Uma Keni Prabhu
You can’t avoid conflict but you can learn to deal with it. And you can pick up the skills even faster when the classroom is located amidst snow-capped Swiss Mountains.
Yes. It is the Caux Scholars Programme (CSP). Every June, about 20 youngsters from all over the world descend on Caux, a scenic place overlooking Lake Geneva from an altitude of over 1000 meters. They stay together at the historic Mountain House Conference Centre, the former Caux Palace Hotel, for four weeks, where they learn to analyse conflict and understand the factors that create and sustain it. They attend lectures, do voluntary service, interact with each other, debate, reflect and evolve. They also get the opportunity to participate in international conferences which attracts leaders from various regions and walks of life.
“CSP provides practical understanding of approaches to resolving conflicts like conflict prevention, negotiation and transitional justice,” says Johannes Langer, an alumnus from Austria. “It provides young leaders from across the globe with a toolkit to bring positive and peaceful change to their communities,” he adds.
Started in 1991, CSP is funded by the Caux Foundations and Initiative of Change (IofC) members. IofC is an international movement, now active in 60 countries and is committed to the transformation of society through changes in human motives and behaviour, starting with their own. To date 407 scholars from 98 countries have participated in CSP, of these 18 have been from India.
“I have grown by leaps and bounds,” says Alex Nuwagaba, a current scholar from Uganda. “This program is unique because it does not educate you on the A to Z of societal transformation but it challenges your mind and beliefs. You are able to deal with your own conflicts and those at societal, national and global level. We change the world by changing the way we perceive ourselves and humanity,” adds Nuwagaba.
CSP is not affiliated with a university and does not offer credit. However, it is often possible for participants to secure credit through their own institution, pursuant to their requirements.
You may apply online (see Fast Facts). The selection committee comprising of CSP alumni and board members of IofC, reviews all applications and chooses the scholars according to diversity in nationality, region, religion, and professional and also study background. “It is a mix of students and young professionals who share a common dream of making a difference,” adds Johannes Langer.
The Caux Scholars Programme
Program Fees: US $3400 (covers tuition, meals, lodging)
Location: Initiatives of Change Conference Center, Caux, Switzerland
Dates: June 26-July 23
Participation: 20 students
Application deadline: February 15, 2014
What it includes: Approximately 40 hours of academic classes, seven hours per week of “Service for Leadership” practical work, a field trip to Geneva and participation in the Caux conferences
Vibhuti Suresh Vazirani, India
“I am with a group of 24 people from 20 different countries. The diversity is just amazing. So much to learn from the diversity of backgrounds, culture, interest, experiences. It is a never ending learning process. Every day is so enlightening.
What is so amazing about this place is that no matter who you are, whether an undergraduate student like me (the youngest participant on the premises) or the President of the International Red Cross, or the Grandson of Mahatma Gandhi, everybody is equal - eating the same food, possibly sitting on the same table, volunteering to set the dining table, or walking around providing water to every table. Everybody perceives one another with an open mind. There is humility in the air around us. You learn to think of others and realise that serving others does not put you down.
I will probably be in business, where building human capacity is important. For people to work in sync, building and maintaining relationships is crucial. A simple conflict between individuals may lead to a domino effect onto many other businesses and people. So my aim here is to absorb all I can to help build, rebuild and maintain relationships by managing conflicts on an individual basis, and promoting that globally.”
Alex Nuwagaba, Uganda
“Caux is a community, a family of sorts. We serve and are served by others. Once when I was cutting vegetables in the kitchen, I realized that I was working with the former governor of Nigeria. Onions were making us cry and the two of us were joking about it. Such moments show how close we are to one another. It is the simple things of life that teach us big lessons. Some of us are working on translating our learning into some sort of initiative that offers help in terms of research work regarding pertinent issues to leaders and civil society in the hope that our work inculcates new thinking while creating awareness within the society.”