On a Tuesday in early June, I received the news that I was the 2017 recipient of the Mannaz Scholarship for a 3 week learning journey in Tanzania and Zanzibar. At first, I was humbled by the fact that I was chosen among so many talented applicants, but even the excitement that then followed would not justify the incredible experience it would prove to be.
Young Global Pioneers
Young Global Pioneers is the facilitator of a global talent network each year, kicking it off with a 3 week learning journey filled with learning and networking. This year’s journey hosted 23 young talents from 12 different countries around the world, and with this setting in mind, imagine my thrill sitting in my dorm room and having to imagine what all this would be like.
The journey took us around in Tanzania and Zanzibar, from visiting local tribes, natural parks, social entrepreneurs, universities, local markets, an embassy, beautiful beaches, mangroves and much more. Trying to quantify the long list of experiences would not justify the impact such a journey can have for young people like myself, and even though the physical locations were astonishing in a variety of aspects, I can attribute an equally important weight to the learning framework provided by Young Global Pioneers and the incredible 22 other participants that I was so fortunate to travel together with.
The overall theme of the journey was responsible leadership, and the activities were all in varies ways related to this topic. The variety of experiences provided us with a deeper insight into some of the problems that Tanzanian’s face in their everyday, and how social entrepreneurs and activists try to solve them with their own innovative solutions. From one end of the spectrum in struggling with corruption and lack of water and electricity in rural areas, to the other end where female genital mutilation is a problem in many local tribes, these challenges are very real for a lot people around the world, and that is very easy to forget sitting in a well-off country like Denmark.
For me, an important learning from the journey was the cultural insight and the relation to young people from other countries, and how this is an essential aspect in dealing with different social issues. Opportunities like this journey is one aspect in which companies can invest in young individuals and expand their knowledge of other cultures, which in the long run will mean that we are better prepared to solve cultural disparities in a work place setting. With companies becoming ever more international and expanding into other countries, I believe this global mind set will be a key aspect of my generation, and will be a highly valued trait as we move into the job market. At the same time, I often hear how it is important for young people to feel like companies invest in them as loyalty decreases and switching job becomes a more common occurrence. As a result, I believe that companies that can offer an international reach and a multicultural perspective early on will become even more attractive as we embark into the future, not only because of their reach, but more so because of the learning and diversity they offer for young people which will benefit them in their future careers.
This point brings me to my most important learning of the journey: It is incredible how much one can learn about other cultures with the right setting and mind set. Learning something in your course of study, reading an article online, watching a YouTube clip or a news report simply does not compare to that experience of having a face to face conversation with a like-minded individual, where you literally can ask anything without others judging you for your lack of knowledge. Being a responsible leader is important, and as I develop personally in my career, I am confident that I will keep the experience of the learning journey in the back of my head, and think about how we can solve challenges in a socially responsible way. However, in order for young people like myself to reach this point, we as leaders have to create the right setting marked by curiosity and openness, where we can learn about each other’s cultures, and enhance our multicultural insights by asking questions and reflecting on our differences.
Being a responsible leader is important, and as I develop personally in my career, I am confident that I will keep the experience of the learning journey in the back of my head, and think about how we can solve challenges in a socially responsible way.
Sitting in my dorm room back in June, I had a hard time comprehending what this learning journey would be like. As I am now sitting in the same room typing out these words, I am still having a hard time describing the overall experience as a few learning points. Can one really put 3 weeks of travelling and 22 incredible relations into words? I am not sure, but what I can say without a doubt is that I have learned a lot about the culture and history of Tanzania and Zanzibar, and more importantly about the other participant’s cultures and backgrounds that I cannot imagine ever have achieved in another way possible. For that, I would like to extend a huge thank you to Mannaz – I am certain that experiences like mine have a remarkable impact on young people, and can only improve the global mindset that we should have as responsible leaders as we embark into the future of our careers.
Andreas Palm Knudsen