Keynote Address 3: The UWC Movement
At this session, Musimbi Kanyoro, Chair of UWC International, Leon Toh, UWCSEA Governor and and Carma Elliot, UWCSEA College President will have a conversation about the role of UWC in building a more peaceful and sustainable future.
As they reflect on 50 years of making education a force for good, they will also look to the future of the UWC movement, the role of UWCSEA within the movement and the need for the global UWC community to ensure our mission remains both an inspiration and a positive call to action.
Carma Elliot: Good afternoon, everybody, and thank you very much for joining us for the first and for the last session of today. It's been a long day, but what an inspiring and fantastic day it has been. And we've kept this session to last to end on a high note for day one of our forum as well. So here we are to talk about the UWC international movement.
And I'm joined for a conversation and an opportunity to ask questions both here in the room and from our online participants as well. But initially, I would like to introduce our two speakers who are going to be in conversation this afternoon to you. Both will be familiar to many of you. And I'd like to start by introducing Dr. Musimbi Kanyoro as the board chair of UWC International.
We're absolutely delighted that Musimbi has joined us today for the longer period for our forum. And as the chair of the International Board, to be part of both the conversations that were happening, but hearing some of the very inspiring but challenging thoughts that are coming through from some of our invited guests and speakers as well.
And we hope very much that in the spirit of some of the conversations we've had so far, we will also receive some challenging and very interesting questions from our audience as well, including the global audience. I'm introducing Musimbi more widely - Musimbi is a board member of CARE International and UN Global Compact and Musimbi is on the board as well as many other board positions on the board of the London School of Economics.
She is the immediate past President and CEO of the Global Fund for Women, a public philanthropic Foundation with offices in San Francisco, New York and London, and funding activities in 175 countries. Musimbi spent 20 years in Geneva, Switzerland, leading international NGOs, and she made history as the first non-white CEO of the World YWCA in its 50 year history.
Dr Kanyoro received her PhD in linguistics from the University of Texas in Austin and was a visiting scholar in Hebrew Studies at Harvard University. She has a theological doctorate and a Doctor of Ministry from San Francisco Theological Seminary. Welcome, Musimbi.
Absolutely delighted to have you here. And the warm welcome from everybody attests to that. So thank you so much Musimbi for making such a long journey to be with us. On my left is Leon Toh who's representing our UWCSEA Board of Governors. Leon Toh is a governor on the UWCSEA board and has been for around 18 months. He is executive director of Damson Capital and Impact Investment Holdings Company in Singapore.
Damson invests in early stage entrepreneurs, building companies that solve the world's most challenging problems. Those problems are mostly in Asia, I think, but I think the world's challenging problems probably happen elsewhere as well, through innovative solutions and business models contributing to the UN Sustainable Development Goals. A graduate of UWC Adriatic class of 2006 - is that correct? Just checking that Google is correct - Leon has been an active volunteer across the UWC movement since 2006 including I think a nine year period on the UWC Council and in his position on the board and first in terms of governance at UWCSEA.
Leon was initially on the engagement committee and since joining the board is now also on the finance and infrastructure committee as well and has served on the high level advisory group here at UWCSEA, which has been informing the foundation renewal project so we're very grateful for you joining us today for this conversation on the UWCI movement and UWCSEA's role in the movement so welcome to Leon.
To get us started Musimbi and Leon are going to speak to us from the lectern so they can speak to you from that position. And then we're going to come back together here for a conversation. So Musimbi would you like to join us at the lectern? Thank you.
Musimbi Kanyoro: Good afternoon. Thank you so much. It's such a privilege and I want to thank the board of UWCSEA and the chair and the president of the school and all of you who work here, who study here for the opportunity for us to celebrate 50 years together. It's just amazing to have the opportunity after being locked in for nearly two years to come together and experience what togetherness looks like once again.
So I'm really grateful and I'm grateful for several reasons, but I want to really focus myself on what I've been asked to speak about - the UWC movement. So I have two things in my hands and my dad used to play a game with us and say which hand has something, but this time I have two things and two hands.
So whichever way you say it, I would have said, You're right, and so one of them is YWCA of Singapore started in 1875. A lot of people have asked me, is this the first time you're in Singapore? And I have said, no, I probably have nearly 15 trees that I have planted in some part of Singapore because for many years I came here through the YWCA of Singapore and was there when that movement and I want to use the word movement was even planning the effort, which I understand that the school has used some of that accommodation of the hotel that Singapore rents.
So I had been here a number of times and a number of times also in Asia and 27 times in India and I think almost in every country in Asia I've had the opportunity to visit. So that's one thing. But a movement that started and continues to be strong in Singapore since 1875. The other one I have is written on 150 years and it was a pin released in 2005 when we celebrated not 50 years but 150 years of the YWCA movement and I was the global CEO at that time bringing the movement into 150 years.
But also was the CEO when we celebrated the centennial, the turn into the centennial. Why is this significant for me? These things are significant for me because they helped me reflect and think through about movements. Why is it that some movements last for so long nearly celebrating two centuries, and others who call themselves or who see themselves as movements do not last as long? During the time of our celebrating 150 years in 2005, we didn't have a long time to reflect and look at studies and say what is common among movements such as the Red Cross, such as YMCA, such as the Scouts, the Girl Guides and others that have helped them year after year continue.
