on the fourth day we broke out into groups in accordance to topics most interesting for us. I chose Human Rights. And, as a group our task was to develop a project and a ‘pitch’ for a simulated panel of investors. Our team planned a project focused on helping victims of police abuse during public protests and how to extract best practices from around the world. The vision was program broke into three modules and included the formation of one publication. The first module being in Warsaw and focused on information sharing between victims, their advocates, and police. The second module would be a conflict resolution training based in Budapest, set in place to teach participants the skills to deal with conflict in a high stress environment. During which, participants would learn about their research task to grade the implementation of 20 best practices in their country. A report which would be distributed and debated (in Prague) at the final module and monitored one year after publication. A great idea that could foreshadow the topic of my graduate studies or future work in international development.
When you are enchanted by a magician’s spell, it is difficult to recognize the magic working around you. However, when we step back from the enchanted moments of our lives we can truly comprehend the beauty of the moments that we will cherish forever, the memories not soon to be forgotten, or the bond that will never be broken. The project’s coordinator, director, participants, and trainers combined to create a spectacular concoction of splendorous life altering moments. And, I am thankful for being allowed to bring a small part in what seems to me the fastest growing network of diplomats in Europe, the European Academy of Diplomacy.
A special thanks to the coordinators of this event, it was truly unforgettable.
*These are the thoughts of Richard J. Roman and are not those of the Peace Corps or its affiliates.