Amy Logan of The Coaches Training Institute shares an inspiring story of how Co-Active leadership training and coaching is empowering some Tibetan Buddhist refugees in India to help people, animals and their environment thrive.
It started when Venerable Tenzin Priyadarshi, a Buddhist monk ordained by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, saw a need for empowering young first-and second-generation Tibetan refugees. He perceived in these refugees an often defeatist and helpless attitude about their situation and wondered: Would they benefit from an introduction to themselves as leaders?
With Tenzin and another friend from the Dalai Lama Center for Ethics and Transformative Values at MIT, Co-Active Coach and Yale School of Management professor Erica Dawson co-developed and co-led a five-day workshop in March 2010. Their participants study at the Central University for Tibetan Studies in Sarnath, and are half Buddhist monks and nuns and half lay students. The co-leaders found the monks and nuns to have absolutely astounding insight, but lacked any notion of enacting change in their community. “In fact, our biggest challenge was to get them to see themselves as leaders at all,” says Erica, who is a graduate of the Co-Active Leadership Program. They led them to create community projects based on their values and gave them several months to see what kind of progress they could make. “Our expectations were very low, but they blew us out of the water.”
One group started teaching in a Sarnath slum, and soon had eighty children attending classes regularly – children who otherwise would never have received an education. All these students have since moved on to public school — an amazing outcome — so the group has moved on to teaching in another slum.
Another group launched an environmental campaign, starting an awareness program on their campus and personally sewing over 200 cloth bags to distribute in order to reduce the number of plastic bags in their environment. A third group started an animal welfare program to administer medicine and veterinary care to stray dogs. Another (now over 20 members strong) has started a leadership program at their college, and regularly organizes and sponsors debates, tutoring sessions, intramurals designed to unite students and faculty, and other events. There are others working with women, taking stock of living conditions in the slums, promoting vegetarianism, raising awareness of equal rights… Some more successful than others but all attempted with gusto and grace.
The original five-day workshop the co-leaders led was intended as a one-off seminar. “But,” says Erica Dawson, “because of their phenomenal success, we had to return!” They went back in July 2010 and again in March 2011 to finish up with post-project students and to launch new classes each time. They currently have over 100 past and present leadership participants.
Up until now, the program has been self-sponsored. Now, Erica is in the process of writing grants to make this a sustainable enterprise. She will next seek to bring some of her Yale MBA students to India, and some of the Tibetans to the States, in a leadership exchange program.
For more information on our group and Co-Active training, which combines self-awareness, relationship agility and courageous action out in the world, visit us online at The Coaches Training Institute.