This afternoon I set off for just over a fortnight in Delhi, as part of a 25 strong delegation from the UK, attending the Xth Commonwealth Study Conference. This conference, originally set up 25 years ago by the Duke of Edinburgh, takes participants drawn from commerce, the unions and the third sector from all over the Commonwealth and puts them in small working groups to research and report on issues faced by people in the country being visited. In the process, the participants grapple with the dynamics of their group, the pressures of working to exhausting deadlines and the challenges of travel in a strange environment. It is, apparently, an extremely impressive management and leadership training experience, with alumnae who are now heading up corporations, government departments and NGOs around the world. I’m honoured, if a little nervous, to be attending.
Yesterday, about as far from Delhi as you can get, we received a briefing from alumnae and others in Richmond. Amongst other things, an introduction to India from a former Country Director for the country at the World Bank and the Indian High Commissioner; advice on how to get through the next three weeks and its apparent emotional rollercoaster ride from Jim McAuslan of BAPA, stories about the 9th Conference from our immediate predecessors.
Here are just some of the things I’m going to try to do over the next three weeks, following the advice of Nick Sanders, (CSC Trustee and alumnus 1986):
1 Pick people who are very different from me to talk to
2 Learn how bad I am at judging people on first impressions
3 Write things down, including my feelings, here if I can get to a computer
4 Prepare each evening for the day ahead
5 Talk to people that the organisers would rather I didn’t talk to
6 Challenge the good impressions that the organisers of various visits will be wanting to make
7 Learn to ask good questions quickly – What’s great about working here? If you were in charge,what would you change?
8 Practise telling stories
9 Keep a more private learning log
10 Resolve to take action
The other 24 participants are from a wide range of backgrounds. I think I’m probably the oldest, by a couple of years. They all seem pleasant, in the way that a group of strangers gathered together for the first time will seem. There was a tiny bit of posturing. The men seemed more keen to voice opinions than the women.
I think the next couple of weeks are going to be interesting…