And I want to share some of the things because I see some of those things similar in the UWC movement. I want right away to say to you that I believe UWC is a movement and I believe that UWC is a movement because I see that we have second qualities that are so similar to what other movements older than us in the UWC today, but we are on that truck of movement. I learned that in movements people have a collective state of mind and a kind of public common understanding of the future they can create. So they live in the present, but they know they can do more, not simply experience but what they can create as they move forward. This momentum and movement has momentum and people feel this momentum even if they cannot name it, and movements are never exactly similar.
They don't have to do similar things because they are about people. They are not institutions. Our movement is not the 18 schools. 18 schools are the schools that give us space for people of like mindedness to create change. When we are students in these schools, when we are teachers, when we are volunteers, when we are on governance, when we are donors, when we are parents, it is all of that that make movements because movements exist by the people telling their stories and they tell the stories of giants who have been in the movement.
Sometimes it's their founders, sometimes it's so and so, such a great teacher during this whole time, this has created this change. The students who are in this particular time did X our outdoor activities and achieved Y. These are the stories that the humans who make movements tell. And it is these stories and the way they tell them, the passion, the compassion, remembering the past, what worked, and things that did not work.
When they are at the moment of telling their stories, you cannot convince them that what they are part of is not useful. But they are always able to see during their time what could be done differently. Movements, what we also saw, tell this story so the stories teach the people to preserve tradition. They teach people to practise values, to set policies.
To have ways in which they can see how succession takes place. If you go to any movement that has actually extended its time for a long time, there is always a way in which they have defined how people will be elected, what they will do, how many times they will serve, where they will come from, and they will evolve.
When I was the first person from a southern country, and here when I say a southern country, I mean Latin America, Asia, Africa, the so-called developing world in the development language, to become the CEO of the YWCA after 150 years that was evolving a change. And it was a big change because all of the previous general secretaries at the time that is used in those type of movements did come from Europe and mostly Northern Europe.
So the UK and Scandinavian countries or the U.S. So it was history making, but it also showed that the movement was evolving. It had stayed in a certain place for a long time and then it made a big jump. And today, if you look at even associations, the National Associations. USA during my time had 300 associations. I have travelled in and out of every part of the USA, north, south, New Zealand, Australia, Sri Lanka, Malaysia, Hong Kong, Japan.
And each one of these have their distinctions. They are distinctions. There are people who would say YWCA or YMCA is a Christian organisation. Then you go to Japan and it has the flavour of Japan. Because Japan is not a dominantly Christian organisation.. You go to Lebanon and you find the Muslims and Christians and others all in this movement and I can tell you there was one time when they wanted to change the name because people said, Why do we have these letters?
Because they often just say these letters when we actually are not. We are a social movement providing services. People talk about providing services, and that's what kept them. And people said it's because the founders had it before our time. They had a tradition. They came from a faith tradition. But they had it clear that when you provide services with love to children, when you provide accommodation, when you provide education, my inspiration from education doesn't come just from schools.
It comes from kindergartens that I have seen thrive all over the world. It comes from youth outdoor games. I have been a girl guide all throughout my life, an adult guide leader. And I can see today when we were having outdoor education, I was like, I know that I feel that we are a movement in UWC.
What some others have done and we could learn from them. So I believe we are a movement. I believe we are on the right track. And I wanted not to say about how historically we have developed as a movement because I would like everyone who wants that information to go to our website of any of the 18 schools and you will find it there, but rather to say to ourselves that the potential of becoming who we want to be in education is great.
It's big, it's big because our founders put us on a path for education for peace, and those of us that are present today as students as alumni, old and new, parents, et cetera. Those of us living today have the responsibility to take this movement into the next future. And we might ask ourselves, what would it mean for us to take ourselves into the future?
I personally think where I see where we are and the way I feel like I want to be part of this is, want to utilise our networking more because movements really, they network, they are in connection with each other. If you are a Red Cross and a Red Cross member in Australia will be connecting with a Red Cross member in another country, especially when they have their common agenda of meeting the needs of the disaster and they will know each other.
I think we know each other as names, but there's so much potential of networking more in sharing these skills and sharing the gift that each one of us brings to the table so that collectively movements share some things but they also allow a lot of potential for each one to bring to the table what distinguishes them so that they can be able to say We are part of the other UWC that comes from this particular geography.
This is what our specialty is and we can bring to the table and share in this big meaning of the movement. So I believe that we can work together towards more networking. Another area where I see potential is movements really survive on the volunteer support, volunteer through governance, volunteer through what our parents do, et cetera.
And I believe we can strengthen that volunteerism and even make it as a subject that we pass on also for the students. What does it mean? And I say so because I am in other youth places and I too have been a mother of young people. And today I'm also a grandmother of an 11 year old, a little gentleman, a little Canadian gentleman.
And I can tell you that the spirit of what we were told growing up by those before us about why it's important to be there for someone else by volunteering. I don't see it as widely told, meaning that we are not taking our responsibilities seriously as parents, as new parents, and enabling people to take part in volunteer work.
And I believe that we can do more, and especially those of us who are younger could do more. So I believe that we can do more about expanding volunteer leadership. Faith talked today about leadership. You know, the people who have gained the word movement alongside them are mostly things like women's movement, indigenous movement, workers movements, et cetera.
