Once upon a time, I was the youngest at any work-related event. Now, it seems, most of the time, I am always the oldest in the room. 🙂
I spent last week with a hundred people less than half my age. And they inspired me.
I just came back from ICYA2017, the International Conference for Youth in Agriculture, a four day conference organised by the International Association of Students in Agriculture and related sciences (IAAS).
Well, I always find it inspiring to work with youth, at conferences, in training settings or in other projects. GFAR continuously supports youth projects and activity stimulates youth participation for any activity we are involved in.
But this one was extra special, as it was organised by young people for young people, without any paid staff, nor any full-time volunteers and within a small budget. By students, for students, all done in their own spare time, in between exams, internships, assignments and thesis research…
The conference had a learning component, an “input stream” and a “work stream”. That by itself made the conference an ideal setting for participants to acquire new skills, get input on conference topics and actually work together on specific project proposals along the conference topics.
Within the learning component, GFAR supported the conference in facilitating a two-days social media bootcamp, prior to the actual conference. Participants, the social reporters, would then report live from the conference, using the skills they acquired during the bootcamp. (Check out their live blogs)
All conference attendees also had a half-a-day of soft skills training on youth leadership, group work facilitation, the art of brainstorming… All “tools” they could use in the next days of the conference. Within this part, GFAR contributed with a short workshop on “The art of skillful presentations”.
After the soft skills training, guest speakers presented topics or projects along the six conference themes:
– The refugee crisis: how can the field of agriculture help with the integration of refugees?
– Women in agriculture: Is gender equality in agriculture still a grey zone?
– Food waste: from over-consumption to hunger
– the “Village Concept Project”: How students can help small communities
– Urban farming as a way to build more peaceful societies
– “The new Agri-Generation”: raising awareness among children
In the afternoons, the attendees worked in groups to design possible IAAS projects along the six themes. All projects were presented to the entire conference on the last day.
And I must say, I was amazed at the energy, inspiration, knowledge and motivation they showed. With 100 people attending, all self-sponsored, it had all the ingredients and challenges “our” larger conferences often have: assembling a programme, getting speakers, trainers, facilitators, organizing logistics (lodging, food, help with transport and visa, getting and organizing the rooms, equipment, publicity material, printing…), constructing a good agenda, etc..
And they did it all in their spare time, being full time students, with a minimal budget. And… it is only one of the several conferences and two dozen of events they organise per year.
Many of the things they did, at ICYA2017, could rival with the way “we”, the professionals” would do things with larger budgets, full time staff, and quite a bit of professional support staff. Their program was well thought out.
Even just their group work presentations could rival the way the professional experts gave their presentations. (Actually, I found they were much better and more inspiring than those by many “professional” experts).
But it was also inspiring to see how they worked together, and how they were super motivated and socially engaged in all the topics they discussed, all related to the wider problems of agriculture. They were creative, constructive, inspiring each other.
It made me also think that probably people studying agriculture must be extra motivated and socially engaged as otherwise they would not take that subject….
GFAR supported the ICYA2017 conference – and IAAS as a GFAR partner – in providing a facilitator and writing mentor/editor for their social media training and social reporting activities. We also provided a facilitator for their soft skills training and helped linking up the organizers with potential speakers.
This is a typical example of a support package we provide to our partners, specifically at conferences. If you are a GFAR partner and interested in our support, don’t hesitate to contact us at GFAR-Secretariat(at)fao.org
This post is part of a GFAR Partner Spotlight on IAAS for the week of 8-12 May 2017. GFAR Secretariat is turning the spotlight on the work and collective actions of Partners in GFAR who share in our mission to strengthen and transform agri-food research and innovation systems globally. Not a GFAR partner yet? Join now!
Picture: Participants at the ICYA2017 conference. Photo courtesy IAAS.