Learning from this Year’s Global Engagement Summit

April 21, 2010 9:47 am

Missed the Global Engagement Summit at Northwestern University last weekend? No worries! We took diligent notes at two workshops that can help inform your cultural consciousness and perhaps even future travels.

GES: The Rundown

GES is a five-day annual conference and summit held at NU that brings together university students from around the world — “delegates” — who are committed to global change. Events include speakers, panels, workshops and discussions. For full background info, click here.

Confronting Culture Shock

Led by Saul Garlick, Executive Officer, ThinkImpact, Washington D.C. Students in attendance for the workshop were from Peru, China, Japan, Uganda, Australia and Turkey, as well as universities across the U.S.

Quotable: “People go to Africa for six weeks and write a book, six months and write an article, and go for six years and don’t write anything,” he says. “We must assume first and foremost that we just don’t know.”

Takeaway: So how do we find out? When looking at societal norms of any new place, different aspects of culture worth thinking about and exploring, according to Garlick, include:

  • Food and its sources. What do people eat and how is it prepared?
  • Language. How do people describe their own society?
  • Work. What do people to do earn a living?
  • The dynamic of gender relationships. Who runs the home or leads the community?
  • Entertainment. Everybody, no matter who or where, wants to have fun!
  • Dynamics of religion. “You have a sangoma (witch doctor) in a community and you have someone who very strongly believes in Jesus, and you think, how is that possible?” Garlick says.
  • Political hierarchies. An explanation of power structure.

OpenShutter Project

We also stopped in the GES OpenShutter exhibit to see some phenomenal student photography. Needless to say, these photos transcend any language barrier.

Photo by Alyssa Urish. Click image for additional OpenShutter photos

International Reporting and Social Entrepreneurship

Led by Roger Thurow, senior fellow on Global Agriculture and Food Policy at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs. Thurow worked for 20 years as a foreign correspondent for the Wall Street Journal before moving to the CCGA to pursue his passion and cause: fighting and publicizing the hunger issue. He is co-author of Enough: Why the World’s Poorest Starve in an Age of Plenty.

Quotable: “Outrage and inspire!” is one of Thurow’s personal mantras.

Takeaway: Storytelling is imperative, Thurow stresses, as is making the masses — not just Congress — realize change is necessary. For example, U2 lead Bono took to the road in the U.S. in early/mid 2000 to raise awareness of AIDS and debt in Africa, specifically among the constituents of many important Midwest legislators. Soon after his trip, which included a stop at Wheaton College, (“the Harvard intelligensia of the religious movement” according to Roger) the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) passed. The movement Thurow is so invested in also took a cue from the Bono relationship with the celebrity video below, which Thurow mentioned in his talk.

Tara and Karina for TKGO

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  • GES truly provides students with an enhanced world view! Thanks for highlighting this important and influential summit.

  • I wasn’t able to stop by the GES so I really enjoyed reading this entry. You’ve provided a great summary, thank you!

  • I like how you covered this, especially the takeaway portion. Good read!

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