What do these things here have in common? They always look for the leadership that will take it to the next place. Leadership at governance and leadership at management. And leadership at governance is not only by representation it also comes by what does that movement, that organisation need at that particular time. And I believe we could do more in this area by trying to add to our representation the skills and the potential of what it is that we need at this moment in time.
So that our leadership expands beyond those of us that are in and get those that are outside who are just waiting for us to share the good news. Movements evangelise what they believe in, and they bring a lot of people from outside inside. And I think movements that have been part of that for over a century really do that very often.
Part of what has made these big movements like Girl Guides and YWCA successful is that even those who leave and go to the next world, they leave behind and say, I'm leaving my will, my home, my property to the organisation. And I tell you, making endowments out of what people have left because they believed in a movement is something after 50 years and 60 years, we should be saying how many people left their property because they believed in this movement.
And how are we going to help people do that to know that they can build? And I believe we can do more of that. And then education, I want to emphasise education, I have come to really value what I see in the UWC and in education because in my rewiring from the work that I have done before, I see education as the number one priority for what I want to do in life now.
I was before a teacher, I taught high school at university for short terms and now I feel I can give back to education all of the years that I went to do philanthropy and other things. Because education, I believe, as I hope many of you believe, is the one gift you can give to someone which can never be taken away from them.
We would not be here with each other without education. And for that, I am grateful for those who enabled the possibility, adults and educators. And I want to be one of the people who make education a possibility for many others. And I hope you do too. And let's do it through the UWC movement because it gives us the space and we can't afford not to be able to move it forward in the next generation. Thank you.
Carma Elliot: Thank you so much. So much. So the floor is yours.
Following those very inspiring words from Musimbi, Leon is going to respond. I'm not entirely sure how he's going to respond but here we go.
Leon Toh: So let's start by saying that after I should have gone first and Musimbi I just had to strike out my entire speech just after us because we said the same thing as well. So let me let me wing it, I suppose, right? Hi, everyone. It's good to see everyone here. A big welcome to those who came from far and wide to Singapore for our 50th birthday of UWCSEA, is really nice to finally, well, number one - see everyone in person here. Although still wearing masks And as Faith mentioned last night, have a sneak peek to see how truly tall the other person on Zoom actually is. So that's wonderful. I've had the privilege of actually being a UWC student at Adriatic College in Italy at the same time serving the movement in multiple fashions and most importantly, the privilege of being UWC governor right now.
And, you know, for myself as a UWC graduate, and a governor itself, I think one of the big things when we demystify a lot of the conversations we're having at the board level, we start with the context of today. And today our mission remains as relevant and as important as ever because we're playing to the world with circumstances that are far from the world that Kurt Hahn had envisioned for any of us right now.
Today, we have a climate crisis at our door, a war that's raging in the footsteps of Europe and a world that's just emerging from crippling effects that we've all gone through, the COVID pandemic. And inequality that we keep talking about that's still pervasive across the globe. Our mission still remains not just critical, but a necessity in itself. And that's what we keep thinking about every day, and we're trying to empower through UWCSEA, every day. And you are all the examples of it. The alumni are from all the programmes that we're doing, from all the speeches and talks that we had this morning till this afternoon on outdoor education and the works. And as we at UWCSEA envision our next 50 years, as much as we are celebrating our 50th one right now, we envision our strategic future and what 2030 could potentially look like.
And we have quite a few important things that we are thinking about, everything from education, pedagogy, access to education, physical spaces for education, what that could potentially look like, innovations that we need to continuously push on the pedagogy front, technology, what do we need to do better, and most importantly, how we're using all this to create the sense of responsibility as the second college in the movement and how we can reimagine that future of education going forward.
Right now we have the strong sense of this responsibility, and thankfully we've been able to be proud in leading a lot of discussions in the education space especially putting education back on the table, making it the front and centre aspect of what we're doing every day, trying to understand our distinctiveness of what we stand for, especially as we're promoting the Harvard Impact Study, as many of you have already seen with this morning's discussion with Howard. The work with Oregon State University on outdoor education and the important exploration of basically what separates, what differentiates and what elevates many of us students through the UWC education. And so we are asking for uniqueness, distinctiveness, but our mission still remains our compass and our students demand more of us.
They see every day the challenges that we face and how we're trying to prepare them for a climate crisis now more urgent than ever, that we need to step up and that even for myself, every day I've taken from UWC and dived into impact investing because of this. And it's just as important as we stand here that we've committed ourselves to the green credentials and to promote a common purpose across the movement for net zero commitment.
And so with the privilege also comes our accountability that we need to start promoting greater inclusion. And DEI has been a big topic and big conversation for us at the governance level. A sense of belonging to how we're creating this space for everyone to be inclusive so that everyone gets a seat at the table. And it requires a commitment to systemic change.
And that basically is a long term one. And we're glad that we're working with so many different people on it.
Every day when we actually think about what we need to do in the next steps. I think that we have a couple of core elements that are helping us decide where our future looks like. This 50th celebration and the forum itself is to allow us and allow your voice to be brought to the table as well.
And we want to hear it. It's so important over the next few days that you not only come to soak it all in and grow with the speakers, but also give us your perspective of what you think you want UWC to look like in 50 years time and that's so important. So three core elements, I think, guide us as you go forward in thinking about what that potential future could look like.
The first is on service. There's nothing that ever changes our role and we need to stay true to service. Being infused in every aspect of a UWC education. This is extremely important and one that we cannot be distracted from because that's really what makes us so unique because it's not just about having outdoor education, it's also what happens in the classroom.
