Attending the Global Landscapes Forum, as a part of the 50 youth innovators who were selected from across the globe for the Youth in Landscapes Initiative, was the kind of experience that one stumbles upon and new doors open. The dichotomy of the professional and personal is a faulty one as the passion that may define one’s profession comes from a very personal space.
The YIL was the breaking of this dichotomy and finding people who shared similar passions for the landscape from all walks of life and professions. I got to work in my team with a sustainability professional, a research scholar, an agricultural communicator among others and all the teams were similarly eclectic.
Working in a team with people I had just met helped us all shed our reservations and join hands to solve our challenges. There was friction and finally resolution that made the experience complete. In the Education challenge, we were asked to design an online landscape academy that would train young landscape professionals.
As people who spoke different languages and idioms, we found it difficult to communicate efficiently and build consensus. Not one of us spoke English as a first language. Understanding the “challenge” was a challenge in itself as each of us had a different view of it. Even the organizers and the mentors differed on what they expected us to do!
However, all the time spent with each other and the team-building exercises that we underwent with Hannah and Gabrielle finally came to fruition when we managed to develop a pitch that got the loudest applause in the dragon’s den. Our pitchers brought out the best from the team and hours of practicing worked its magic!
All it took was understanding that underneath the babel like chaos, we all spoke the same language. A language of landscapes that despite all our different nationalities and backgrounds, we agreed to what the problems of working in landscapes related professions are. And developing solutions to those problems solved our challenge of developing a landscape academy.
Attending the GLF was educational and eye opening. By learning about landscape issues at the global level, I also realized how my work could contribute to it. Along with learning about various pressing issues, I could also identify certain gaps that one can work towards filling up. I work on agricultural innovations based on traditional knowledge in indigenous and local communities.
Even though there was so much talk of the rights of indigenous peoples, the role that they can play as stakeholders in climate change mitigation and adaptation is grossly under-debated. Indigenous and traditional knowledge systems integrated with their landscapes in nuanced ways that we cannot even begin to surmise. It can provide vital links.
The shared passion of landscape issues made conversations even outside of the workshop extremely enriching. And when we were not “thinking landscape” we realized there were other great unifiers like Star Wars and Bollywood! I also discovered some of the most beautiful parts of Paris after the workshops with the other participants.
Right from people helping me out in India with the visa and passport obligations to meeting the most delightful bunch at the YIL and interacting with senior professionals at the GLF, I realized that there are various people willing to hear you out and lending a hand. The first step is asking. The YIL taught me a great deal about that.
At the individual level, participating the YIL and GLF was an immensely gratifying and invigorating experience. On the first day, I told my teammates I was scared of speaking to a crowd but the kind of comfort that we developed in the workshop, I felt no hesitation to speak up. This was not just in our team and the youth initiative but also at the dragons’ den where even though I wasn’t pitching, I volunteered to respond to a dragon’s comment. I felt my confidence grow with each passing day at the workshop. Thank you guys! This was my first time outside of my country and I felt completely at home.
Prakriti Mukerjee is one of the 10 young champions who worked on the “Education” Landscape challenge with Youth program’s partner: Wageningen UR.
Learn more about the Global Landscapes Forum Youth program, meet our 50 youth champions, discover the 5 Landscapes challenges they took up and the solutions they developed and pitched at the Dragon’s Den on 6th December 2015, in Paris.