Saturday August 27th the programme of World Merit officially started at a large campsite outside of New York. Such a location was a necessity due to the hundreds of people that needed to be accomodated. We arrived at a beautiful green area in the woods with a lake to swim in during our time off, places to read and study, and spots to build a nice evening campfire.
The first few days were centered around getting to know the group of experts and getting a firm grip on the assignments. My own group turned out to have very diverse backgrounds with members from New Zealand, Russia, Nepal and Kenia. Not only were there people specialized in architecture and design (such as myself), but also psychologists, lawyers, entrepeneurs and employees from organisations such as Habitat for Humanity. One thing we all have in common though: a passion for creating sustainable cities and building inclusive communities. Working on creating sustainable cities and settlements with people from all over the world and from many different fields of expertise is an exciting prospect, and I have a lot of confidence in our ability to make our part Action Plan 001 for the UN both creative and viable!
Together we started working on the first assignments, doing exercises and listening to many interesting speakers. One of these was the activist and co-recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize Jerry White, who told his story about fighting landmines and advocating for peace and justice throughout the world. Jerry managed to apply his knowledge and experience to our current goal of creating Action Plan 001, by teaching us to have inner rest and a clear vision for what we aspire to do. He stressed the importance of having a holistic vision while still making explicit choices and committing yourself to your goals. Within this plan, Jerry explained, we must strive to create something balanced and alligned. Alligned not only with regard to the different components, but also with our own knowledge, professional skills and personal values. Finally, he pressed that realizing your ambition is not just a matter of vision, but just as much a matter of conviction: by being resilient, overcoming obstacles, and having the integrity to act on what you believe in.
Inspired by this message, our team started working diligently on the first components of our contribution to the overall action plan. Read my next blog on the results of our first efforts!