It happens also what you're doing when you're representing the organisation in a sports game and demonstrating our sportsmanship every day. All these small things add up to the UWC experience and that's why every day for me, when I think about meeting even not just teaching staff and they are so inspiring, but even for example Aman from the infrastructure team where he's asking questions around the space and how do we prepare for the UWC experience within the infrastructure itself.
We're thinking about it not just from a governance level, not just from the environment, from the outdoor programmes, the pedagogy, but we're also infusing it into all aspects of how we are planning for that future. The next step, of course, where we need to hold ourselves to account is boldness. And how we need to be bold in deciding new ideas going forward.
Some of the challenges, especially in the investment industry and I talk about it from personal experience in the startup industry where everything we talk about has the word disruption, has innovation in it. How interesting, and also I say sometimes. And we always end up looking at a potential in different ways. But if I could potentially leave you of one analogy and one small little story that I keep telling a little bit, so I apologise if you heard it, but there's this running joke that goes where a police car is driving down, you know, a trunk road by the countryside, probably not in Singapore, just f.y.i. right. And he stops and he sees this old man, you know, panning the road on the street. And he's paused and he stops his car and gets out and goes to the old man who's looking around on the floor. And he says dear sir, what are you doing?
Can I help you with something? And the old man looks up at him and says, Officer, I'm looking for my keys. And he looks down and he says, OK, I'll help you look and the police officer just gets down and starts looking around all the time, right? Looking around left and right. And he goes even further down.
And then at some point he walks back to the old man and says, You know, sir, I genuinely don't think you left the keys or dropped them here. Where did you actually lose it? And the old man stands up under the spotlight of the street lamp. And he points out into the darkness and says, I dropped it there.
And then the policeman is so confused. Why?
Why are you looking here? And he says, Well, because this is the only place where the light shines down on. And so sometimes when we are looking for solutions, we do look only within our realm itself. We need to be bold enough to look into the abyss and sometimes it is a bit dark, it's a bit unknown, it's a bit uncertain.
And that's where the boldness comes in, where we have to stand by new elements, new ways and not for the sake of it, but being very critical, be intrinsic. And to be fair, let's be clear. Boldness comes with a very bumpy road sometimes, but we gotta accept it. We've got to take it on. Because if you look at the 50th anniversary book and now the story of the last 50 years, what has it encompassed?
It's encompassed essentially teachers, governance, community, ecosystem, students have gone through experimental education and how we, as UWCSEA, when we joined the movement as a second college took a Kurt Hahn model of Grade 11 and 12s and said how do we share this experience with a Grade six or Grade five or Grade four. Wow. And then into the kindergarten levels. It feels different.
But I think we've been pushing the envelope and we want to continue to do that. And lastly, as Musimbi mentioned, leadership. We need to understand that we have to be bold in decisions, a bumpy road and be through the bumpy road, but more importantly, we have to actively be taking that leadership position. Everything that we are working on today and we're trying to contribute not just at the UWCSEA level but also at the movement level, where now Musimbi and I basically are colleagues on the International Philanthropy Committee and trying to work on how do we look at supporting and fundraising for our scholars or for the colleges, not just in Singapore or for UWCSEA, but jointly because we have such an amazing story to tell when we're not 18 colleges but a whole movement together.
So I'll leave you with those perspectives and some of the thoughts. And I really urge all of you to really give your all and your perspectives over the forum, which we'll be looking out for. So with that, thank you so much and I look forward to hearing questions later.
Carma Elliot: So you did us proud when I said how you could you respond to Musimbi, but you did us very proud in representing what we stand for and the role that we can and should play in the movement. And I wanted, without moving away from the very positive sense that you gave us, Musimbi about the future of the movement and the momentum that you feel we need to to drive us forward.
What is it about the movement that might keep you awake at night at the moment? What is it that you want us to know? What do we need to be bold about? So if we're not doing it at the moment, if we don't have that ambition to do it, what is it that keeps you awake and would like to say to all of us, because we're all going to volunteer our time for this, what keeps you awake at night?
Musimbi Kanyoro: And thank you for the opportunity. And I'm going to be honest on this one. What keeps me awake at night is when we don't believe in our potential - realised or unrealised. I sometimes feel we question everything that we do and believe that it is below excellence. I think we should ponder the thinking differently and say to ourselves what we have is so precious.
It has been carried for 50 years or 60 years on, on and on. By other people. We are respectful that they haven't got us this far and we're going to take what we can do and make it work. And we're going to be bold and decide that if it's not working, if it's not appropriate for this moment, if it requires us to do something that we are not just going to be driving through the back driving mirror just because it happened 50 years ago, we don't want to be imprisoned into our past, but we want our past to give us a base and a foundation to move forward.
So what keeps me awake is when we don't believe in ourselves? Because I really look at the UWC and I say, Oh my God, we have a gift in our hands. It's so precious. Let's take it and move it to the next level. Let's admit that we can't do everything all of the time. Let's admit that we are good at some things and some things we're not good at.
Let's admit that we can work on a curriculum that was started at a particular time and keep improving on it, working on it. We can have collaborations with others, be it I.B. or others, etc. And we can expand collaborations, we can reduce certain collaborations. That's what keeps me awake - just valuing what we have and taking the assets of it and moving with it.
