On a warm Friday afternoon, precisely October 23rd 2015, around 40 oikos presidents and representatives arrived at St. Gallen’s train station with bags full of enthusiasm, expectations and the urge to learn. On the other side of the city, the Youth Hostel was ready to welcome them and the conference room has a circle of chairs in its centre where all participants of the Presidents’ Meeting would sit for the introductory session.
At exactly 2.40pm, once all participants had registered and check into their rooms, Anita Negri, the President of oikos, took the word to welcome everyone to oikos LEAP, which officially started with the Presidents’ Meeting. Two ice breakers followed. For the first one, presidents had sent a picture that represented them. They had to then form small groups and exchange how that picture represented them. The second ice breaker was a self-organized exercise where presidents had to commonly form their definition of sustainability. Participants had already sent their personal definition of sustainability and they now had to come up with one definition that united them all. This was followed by an exercise to map the participants’ expectations. Each person had post its and the result was a flip chart filled with post its and expectations. Anita concluded by introducing the philosophy of the Presidents’ Meeting to the participants. This year’s Meeting was an experimental methodology and, amongst others, the Meeting featured a moderation guide. This meant that it was not the oikos President or Executive Board who would moderate the meeting, but rather the participants themselves.
The floor was then handed to Adriana Troxler, who presented oikos LEAP once again. The interactive presentation featured some dancing and exercises that depicted the activities that will be executed in LEAP. The FutureLab team was then introduced and Renee Horster, responsible for the programme of the FutureLab, introduced the task for presidents at the FutureLab. Participants were then given a quick break to recharge their batteries and have good Swiss cake. The afternoon ended with a session on personality assessments. The first participant to take up the innovative moderation methodology, was Ucha Khmaladze, the current president of oikos Tbilisi. He instructed participants to take three personality tests. Participants then got into groups and discussed their outcomes with the support of guiding questions that were intended to make participants reflect on their ‘being’ and the differing perspectives they can have on themselves and on others. Participants were left excited and, some astonished, at the results and open and reflective group sessions.
The second day commenced with a dancing session! The presidents of oikos Brussels and oikos Reims took over the moderation and asked participants to dance the Macarena. Participants grouped outside in the mist, and sang and danced the Macarena. Post the morning session and some reflection of the first day, Omid Ashari, expert in responsible leadership and Director of the #1 Financial Times Master, joined the presidents in the conference room. Omid provided a spectacular hour and a half of inspiration that left participants open-mouthed and full of questions. Moving on, the presidents of oikos Paderborn and oikos Vienna took over the moderation for a journaling session. The session started off with an inspirational video asking participants whether they ‘dare to follow their dreams’. Participants then went off to take the journaling exercise. Presidents finally gathered in groups where they honestly and openly discussed the journaling questions.
Post lunch, the moderation was taken over by the president of oikos Vellore and vice-president of oikos Baku. This session was all about responsible education. The session started with the reading of eight different articles on the challenges and opportunities of different aspects of economics and management education. Participants felt open-eyed by the papers whilst analyzing and debating about them. Summaries of the papers were created and participants shared their outcomes via short presentations to the entire group. After a short break, with some cake and crisps again, participants engaged in a very advanced leadership exercise. Adriana led this exercise, as a demonstration of what is possible by simply eliminating prejudices and too much talking. The results of the imaginary exercise moved several strings within the participants’ souls. The second day ended with a fantastic dinner at netts, St. Gallen, in their newly renovated dinner room. Participants lived a real Swiss experience in the house of the local beer.
The third day of the Meeting, started with a feeling that time was going too fast. Nevertheless, presidents of oikos Jena and
oikos Konstanz took over the moderation and woke participants up with a Georgian dance (assisted by Executive Board member, Mariam Kakhidze). After another reflection of the previous day, presidents of oikos Kolkata and oikos New Delhi moderated a session of impact. Participants discussed the definition of impact and why it is so important for our organization. Two oikos alumni then joined participants at the Youth Hostel: Niels Rot and Oliver Schmid-Schonbeim. Niels and Oliver, both successful entrepreneurs in the field of sustainability, spoke to participants about their stories and journeys and their success in oikos and beyond. Participants were enthusiastic to hear about what is possible and gained some insights into some opportunities for their future.
