The 2014 Gordon Institute of Business Science Nexus programme delegates recently participated in an ‘Inner City Treasure Hunt’ (the second of three, full-day experiential learning days). It focused on the present reality of inner city Johannesburg, highlighting how much we don’t know about the city we live in, and reinforcing the importance of gaining a rich, diverse and nuanced picture of South Africa if we are to become effective leaders within that context. The day was led by Carrie Pratt, Nexus programme facilitator.
Through the GIBS Centre for Leadership and Dialogue, Nexus was developed to help young leaders in business, civil society and government navigate the changing landscape of our country and context. Through experiential learning and dialogue, delegates are challenged to find ways around the obstacles that are holding themselves, others and the country back. Participants on Nexus operate in the corporate, state and social sectors. They learn through experiential field trips, intimate honest conversation, case studies and seminars by leading thinkers and influential citizens across our society.
The heart of the day was a walking tour of the Johannesburg inner city, during which delegates searched for ‘treasure’. Treasure can be many things, but it mainly consists of encounters that challenge our assumptions and that deepen our understanding of the city itself, of the people who live and work there, and of the potential for positive change.
On the course of the journey, delegates encountered some of the challenges of the inner city and some of the many people and organisations engaging with these challenges and seeking to improve their lives and the lives of the people around them. Delegates visited the worker’s museum, a local taxi rank and even “Bishop’s Park”, a drug hang-out in Berea – the climax of the trip. “Bishop’s Park” is the unofficial name for the drug lord who controls it. The group was escorted by city patrollers and regulars who know the patrol came to share their stories – an extremely harrowing and eye-opening experience as scores of haunted, sick addicts who live and take drugs in the park tell their stories.
The end of the day is spent reflecting on the lessons that the day has to offer and how delegates can apply them in their efforts to be the leaders that South Africa needs them to be.
Some of the key take outs noted by the delegates:
• The importance of seeing more potential in others and exploring the assumptions and perspectives of peers, in order to develop the ability to lead in diverse contexts;
• A better understanding of the issues most affecting South Africa and insights into the opportunities that arise from them;
• A new sense of ‘how to be in the world’ – Delegates verbalised their desire to be active leaders who want to see the truth of the present reality and face it head on. The experience provided them with an opportunity to practice not looking away but rather to seek to understand something more deeply in order to effect meaningful change; and
• Moving out of your comfort zone allows for a higher level of recognising self-awareness and allows you to approach a new situation with compassion instead of judgement.
These realisations begin to pave the way for Nexus participants to become better leaders in their societies as they walk away with new perspectives and a better understanding of themselves, their previous assumptions and their own life journeys.