Carma Elliot: And you spoke about the importance of networking and the way that other organisations, if you're a Red Cross in Australia, you might be networking more regularly with the Red Cross in Armenia or in another organisation. In our context, I think it was Leon who spoke about common purpose. So what do you see as the way that we can increase our ability to share and to network across the movement with that common purpose in mind?
So that precious gift that we have, how do we become more purposeful around sharing that both across the movement and with others, of course, as well? Because so many of the challenges that we face in the world and addressing the SDGs and all of the aspects of the climate crisis and the intersection between all these issues, it's not just one organisation or one school that's going to be coming up with the answers we need to be sharing.
We need to be partnering with others as well.
Musimbi Kanyoro: I'm sure they will want to hear Leon speak on that, but I will start by saying I come from the women's movements and women's movements are inherently networkers and this some of the successes, they don't apologise for networking, some of the really big, big resource that have resulted into this extreme and ambitious networking bringing big issues which would never be on the table today on the table as global issues.
You all know about gender based violence. You know, there used to be something called domestic violence. You could not talk about it. So women who experienced it thought that they were crazy by themselves and they were apologetic and they hid and women networked and realised that everybody, everywhere, despite differences of economics and race and everything, there is domestic violence everywhere.
And because of that networking, they brought it not from the private to the public. It's a policy now for every organisation. Now in ourselves, our topic is education and good education, quality education that includes all of the things that we are talking about in this forum. If we think that there are things we should really hang our whole energy on and push and network with all other people dealing with education, not just us, because justice is never just us.
Justice is justice. So if it's good education for the UWC, it has to be good education for everyone. So if this is our team and we see certain things that we want to push to the maximum, we have to be able to say how we are going to make the biggest crack on this issue so that other people look to us but they buy in and they become leaders as well.
And we should never own it and say, this is ours. We should say, I think it's not enough to say that UWC education is peculiar because then it means that we are hiding it. We have to say UWC education is so good that we want everybody to feel that that is their education. And when other people start to claim what we value, then we shall know we are making progress.
Carma Elliot: And turning to Leon, we'd like to hear from you.
Leon Toh: We really have to make this less of a practice where I speak after Musimbi. I think when it comes to common purpose, maybe let me take a slightly different perspective for me. The element, if you see it's all down to transformative education, what does that mean? For me, transformative is the fact that we go through a whole element of what we had always talked about with Kurt Hahn's education of self-discovery, of the ability to learn, learn from each other and develop this mutual respect and understanding with each other. That's transformative because they stand up for the little ones.
They stand up and be the embodiment of what they need to be to support the changes in the world like the UN SDGs, and step up for it. They are gatherings, say at the last, say, '21, '22, we have UWC meetings at the site. All of these UWC graduates and you'd be surprised how many of them are participating every day because they have committed themselves to service through their work and through their everyday living in itself.
So common purpose is something to me which, you know, drives an ability for us to come together in so many ways and forms. Just last night I was just sharing with a couple of people at dinner that one of the most interesting people that I know when I started my journey for impact investing was actually another UWC alum who was working in the U.S. who I hadn't spoken to for a long time.
And this friend of mine, I reached out to her and I said, I need to learn everything about this. And she says, OK, this is what it is, right? And this she walks you through it. But that ability to network and find not just a cause, but the heart for something, the spirit for something, the ability to bring all these people together, not just on topic, but just on the basis that we're all here, we're all committed.
We want this service that we need to give back to the world and we need to make it a better future. And I think that for me is how I think of the network effect, as Musimbi talks about and for me, you know, when we look at, say, Kurt Hahn's famous phrase, it's more than us than we know. I think for me, sometimes we just leave it at that one line, but there's a lot more to it. So if I could expand, it's like there is more in us than we know and if we can be made to see it, perhaps for the rest of our lives we will be unwilling to settle for less.
And I think that's the element of the common purpose that we're always asking for. Maybe we need a little bit of the less cynicism, but we need to keep working forward to seeing that we can achieve a better future and so to the question that you asked Musimbi before, I worry with a lot and as a alumnus myself is that if we lose that flavour of saying that we don't want to keep doing better and we lose the ability and have the cynicism to say well, you know, no matter what we try, we do that's it. I think we need to reinvigorate a lot of the energy that alumni already have and give them the pathway for it to really have that network collaborative effect so that we can do some really amazing things. And each of us do awesome things.
Carma Elliot: Thank you. And then actually that quote about us not settling for less is in full, is outside my office door as well, because that was the thing that first, you know, had the biggest impact on me around, whether or not there was more in me and more collectively in us.
The idea that we were not prepared to settle for less and what Kurt Hahn would have asked of us as well, I think it's very important that is actually also the quote, of course for the 50th anniversary. It's the strap line as it were, there is more in us.
And so I think I feel very privileged that I've been able to ask the questions so far and I wondered whether we have some questions online. We have a big global audience and we've got an audience here as well. We've got representatives, the other UWC schools and colleges, as well as many from our own community, and partners and stakeholders. So should I turn to you Sinead to give us the first question, then encourage anybody else in the audience who'd like to ask questions.
And please come down to the front. Don't be shy and as was said, we need to be bold and come forward.
Sinead Collins: So while they are coming up with their questions, I'll ask one of the ones that's come in online and it's actually for you, Musimbi. It says Could Ms Musimbi share with us one crucial area in the global mix of quality education barriers that she would prioritise and advocate for a transformative change. So one crucial area you would like to change.
