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Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Liberty in Liberia

The Center for Creative Leadership has been invited by the Government of Liberia to help develop a global leadership initiative for women in government. The effort is being championed by Ellen Johnson Sirleaf, Africa's first female head of state, and Tarja Halonen, President of Finland. In her two years in office, President Johnson Sirleaf has already enacted a dramatic transformation in Liberia, a country that has seen its share of horror.

Johnson-Sirleaf has set her presidency as an example of a new kind of leadership. In a speech on leadership at International Institute For Strategic Studies, she stated:

"I pledged to demystify the Presidency, and decentralize the governance system in a spirit of participatory democracy, which will ensure that every segment of our society will become an effective stakeholder, rather than a disinterested bystander, in the running of the country.

"... [a] daunting challenge which our leadership faces in the post- conflict period is getting our war-weary populace to renew their faith and confidence in themselves as a people capable of forging a much better future. This may sound simple, but it is not. In the context of post-conflict leadership, it devolves on us to provide the proper environment that will enable our people to regain their self-confidence. In this regard, we have the responsibility to put in place a governance system based on transparency, accountability, rule of law, and respect for the fundamental human rights of our people, as well as create opportunities for the re-emergence and rekindling of their abundant entrepreneurial skills and aptitudes."

Sirleaf's words are far from empty. The change in Liberia was contrasted by Steve Radelet, a development expert, in the New York Times:

[Before Johnson-Sirleaf] "... the 14-year civil war had killed 270,000 people -- an astonishing one out of every twelve Liberians -- and forced another 250,000 to become refugees. The economy had completely collapsed, with GDP falling by more than 90 percent between 1989 and 1996, one of the largest collapses ever recorded anywhere in the world. Children as young as ten had become pawns in the violence, with warlords abducting them from their families, stuffing them with drugs and arming them with AK-47s."

The situation today is far different, says Radelet, who has been back a dozen times in the past two years:

"Each time I come there are new signs of change: schools and clinics are being reopened, stores are restocked and repainted, the streets are ever more crowded with commercial activity, and electricity and water are being restored (there was no piped water or electricity except generators anywhere in the country for 14 years). Liberia's "control of corruption" index, as measured by the World Bank, registered the second-largest improvement of any country in the world this year."

The change in Liberia is cause for great hope. It signals the dramatic role that leadership can play even in the most fragile of states.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Transformation and the Twenty-Something

By Joel Wright

The Center has been exploring at ways to develop young leaders. New research, by Jeffery Arnett at Clark University in Worchester, MA, indicates that there is greater potential for transformation in lives of the average twenty-something today.

Dr. Arnett is a pioneer in studying and proposing that there is a new developmental time of ones life occurring between adolescence and young adulthood. According to Arnett, in the past half century what most people experience between the ages of 18 – 29 has changed significantly in industrialized societies. One major change is with marriage and parenthood. In the past, most in this group would start this phase of their life in the early twenties but now it is being pushed off until the late twenties. Arnett claims that the period from the late teens through the mid twenties is now a time of self-focused exploration trying different possibilities with work and love. Some during this period even claim a “quarter-life crisis”.

Based on interviewing 300 “emerging adults,” Arnett describes the five key stages of Emerging Adulthood which distinguish it from the periods of Adolescence & Young Adulthood:

1.) Age of identity explorations – exploring love & work which helps them understand more about who they are and what they want out of life.
2.) Age of instability – because of the exploration, their life/work/love plan is constantly changing as new decisions and explorations reveal new insights.
3.) Self-focused age – with so many decisions occurring during this time, only the individual can truly decide what they want.
4.) Age of feeling in–between – a “gradual” change from adolescents to adulthood which can last between 7 – 10 years.
5.) Age of possibilities – high hopes and great expectations, a time of transformation

Aspects of these five areas were first noticed and classified as part of “Generation X”; however they are now becoming more mainstream with subsequent generations.

Age of Identity Explorations:
While typically identity formation is associated with beginning in adolescence, Emerging Adults are still exploring and are much closer to achieving their identity. During this period they are able to try out different ways of living and different options for love and work.

Age of Instability:
While Emerging Adults know they need a plan, it is often one constantly being revisited. Thus, this period can lead to anxiety about where to go and what to do for the next day, week, month or year. Some Emerging Adults will even look back on high-school years fondly because at least they knew where they were going and what they would be doing next. Moving, typifies this transient time period because with so many choices and changes occurring, each one could direct them to a new place to live and with new people.

