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The COBIS GSL World Catalyst was our first virtual leadership weekend for students aged 11-18. From 13-15 November, 191 students from 31 schools in 19 countries came together online to reflect upon and develop their own leadership skills. Through inspirational guest speakers and interactive workshops, students had the opportunity to cultivate the knowledge, skills and values required to launch successful projects in their own communities.

The weekend kicked off with a focus on the foundations of leadership. The first session was led by inspirational speaker, Katy Granville-Chapman, who shared the idea that leadership is more than simply being at the front, it’s about ‘knowing, loving and inspiring’ people. This idea encouraged students to reflect upon their traditional view of leadership and consider who has demonstrated leadership qualities in their own lives. Students went on to learn about different leadership styles and the importance of adaptability when leading others.  Finally, a discussion was had around the five pillars of wellbeing; celebrating and accepting who we are, being grateful, being mindful, being kind to ourselves and others, and being resilient. The importance of nurturing our own wellbeing was a message that underpinned the weekend. Students were encouraged to lead themselves in order to lead others.

The second day was an opportunity for students to explore current world issues that require change. The coaches encouraged students to utilise their passions, skills and talents to take small steps in addressing these issues. They looked at young people who had the passion and conviction to make change happen, including Malala and Greta Thunberg, and used this inspiration to consider the actions they could take. The need to remain hopeful, the necessity of self-awareness and the importance of resilience were explored. By the end of the day, it was clear that students felt hopeful for a brighter future, and they were beginning to realise that anyone can be a leader and make change happen.

This feeling of hope flowed into day three, which focused on taking concrete action and being leaders in our own communities. The coaches introduced students to the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, set by the UN to achieve a better and more sustainable future for all. Students were asked to choose a goal that resonated with them and focus on this goal on a local level. They were tasked with carrying out a 30-Day Challenge to stimulate change within their community. These ranged from ‘Leading assemblies on gender inequality’ and ‘Setting up Instagram pages to raise awareness about homelessness’ to ‘Building a bench for old people at the bus stop’. The students were inspired to improve their communities through small, achievable steps, and this was apparent in their chosen challenges.

Throughout the weekend, students were reminded that our actions can create ripples around the world. By the Closing Ceremony, it felt as though this message had hit home – the positive energy and hopeful atmosphere was abundant. This group of young people were inspired to make our world a better place and I have no doubt they will each play their part in doing so.