Musimbi Kanyoro: Thank you for the question. It's almost like a question that I would like the people who are on a day to day encounter with the students or a student to answer or a teacher or something. Because I think on a daily basis, I can talk to someone who is a little bit removed from what I wanted to say from education.
But that's not true because we learn everything every day, every day. But I think that times have changed in terms of what we thought about education when I was going to school, which was many years ago, we were told that go to school, you learn you'll get a degree, you'll get a job automatically. And so pursuing academics was equivalent to pursuing a job and truly by the time I went to school, when we were in undergraduate, the people would come and recruit for jobs.
In your final year doing the undergraduate level or in the graduate school, so they would come round the campus. I went to the University of Nairobi and the recruiters were already there for the finalists before you even did your exams. I know that this does not happen today, so I would say that what I would like to see transformed is to keep understanding whether the education that we offer does give opportunities for the young people today who are especially in schools and colleges, to either create the job, change the nature of work by itself, but find something that prepares them and gives them more hope.
Because I also meet a lot of young people who are qualified, extremely qualified. They have their degrees, some have their graduate degrees. I was crazy. I have two PHDs. It's useless to do that kind of thing. If you can help it, don't do it. It was crazy. But just do your education to what you like.
It's not the degrees that get you into a job or into the happiness that you want. It's really something that opens the way for you. And a lot of people's education helps us to, in my answer to that, it transforms our mind and gives us the capability to think outside the box. If I use the common theme, you can be a physics trained person today or tomorrow.
Become a social worker or a social worker. Who goes to work with scientists in a particular area. So once your minds are open and you can see what happens. So I'm hoping that if there's any transformation, that the nature of thinking education is equal to a job, but really thinking that education is equal to opening our mind to understand and be change-makers both of our own lives, our own communities, and the way that our systems work.
Because I tell you, I feel like our systems, whether they are systems of government systems of how businesses work, etc., do require more transformation and they are not fitting together with the education, it's like round and square pegs. And so I would like to see more cohesion in those areas. Then of course, there are things that I know we are doing and everybody's trying, like adjusting our syllabus so that they can address things like climate change, environmental protection, sanitation, and health from my various perspectives, when I was going to school, health meant physical health only.
And now I know that mental health is one of the biggest aspects that we need to address everywhere it doesn't matter. At every age, in every institution, people who are employed or people who are in school. So we look at health differently now. And I think that the education system should also include our training to understand right from kindergarten that we are also responsible for our own physical, mental and spiritual health.
And we need all of the three to come together for us to be able to go on and live in community.
Carma Elliot: I know that question was for Musimbi but I wondered, Leon, if you wanted to also comment there. Sorry, we're back to following Musimbi.
Leon Toh: So it's not just me. Right. So, OK, thank you.
Sinead Collins: Maybe there is a question here? We can bring the mic to you, please. Student here.
Zebo: Hello. My name is Zebo and I'm a national committee student and I am from Tajikistan. Sorry for my voice. Yesterday we had our prank day, so that's why it's very low. I think if I look back at myself two years ago before coming here and if I compare now to this version of Zebo, I can see that I think I learned how to use my strength to the benefit of others and myself.
And the biggest thing that I see is I am so committed to service now. And I think that happened from the first day of me joining UWC to the point where in grade 12, I asked my friends about what kind of problems they see in the movement. And I saw a pattern and the pattern was the fact that the movement became so big and so complex that people now don't understand, at least people my age don't understand who is where and what's happening.
So and then because I was so committed to service, I thought, OK, so what is my role here? And I decided to do this research where I talk to heads of schools. I interviewed Mr. Alchin, Carma Elliot and different heads of schools and alumni students to see how I can make sure that all the complex systems that we have now it's easy for other people to understand.
Plus, on my way to this research, I wanted to find out the problems that are happening in the movement and of course, as in every movement, there are some problems. But what I found fascinating is that concept of passion, because when I was talking to teachers, to alumni, to students, to heads of schools, there is one pattern. People are really passionate.
And I talked to my national committee and I talked to ten other national committee heads. And what I can see is that they are volunteering their time and they are doing more than part time job for free. And I'm asking them, why are you doing that? And the answer is because I wake up in the morning and I see that sense of purpose in my day.
And this fascinated me because on my way of finding problems, I found some of them and I also saw the biggest merit of the whole system and my question is I feel it this way but I'm not sure how I feel this way. How did UWC, the whole system, how did this happen that people have this strong idea of passion?
How come that we all believe that there is more in us? And I'm just wondering about how as a future leader, how will I be able to give people who are working in my organisation the same feeling of passion and the same feeling of purpose.
Carma Elliot: It's lovely to see you in person, having met you online and later on we'll compare as Musimbi said how tall we actually think we were. But I think that question was for you, Leon.
Leon Toh: So I really shot myself in the foot here. Are you sure, Musimbi? So Zebo, I had the privilege of being interviewed by you for TedX. And we had some really interesting conversations from passion and purpose as well. I don't know if I have the answer either. Right? Because you're looking at me as if I'm going to give you the ten step process to purpose and passion.
But I'm lucky enough that, you know, with my company that I've built, my business partner is actually from UWC Atlantic, and the principal in my company basically is kind of like my deputy. He's from UWCSEA and I can't tell you how. I can tell you why, because every day we show up at the office, we're saying, is this useful or is this impactful?