After the break, the moderation was taken over by the oikos Pune president and representative of oikos New Delhi. Their session was all about further understanding responsible leadership. Participants had four articles at their disposal on various aspects of responsible leadership. After two exercises by the moderators, that made participants reflect on the metaphors for good leadership, groups were formed to analyze and discuss the articles. Conclusions were drawn and shared with the rest of the larger group and presentations closed the session to understand what relevant behaviors we should be internalizing in our work and our person as a whole. Lunch followed and the afternoon was dedicated to organizational matters.
Firstly, the moderation was taken over by the presidents of oikos Cologne and oikos Leipzig. Participants were asked to divide in two groups and follow sessions given by the Executive Board on communications and strategy. After those sessions, participants mapped their impact and share best practices. The afternoon closed with a presentation by Executive Board Members of their recommendations and work and a presentation by Anita on organizational structures and the passion that binds us. The evening then continued with a cultural exchange, a presentation by the president oikos Kumasi and an amazing sweets exchange.
The fourth and final day of the Meeting, started with Indian dances. The first session was moderated by the president of oikos Chennai who introduced participants to the tradition. After the dancing, presidents were asked to draw a reflection of the previous day. The whole morning was then dedicated to preparing the presidents’ presentation for the oikos FutureLab. The main idea of this session was to prepare a presentation that propagate the lessons learnt during the Presidents’ Meeting and touch many more people. Participants worked on all the lessons learnt in the past days and completed a breath taking presentation (the presentation can be seen on the oikos YouTube channel). A regional meeting lunch followed the hard work of the morning. Participants gathered with their Executive Board Members in their regions and had fruitful discussions on how to advance their activities and impact.
The afternoon continued with a session on reflecting about the Meeting as a whole, and ourselves as people. The group created one final drawing around the word ‘oikos’ that reflected their feeling. The groups then had a final round of reflections moderated by the presidents of oikos Lund and oikos St. Andrews. Presidents then received certificates of participation and headed off to the getting ready for the oikos Legislative Meeting.
“The Presidents’ Meeting has changed a lot in my life and for my future.” – Gizela Wojtynek, oikos Opole, Poland
“I am so humbled by the receptive environment. The contents of the Meeting were so amazing and really have taken me to another level of life. It has really shaped my thought positively and has equipped me with ideals for quality leadership.” – Isaac Owusu, oikos Kumasi, Ghana
“At the Presidents’ Meeting I learnt to act as an active team player. Now, I deeply understand the values and ideas that sustain oikos.” – Vusal Abasov, oikos Baku, Azerbaijan
“Thank you for a great Presidents’ Meeting. It was very inspiring!” – Julie Jungen-Jensen, oikos Copenhagen, Denmark
“On the first day we spoke a lot about our dreams and fears. The exchanges have helped me a lot to name my fears. I will now go improve myself” – Anonymous Reflection Journal, Participant Presidents’ Meeting 2015
“I found that we are so diverse, yet so similar. Our visions and how we define sustainability are also very close. I realized, through some exercises, that we don’t know ourselves very well. I have a lot to learn” – Anonymous Reflection Journal, Participant Presidents’ Meeting 2015
“This meeting made me realize that to lead we need to understand ourselves better, so our dreams will become our goals” – Kapil Garg, oikos Chennai, India
“The meeting was the best platform to find solutions to our common problems. Our chapters are a great source of inspiration” – Anonymous Reflection Questionnaire, Participant Presidents’ Meeting 2015
“I reflected a lot on my personality throughout the meeting. We were exposed to very different approaches to leadership and sustainability” – Anonymous Reflection Questionnaire, Participant Presidents’ Meeting 2015
Many thanks to the ch Foundation and Maestrani for having supported the oikos Presidents’ Meeting 2015.