By Monica Chauhan, a student of 2nd batch of PGP in Development Management at ISDM.
Indian School Of Development Management (ISDM) is a family. A big one that too, with individuals so distinct from each other, that for an outsider it might seem impossible to imagine them working together.
So what makes us work together? Or rather, how do we do it?
Let me try and explain.
This course, that is designed for creating self-aware individuals to go out and help build a better world, focuses majorly on Personal Mastery in Development Leadership (PMDL), Radical Transformative Leadership (RTL) and Problem Based Learning (PBL). Both the courses in PMDL and RTL emphasise on the practice of introspection, before starting to deal with people around oneself, and our PBL groups are the space for practising that, through various tasks assigned to us over the course. We are also encouraged to reflect back on our experiences every day in writing, to know where we stand. On a personal note, it is through these reflections that I can easily see the world changing for me, one bit at a time, on an everyday basis.
The idea here is to be able to work with, or even talk with, different minded people to co-create a world we all dream of. Why so much emphasis on working together, you ask? I had the same question in the beginning; why should I really work with people whose ideas don’t align with mine, especially when I have the option to leave, right? The various lectures we have had during term 1, all by well-established practitioners in their particular fields have brought to my notice the root cause of problems in our society today. None of us, and I’m sorry to speak for you on that, but literally, none of us is really open to talking to people from other professions when it comes to working together. We all have this superiority complex ingrained in us though our rat race-favouring education system. If you are still not convinced, please tell me how often have you really seen a social scientist and an economist talk to each other to create some magic out of their actions? Also, when I say ‘talking’, please don’t confuse it with cliche’ formality meetings. What I mean here is, talking to truly understand each other through efficient communication that involves rigorous processes of advocacy with inquiry, negotiation, conflict resolution, even deep listening, in order to understand where a certain person (including yourself) is coming from and why does (s)he have a particular stand.
This concept however, can only work when one realises the greatness that lies in each one of us, and that is what RTL has made me do. It has taught me, again with contradictions over a month, that every single person around me is capable of great things. Major emphasis here is on a person realising his/her humanistic values, which were always a part of the person right from birth. It has taught me how everything I wish to accomplish ultimately boils down to my own sets of experiences (which are so unique for each one of us), to the kind of persons we individually are. For instance, I was struggling with the importance each section has in term 1, be it gender, tribal affairs, environment, health; everything seemed equally important and fascinating. What I have come to realise now is that everything boils down to education for me; for starting right goes a long way for the larger picture I have in mind. Our RTL triad calls form an important part of this journey to keep us reflecting back regularly on our day to day experiences, while helping each other out.
Although it is very important to note here that we are nowhere close to 100% efficient at this, but we are trying. We have breakdowns and arguments, just like any other space with strong opinionated individuals, but what we do differently is come back together to rise above them. As one of our founders mentioned in a recent conversation, it is the ability to have a heated argument at 4 pm and still be able to go out for drinks later that same night that makes all the difference.
Our knowledge pieces are covered by highly consuming lectures which are more of a peer learning and activity based environment, making us realise how the answer many a times, lies within ourselves. In these, as a classroom we were exposed to various lenses, tools to be practised in the sector. So far we have had people talking about the importance of emotions in this field, role of government and limits to decentralisation, along with citizens’ role in the same, role of education, environment, law and development, participatory methods to be practised with the community, role of business in development, economist point of view, civil society organisations, forms of organisations, six thinking hats and these are just a few at the top of my head.
If you thought this was it, you will be glad to know we have no exams here! ISDM as an institute believes in the greatness of each and every individual in this world and the fact that they are capable of being responsible and accountable for themselves, which is exactly how it treats its students. Every term end we have group portfolios followed by individual portfolios and the process in both is given equal importance alongside the result.
This however, is much more difficult than doing away with traditional exams, as it needs you to not be vulnerable and be honest, to be responsible enough to assess yourself to a great extent. The assessor in front is just a guide to help you think through. Not to forget, everyone from the founders to the faculty to the bricoleurs here are extremely humble and approachable people, always ready to help. All one has to do is reach out. We even have a counsellor on board to assess us constantly through our ups and downs in this journey. H.O.T. (Honest-open-two way) conversations are where the cohort is given the power to voice its concerns and expectations from this programme; at times we even get to the point of negotiating rules for ourselves. To be very honest, I have never had an atmosphere this conducive to my growth as an individual and I so wish I did. ISDM for me, in a way, stands for correcting everything wrong with the education system today.
Considering how much all of the above processes is a part of us each day, I feel it is crucial to mention what it has done to our bonding as a cohort. I did always feel connected to the cohort for the fact that we all wanted to do something meaningful to bring about change in this world, that way we were striving for a common goal. This connection however, was very superficial, the kind that can be broken by a thing as simple as distance. It is safe to say now that ISDM has been successful in creating a space wherein people are happy enough to make goodbyes difficult. We have only been here for three months, but the depth with which we know each other makes us feel like we have been this way forever. The fact that we are living together in a co-ed hostel adds to this sense of family we share. As for myself, I leave pieces of my heart in every place I can call home on this planet, and ISDM surely has a major chunk of it for now!!