Can we do this? Is this the right thing to be doing? And that's a kind of common element and energy that we share when we're making discussions and choices, even in a business meeting. Right, for what we need to do and how we're trying to do it and trying to also disrupt the space of investments to ask deeper questions around what is more purposeful and why it's important.
And I think the power of it is that, you know, when my principal first joined me in the company, he came from a traditional finance perspective. He was told, you know what? Finance is just finance. And you keep the impact to keep the passion, keep all the SDGs out of this. And then what made him different was that he stepped up and he said, that's not true.
I want to try this. And he went through his exploration in the UN. And then after that, he went on to work in another impact investment firm and then discovered that he was more passionate about something else within the space of impact investing. And if I could just reflect on that relationship that I have with him from a professional standpoint, every day we're asking questions because we know we could do better.
We know we need to push to show that finance needs to transform. We need to do it in a different way. And that's something that brought us all together, including my business partner who is Indonesian, but from UWC Atlantic College. When I came to him with the idea that we need to change finance, we need to shift the needle of how we think of finance to include the world, the impact and what we're trying to stand for, what we're trying to do.
And that for me was amazing because people every day saw a world which they were unwilling to settle for. I hate to go back to the quote, but they were unwilling to settle for it and they were exploring something better. And that for me is the commitment that we all have, even in the movement. When I show up, you know, with the governors or even at the international level, everyone's asking, how do we do better?
And we're debating it functionally. We're debating it from a governance and even from a philosophical standpoint where you can't imagine. But even at the international level, we're having debates like what do you think Kurt Hahn said about that? Right. I mean, I don't know what Kurt Hahn said about Bitcoin, but, you know, I'm pretty sure you have an opinion about it and how the impact is on the world.
So again, no answer specifically, but that's how I think of it.
Carma Elliot: I wonder, Sinead, do we have time for one more question? Is there anybody with a burning question in the room? Please. So for Leon I hope?
Leon Toh: Thank you.
Teacher: You started, Musimbi by talking about the movement as unity, as one entity that's moving forward. One of the things that surprised Howard Gardner when he was asked about UWC was how incredibly diverse and pluralistic we also are. And also his comment that maybe we should have a conversation about that and maybe do something about that. My question is to what extent could that incredible diversity and the fact that there is one UWC but it looks very different in every different location, in every different school, how could that be one of the Keystone strengths of UWC or what we can become?
Musimbi Kanyoro: Yes, I heard that. And I have read the report thoroughly. And then my response to it is the fact that we are different doesn't mean that we are not a movement, because my definition of a movement is not this place. The movement is like water in many different types of containers. Water remains water, but the container shapes how that water looks to people outside.
So I personally believe that the schools will have the differences, but we need to be a little bit more concentrated on seeing that the elements we think give us that passion are clearly articulated so that people see what it is that that makes us excited and all of us say we are UWC, we need to articulate it better.
And the way that I have seen movements do it before, one is having passion always comes together with compassion. So caring for each other in movements is very important so that people don't go up and say, If we put $20 in this we are only equal. When everybody picks $1 or $18, we have to raise $18, everybody can have one.
They always look out for each other who needs particular help, at what particular time, who can give more. In fact, the more privileged ones in things which look like movements very often take also a responsibility of the less privileged ones. So we have to look into our schools and see both in the way we teach and the way that we make amenities available, in the way that we recruit students and see how much more we can share so that people who look to us like the Harvard study can really see that we are a movement because we are we have a passion and compassion for certain principles about education that keep us together.
Even when our ideas are different. When we talk about diversity today, diversity has become a very, very important, large thing and it doesn't just mean bringing bodies which look different on the table. It means being able to accommodate a diverse number of ideas. And we know that that is present in our movement. It is healthy and difficult, but the more that we even disagree on issues, the more we should say and you say we disagree, but we don't necessarily want to part. The more we should say, what is this telling us about our movement?
What are we learning from it? What could we do both with what we agree and what we disagree about what we think. For example, I’m eager to understand what can contribute to this table that we don't have in the East African school, which is closest geographically to me. And what we could contribute. What if we decide that wildlife is so important to East Africa that anyone who comes to study in East Africa must never leave without learning anything about wildlife?
That's what we bring to the table, the distinction on the table, et cetera. So there'll be certain similarities and differences. And I think that what I would answer in that study would be, yes, we do need to talk. I agree. We do need to talk to each other because if you if you are the same and different, but you talk about it and you know it, it's better if you are the same and different and you insist on your own way by yourself, which is sometimes a fault that we can become if we can each school can say this is who we are and close put a ring around yourself.
And I think that will get something out of what it is to be a movement. So I believe that there are answers to that question within ourselves and among ourselves, the work that we have in the movement. But we have probably not articulated to the extent to which others understand where we are. But we love each other enough to quarrel and to disagree and to still stay in the same household of the UWC movement.
And I think that for me, is important.
Carma Elliot: I think on behalf of UWCSEA I can simply say here here Musimbi! Did you want to respond?
Leon Toh: Yeah, I think maybe colleges are one element and I think that sometimes often forgotten for the national committees, we have 156 national committees in the world right now that we select from. And I think what UWC represents to scholars or to students as NC students why they apply to UWC also feels slightly more unique and different.
