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Young people from 16 countries including Australia, America, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Canada, China, Italy, India, Iraq, Germany,  Japan, Jordan, Palestine, Nepal and the UK are now Global Social Leaders having completed a fortnight residential programme run by Future Foundations and the Wellington Leadership Institute. We were also joined by Alumni of previous years programmes, teachers from 5 schools and Ambassadors from Wellington College.

Representing a host of different experiences and nationalities participants came together to exchange ideas, consider different leadership models and discuss how they can make a positive impact in their own, very diverse local communities. They departed on Friday having acquired a toolkit of skills, knowledge and the passion to make a difference to the lives of others not to mention having grown immeasurably in confidence, experience and formed friendships that will last a lifetime.

Much to everyone’s delight and surprise the sun shone (almost!) throughout the 12 days of training and participants were treated to a beautiful English Summer in the spectacular grounds of Wellington College in Berkshire. The programme is designed to take participants on an exciting journey through a hugely varied timetable of workshops, activities, 1-2-1 coaching and excursions all led by a team of Future Foundations’ experienced facilitators. In addition to encountering our staff they also had an opportunity to connect with alumni of previous programmes, student ambassadors from Wellington College and inspiring visiting speakers from the UK and beyond, who shared their own experiences of social change.

The 2016 Global Social Leaders journey began on Monday 8th August with a day of introductions and icebreakers as participants met the coaches and young people that would form their  team for the next two weeks. That evening participants from every country were challenged to share a flavour of their national culture and we were treated to incredible displays of dance. They following day they undertook a series of workshops posing the question, what are the challenges happening all over the world, how are global and local issues connected and what hope is there to make positive change? We also welcomed our very first Guest Speaker, Sean Dagen Wood from Positive News to explore how we re-frame the media and share positive news stories around the world.

Wednesday saw Team GSL travel to Oxford to explore one of the UK’s most beautiful historic cities and develop their understanding of Higher Education. In addition to a highly competitive team challenge which involved students racing around the city to complete a set of tasks they were given a taste of University life with our staff sharing their personal University experiences with participants, answering questions and helping to inform students decision making process.

After a fantastic and busy day in Oxford, on Thursday the focus shifted from team challenges and the external to the individual self. Participants were led through a series of experiential activities  to explore the themes of self awareness, self direction and confidence. They also put the concept of resilience into action through a sunny session on the College’s low ropes course led by Katy from the Wellington Leadership Institute.

As week one drew to a close the GSL participants were asked to delve  deeper into the foundations of leadership and having spent the previous day focused on self-discovery and self-leadership they took a step back to look at social leadership. This included exploring different styles of leadership, discussing the concept of followership and putting these into practice with an array of physical challenges to develop their team work and communication, trust in one another and ability to recognise and employ different leadership styles.

After a fun but demanding first week it was time to relax and soak up the sights and sounds of London in the Summertime. This year with the Rio Olympics in full swing we took participants to the incredible Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, home to the 2012 London Olympic Games  to try their hand at a few sports, watch highlights of the previous days games and make full use of East London’s very own homage to Copacabana beach. Participants hit the local shops and had the chance to experience London’s newest attraction, sliding down the ArcelorMittal Orbit sculpture and enjoying stunning views of East London along the way.

The weekend culminated in  the 4th Annual GSL Talent Show in the Theatre at Wellington College.

Week two launched with a day of exploring the theme of empowerment – how can we empower those around us to make social change happen? In the afternoon the first ever GSL Inspire event took place. Participants, teachers and staff stepped up and took to the floor to present a talk of their choosing under the theme ‘global social leader.’

In the evening the focus turned to understanding Micro Finance and how the business model of microloans work. Teams took turns to pitch on behalf of a real life entrepreneur in the developing  world in front of a panel of judges with the winning team receiving funds to help finance a loan to their chosen entrepreneur.

A highlight of week two was an energetic day spent splashing around at Wellington College’s Horseshoe Lake. Participants were organised into teams and challenged to put all their leadership learning into practice as they went head to head in a series of competitive tasks and activities. Again, we were treated to a sun soaked day.

As GSL drew to a close we focused on how to turn good intentions into reality and help participants to commit to action and become leaders of positive change in their communities. Coaches provided project planning support, helping young people to create a personal manifesto and set SMART goals for their social action project

We also welcomed a number of incredible guest speakers to GSL in the last days of the programme to help catalyse project and inspire our participants. These included Beth Button, President of the national Union of Students in Wales to talk about how to use our networks of support and the UN Sustainable Development Goals as a focus for future projects and GSL societies. The also heard from Charlotte from People-Made, who delivered a workshop on global branding to inspire them to think big with their projects and society plans.

The finale of GSL 2016 came on Thursday evening, with a formal dinner and awesome party to thank and celebrate the achievements of every participant and staff member that has made this years’ GSL such an incredible and fun journey. As is the tradition, the last day of programme treated participants to a mega end of programme montage, epic closing plenary and, of course, sugar cubes to round off  2 weeks of life changing experiences, inspiration, ideas, new skills and resources and launch our 2016 participants into  action.

“FF provided a place where self discovery experiences and lifetime bonds could be made, and a place to gather like minded individuals to bring social change to the world.”

Sonny Lee, Participant from USA

Global Social Leaders has been the best two weeks of my life. This has been an experience which has allowed me to know my values and passions and it will change the way I approach life

Eliza Clout , Participant from United Arab Emirates

It has moulded every individual for the better. It made me realise what I really care about and have started my journey of self discovery. It taught me to express my self in a better way and to become more confident about myself and my ideas.

Gurinayat Brar, Participant from India

GSL’s 2016 participants have now arrived home, unpacked and begun to digest the last few weeks. So what happens next?

Well, this year participants were introduced to the concept of the GSL Society and given resources and guidelines to support them in setting up a GSL Society in their school. A GSL Society is a school club established to enable sustainable high quality social action projects led by students, supported by teachers and the wider school community. Students will be supported by a framework which ensures the projects continue beyond any one student leader. The aim is to enable students and teachers to establish projects they would not have dreamed possible. Find out more here

Global Social Leaders is our flagship programme which, now into it’s fourth consecutive year, has built a worldwide network of young leaders driving social change through their actions, positive peer influence, and leadership in grassroots projects. Our 2016 cohort will remain connected with Future Foundations and one another as they join the ranks of inspirational GSL alumni who are actively leading projects and putting their passions and skills into use. Over the coming months we look forward to hearing how they choose to apply the learning journey they have been on this Summer to local issues which they feel passionately about, and sharing that with you.