Travelling Trainers: A Travelling Trainer’s tale about a motivating and inspiring trip to the North

The Travelling Trainers Scheme allows EFIL Member Organisations to request the participation of a trainer from the EFIL European Pool of Trainers (EPOT) to take part in national training or volunteer meetings. To encourage exchanges of expertise, interesting methodologies, ideas and concepts, EFIL funds a limited number of the Travelling Trainers per year. EFIL pays for the travel but does not cover the other expenses such as preparation, accommodation, etc. which is covered by the AFS organisation hosting the event.

Member organisations are invited to contact the EFIL Secretariat for more information.

In February, Noomi Sophie Peter (EPOT member from AFS Germany attended The Nordic Leadership Training in Norway – see more here – as a Travelling Trainer. EFILife asked her to tell us about her experience.

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Ready to initiate change? Developing Nordic+ leadership in Løten, Norway

A Travelling Trainer’s tale about a motivating and inspiring trip to the North

My name is Noomi. I currently live in Stuttgart (that is the capital [Federalism!] of the South-West of this quite diverse and large country called Germany). In November/December 2016 I applied to be the Travelling Trainer to the Nordic Leadership Development Training in Løten, Norway. Why? Because I had a quite boring job at a Software Company in Rotterdam, so I was looking for something fun and challenging and… well, it is Norway. Let me explain (I like telling people looots of context about everything!): When I applied to be an AFS student in 2005 I wanted to go to Sweden or Canada. (Un)fortunately I had to pick more than two countries, so I picked among others: Norway. Why? Because I had been to Oslo the summer before. The Norwegians among you or those who know Norway may laugh now, as they know that Oslo is not necessarily the same as the rest of the country (it is probably the only big city in Norway). Long story short: I went to (Northern) Norway (something completely different than Oslo…) for my exchange year and I have been in love with this country ever since. So much that I returned for one year ERASMUS in Bergen <3, an internship in Oslo – and for this travelling trainer engagement! :)

The Nordic Leadership Development Training was also something that I was very much interested in. I am a curious person and like learning new things (again, context), which is a nice thing, but things can get boring fast. So you can calculate now that I am having an anniversary this year: 10 years as a volunteer in AFS. How did AFS not bore me? I always found new challenges: First in my chapter (local group) in Bremen, then on a regional level, then as a trainer on national level and on European level since 2013. Last year I participated in a Leadership training myself in AFS Germany and I thought: “This is so great! We need more of this!” So I was really curious what the Leadership Development Programme by AFS International offers and was excited to be part of it as a Travelling Trainer.

After two skype calls and a prep meeting in the AFS Norway office we drove to Løten (a small place North-East of Oslo). The Nordic Leadership Development Training is the third Leadership Training to happen, after one in Brazil and one in the Caribbean. The programme is based on the incomplete leader model (https://hbr.org/2007/02/in-praise-of-the-incomplete-leader) which says that everybody can be a leader, but everybody has different qualities and different strengths. It stresses the importance of collaborating with other people who have different strengths. It gives you a framework in which you can evolve and develop your leadership qualities. In the AFS context it fits local chapters and groups as well as boards and project groups. By the way, you don’t need to be in a ‘typical’ leadership position (e.g. chapter president) to be a leader; you can also initiate change as a member of a group or even on your own starting a new project!

Learning more about leadership is always also learning more about yourself. We often get caught up in the daily business of delivering the AFS programme to participants and keep everything going. Shouldn’t we reflect on how we do this? Our exchange programmes are so much about reflecting on your experience, why shouldn’t we do the same in our volunteer work and figure out ways to grow as a volunteer leader? This is the reason why I think this (and other related programmes) can be very beneficial – and I think this training did a good job in doing so!

The programme is initiated by AFS International, which was also something I was curious about. At first it was a little weird as I am used to writing the whole concept for a training myself: Here Lucas Welter and Elis Motta from AFS International had a ready-made programme that only needed adaptation for our specific group. The challenge for me was then to develop ownership for these sessions – which worked out nicely in the end.

It was very interesting to hear how the two previous editions of the Leadership Development Training went. There were different challenges in the different regions, e.g. one region struggled with hierarchy between volunteers, others more with long-distances. There were also some cultural challenges at the training sight: The European group wanting to go outside (there was sunshine and snow!) and the Brazilian trainers considering it too cold… (ending in a fun energizer outside in the snow).IMG_1613

I learned a lot from the participants from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Iceland, Denmark, Belgium and Latvia: about different structures and challenges, motivational activities and language differences – and similarities. Also, I want to spread this idea that we not only need to foster skills in executing the programmes, but help volunteers in their personal development as leaders, coordinators and changemakers! For me this means I have new ideas for new trainings. Coming soon: A workshop on inclusive leadership at the EFIL Volunteer Summer Summit! :)

More about the training here.

Text by Noomi Sophie Peter

Photos by Carsten Overby (AFS Denmark)