So from from my limited travels to a place like Laos for example, where I went for the selection process, the reason for applying to UWC is opportunity at a better future through education and for someone who applies from Singapore, it becomes a question of how do I commit myself to a higher level and elevation of service to commit myself to a journey of change making and to commit myself to the community around me every day to to do something different.
And I think the messaging feels different but the inclusivity of the movement allows for all these different passions and views and perspectives to come to the table, especially when you're sitting in economics class and debating with the Russian why Singapore is less capitalist than America. But we'll talk about that another time. So when you have these different elements, I think for the national committees and how they are committed to volunteering and also throwing themselves at common purpose, it feels different, unique.
And yet we still have this overarching umbrella that is all embodying, able to embrace everybody through it and say, how do we help you? How do we facilitate this? What do you want to do next? How do we get you there? And I think that's been so interesting to hear it from different national committees and the students that they come to. The other bit is the opposite.
I think Zebo talked about the largeness or the bigness of the movement. I'm making up words now, my apologies. One of the big debates that have happened is, you know, what does it mean to have a bigger movement? But I think we can think of it in the big picture and let's think of it in the small view.
I was in a bar discussing this with one of the big governors or council members who was actually going to review the Chinese college. And we had huge debates about whether we should have a UWC in China. We have to be honest about this. There are certain elements of China that will probably look different from Italy, from Tanzania, for that matter.
But I think we want to embrace it because we need to ask ourselves, what does a movement look like in a place like China or Japan, even for Japan. When I met Lin Kobayashi before, she started the college and we're having all these discussions. Does UWC need a Japanese college? And the answer is actually yes.
We do need to be able to find a way to contextualise and provide a circumstance and a view of what a UWC education looks like in a container of Japan or China. And it's OK to be different, but we're all after the same thing, a world which is equitable, a world which is inclusive, a world that embraces diversity and diversity of thought.
Musimbi Kanyoro: You know, I feel like following you on this. I think you've said some things that I really find very, very valuable. And I've been thinking and they keep me awake. One is what you said and what some other people have said. It's impossible to contain movements because movement is a mindset.
Even if we don't have a school in China, there could be a UWC movement in the way that people think. And somebody could start a school or an educational institution in China and use exactly the same form of thinking that was in the UWC and it will go on under another name. So what we are trying to do, we are restricting the schools but I don't think it's our business.
We will never succeed in restricting movements because I have seen even when people learn from what you are saying, people learn something somewhere, they go somewhere and they will take it there. If you come to my country, for example, I used to give people in my country raclette containers and fondue containers. Now you'll go in Kenya and find the whole of my friends and my families making cheese
raclette. Now it will become a traditional food. And we make chapatis. We say that we have improved over the Indian chapati. Now, it came during the time of colonisation and we got the importation of some samosas and chapatis and everything that was from Asia - that's a movement of food. It's now you ask somebody from East Africa, what is your tradition of food?
Chapati and rice and curry. So it is people who make movements. What we can do is improve the type of education and continue working hard on it. Whether we are working at 18 schools or 20 or ten schools, continue working hard on it so that the model we are only a model we're not too large, honestly, think of it.
Think of larger movements: we say we are 18 schools, we are present in 156 countries with our national committees. So what? I could tell you the same with the YMCA, YWCA and so on. So we have got partnerships with other people that have been movements, all the ones that I quoted for you, the Girl Guides.
How many countries are they in, how many chapters do they have? So we have, we should not worry overly that we are becoming too big. We want the mindset of the type of education that you UWC gives. To be so prominent and so dominant that these people go back to their countries as alumni and begin such schools.
They can do so and they give that quality education. They can do so. We have to get to a point where people do it and then they apply to say, we are really so good. We are so UWC. Please let us join the others and not if we want to begin a UWC give us permission to begin a UWC. That's not how movements grow.
So we are working against ourselves when we call ourselves a movement. So we have to decide whether we are calling ourselves organisations that allow people to become those organisations or we are movements because organisations by themselves are not movements. Movements evangelise a mindset and people go out and plant that mindset and it grows on their own.
Movements don't own that subject matter. That subject matter is calculated within the laboratory of the people who carry it forward. And so with so many alumni, I trust that these schools will always grow.
Carma Elliot: I feel that we should have delivered food so we could keep the conversation going. But I fear that we must bring this very rich conversation to an end. I hope we managed to divide the questions equally and in due course and, and thank you very much for the questions from the audience whether on the global audience or here in the room.
There's so much that came up today that we have the privilege of, of course, we have another day of very rich discourse tomorrow including some very significant speakers on some of the themes that have come up today. So we have a very big focus on the future of work and the role of education, with one of the foremost both a business person, but also one of the foremost A.I. experts in the world will be joining us tomorrow.
And that's just one example that's a keynote speech. But of course, we have so many other fantastic opportunities to engage across the movement and to join in the discourse. And maybe just to highlight one of the things Musimbi you mentioned to our board earlier when you were urging us what we should do more of at UWCSEA, but across the movement as well.
And you mentioned to talk about peace and to where education is front and centre, peace education should also be front and centre of what we do and actually it's probably very fitting then that our closing event tomorrow will be a conversation on exactly that - peace and the peace and education that is alive and well in our community and driven by the students and their engagement on really big issues and so impressively as well.
So we have a lot to look forward to tomorrow, but it remains for me to thank you, Leon and Musimbi for allowing me to be part of your conversation and to thank everybody for their participation.