Self-focused Age:
“There is no time of life that is more self-focused than Emerging Adulthood.” With so many choices occurring: what college, what major, what love, what occupation, when to come home, when to eat … the only one who truly knows these answers is the individual. This self-focus is healthy and Emerging Adults see it as necessary before they make big relationship commitments in work, love & life.

Age of Feeling In-Between:
When Emerging Adults were asked to describe this period the most used word was “gradual”. “Gradual” could be a great summary word for the key criteria that most regions in the U.S. and in most ethnic groups see as the three distinguishers of adulthood:

1.) Accept Responsibility for yourself
2.) Make Independent Decisions
3.) Become Financially Independent

All three of these take on a “gradual” and incremental process rather than all at once. Interestingly, when polled by Arnett, 60% of those from the age of 18 – mid twenties responded that they did not quite feel like adults yet.

Age of Possibilities:
Without having truly been tested by the “fires” of life or being tied down to certain networks, responsibilities and commitments, opportunity abounds. Since many of this group does not live at home, personal transformation is a huge part of this period. Their ability to depart from their past – whether positive or challenging – and the many choices and explorations that take place can be extremely formative. This period can last for about 7 – 10 years.

For more information on this topic visit Jeffrey Jensen Arnett’s website:
Or consider reading his new book, Emerging Adulthood: The Winding Road from the Late Teens through the Twenties.

Other resources:

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Improving Leadership in Fragile States

Leadership in fragile states continues to be a significant concern around the globe. Back in 2006, the Center partnered with CHF International to convene a dialogue on Capitol Hill to discuss critical issues and approaches.

The panel discussion in Washington, D.C. was titled "Leadership in Fragile States: Building Stable Societies through Local Leadership." The half-day event on Capitol Hill brought together an array of international experts to explore best practices for supporting local leadership in fragile states such as Iraq, Afghanistan and Sudan. To view video clips of the opening statements made by each panelist, including CCL President John Alexander and CCL faculty member George Houston, please visit the appropriate video links from CCL's website: A Capital Hill Panel Discussion

Here's a direct link to a statement by Robert Jenkins of the USAID Office of Transition Initiatives.

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Leadership Tools for Grassroots Trainers

One of the fronts in our exploration is the creation of leadership development tools that can be used by grassroots leadership trainers. In India we tested whether the CCL tool Visual Explorer – a set of pictures used to facilitate creative thinking and group dialogue – could be used by trainers who work with youth and community organizations. Philomena Rego observed two tests with Adrian Rosario, a leadership trainer who had only been provided Visual Explorer tool along with simple written instructions. She reports:

We used Visual Explorer with a group of 185 college and working youth in South Bombay, India. The facilitator used Visual Explorer with the framing question: where are you in the bigger picture? These youth were asked to consider where they see themselves playing a role at the present how they could become more involved in playing a leadership role. It was amazing to see them in small groups talking about their role in schools and at work and how they are able to make a difference in their own small ways. Some of these young students felt that they had the responsibility to make this world a better place for everyone.

Jeevan Dhara is an NGO based in Cheetah Camp, Mumbai. This is Asia's second largest slum. Jeevan Dhara operates pre-school classes for children, adult literacy classes and study classes. It also works on HIV/AIDS issues and drug & alcohol rehabilitation. Visual Explorer was used with the teachers of the above programs. The framing question used was "how do you see your work/role in this community?" The session was conducted in Hindi, as the teachers are mostly Muslim, and Hindi is the most understood language in Mumbai slums. The teachers enjoyed the session which was aimed at improving their ability to work together and stay committed, inspite of the difficulties. VE helped them to express themselves more freely since they were speaking about the picture they had picked. The pictures do not have any language barriers.

Another Visual Explorer session was held with a small group of Young Christian Workers in Mumbai on August 24th. This group wanted to help each other see the importance of belonging to the group and sharing their thoughts. The group felt the pictures made it easy for them to talk about themselves and what each of them contributes to make the group strong and meaningful.

The success of Visual Explorer in field tests such as this has encouraged us to pursue the development of a broader range of inexpensive tools that can be used by grassroots trainers, teachers, and community workers. These tools work best when they are simple to use and flexible in their range of application. More on Visual Explorer at: