Saturday December 11, 2010, AIDEN held its first International conference in the main auditorium of One Sky, the Canadian Institute of Sustainable Living, in Calabar, the capital city of Nigeria’s South-South state of Cross River. This event elicited free-flowing expressions of joy and fulfillment from participants – the reality of AIDEN is a dream fulfilled. The conference featured opening ceremony, plenary sessions and general assembly. In attendance were top Cross River State Government and Calabar Municipal Council officials, CIDA Representatives and those of other International and local NGOs and Development practitioners. The theme of the conference was Integral Leadership in Emerging Democracy. Speakers in the conference were Mrs Patricia Eyamba, former Coordinator of Leading From Within: Integral Applications to Sustainability in the Niger Delta, who now lives in Lagos, Chief Edwin Usang, Executive Director of Non-Governmental Organizations Coalition for Environment (NGOCE), Chief Edwin Ogar, Executive Director of Ekuri Initiative, a Conservation programme and myself. The conference attracted very large audience most of whom were not integrally informed, but were greatly impressed by the profundity of the integral ideas espoused by speakers and AIDEN activists.
AIDEN is a baby of the meticulously packaged development project that has become popularly known as Leading From Within: Integral Applications to Sustainability in the Niger Delta. This intervention came as a result of lengthy and lively discussions which One Sky engaged in with the environmental NGO sector, parks and tourism government agencies and private sector in Nigeria. The project was designed to address self-identified need for more individual leadership and interior capacity development in a peer-supported, gender sensitive environment along with hard skills development at the organizational level such as project and financial management. It has been evident that the nexus of development and environmental challenges in Nigeria calls for a cadre of dedicated, qualified leaders and strong organizations in powerful networks that provide mutual support with a strong ethical foundation. From many years of involvement in regional and bilateral programmes, One Sky understands that Leadership emerges from within when the conditions are ripe and therefore conceives the project as creating these conditions. Furthermore One Sky understands the need for these leaders to emerge from within this critical region to ensure they stay in the region over the length of time necessary for short-term results to mature into longer-term impacts. The project drew upon the proven experience of integral models of leadership development pioneered by the UNDP Leadership For Results Programme. The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) generously offers funding for this project, which CUSO-VSO partners with One Sky to implement.
Sustainability was a key consideration in developing the project. Two cornerstones built into the project to ensure sustainability are Breakthrough Initiatives by the participants and establishment of a powerful Integral Leadership Network that would extend beyond the bounds of this single project, a Network that could become a One Sky-Nigeria. The project took off in 2008 with 30 emerging Nigerian Leaders drawn from 27 different dynamic organizations. Each of the participants went through very stiff competitions after meeting all carefully formulated requirements. They therefore make up a crack team, burbling with enthusiasm, consciously monitoring their wonderful transformation through active participation in Integral Life Practice.
Breakthrough Initiatives feature to guide participants to demonstrate capacity to envision a state of development and human well-being that can emerge out of existing challenging situations. One Sky, based on many years of practical experience in International Community Development, articulates that a breakthrough happens when one achieves something that was previously seen as impossible for the community one serves. In this regard, for a breakthrough to qualify to be so called, must fulfill certain criteria, which includes leverage, visibility and measurability, producing near-term results and going beyond business as usual. During the Leadership Development Programme, participants form small teams in which to work together to give birth to a Breakthrough Initiative for each team, which functions as a laboratory for trying out new ideas and methodologies, and vehicles for producing measurable results. At the moment, participants are working on seven Breakthrough Initiatives in seven teams, covering Climate Change, Women (Widows) Empowerment, Youth Empowerment and Leadership project, Cooperative Societies Formation for Widows, Good Governance – Constituency Dialogue Initiative at the grass roots level, Conservation – Save the Gorilla project and HIV/Aids – Sensitization in local languages. These Breakthrough Initiatives serve as vehicle for step-down training from the Leadership Capacity Development participants to their beneficiaries in the local communities, which make for sustainability of the programme.
The formation of AIDEN further cements the sustainability of the project. This Network has already been registered, with the 30 participants as foundation members. The vision is that this first set in the Leading From Within Project will use their own newly developed capacities as social change agents in finding solutions to challenges of developing the Niger Delta Region particularly and Nigeria as a whole, then to extend beyond the shores of Nigeria, connecting to Integral Communities around the world. Through AIDEN, the beneficiaries of Leading From Within will continue to work together even when the programme runs its full course. The Network, which is the first of its kind in Africa, therefore aims to provide advanced leadership capacities that will bring about total transformation of the individual from ego-centric worldview to socio-centric and world-centric perspectives. It advances integration of the interior needs of humans and the exterior dimensions, applying appropriate measures to address both dimensions to advance human development and well-being. Specifically the visions of AIDEN are: to sustain the impetus given to development in the region through application of integral theory; to propagate integral approach to sustainability to all in Africa; to serve as platform to unite all integrally minded individuals and groups in Africa and all integrally minded Africans in the Diaspora; to actively participate in the Global Integral Movement and to establish Integral Institute to nurture the growth and development of second-tier oriented individuals and groups in all sectors of development in Africa.
Officers elected to pilot the affairs of the Network are Mr Etim Omini, President; Mrs Ewongo Abasi-Okon, Vice-President; Mr Godwin Ugah, Secretary; Ms Mercy
Ekpo, Treasurer and Mr Robert Umerah, Communications. All the participants greatly cherish their experience in the programme and cannot wait to avail others of similar opportunities. Consequently they have finalized plans to kick-start Leading From Within 2, from January 2011. The International Conference of Saturday December 11, 2010 served to sensitize the public of the existence of the Network and to undertake enlightenment campaigns on the soon-to-start Leading From Within 2. Members emerged from the conference reinforced in their resolve to build synergy, pull resources together to impact their society positively through development and application of integral theory in their work.
About the Author
Oliver Ngodo, PhD, University of Malaysia Sarawak, was active politically in Nigeria and in the field of Education. He was an associate editor for Integral Leadership Review before adding Bureau Chief for Sub-Sahara Africa, joining Yene Assegid in that role. He has recently returned to Nigeria to take on the role of Director, AIDEN, under the auspices of One Sky, a Vancouver, Canada NGo working on international development. Oliver can be contacted at email@example.com.