He was a high-level security professional in Northeastern Nigeria, and a recent participant in an Engaged Identity training at a peace institute we partner with. It was a 5-day intensive. Two months after the end of the course, we conducted follow-up interviews, and these were the first words he spoke to me.
I laughed. “That’s very kind of her. But she doesn’t have to do that,” I said.
“No, Jennifer,” he insisted. “She wants to meet you because she wants to thank you.”
I paused. He was earnest.
“She says I’m a better husband and a better father to our children after I took this course. She wants to thank you because it’s changed her life and our children’s lives.”
I listened as he went on to describe how his leadership style has changed, how his interactions with his subordinates had improved. He had embraced listening, patience, and respect–the cornerstones of the Engaged Identity Approach–and as a result, he was able to solve problems within his organization and had become a more capable and respected leader. Because of his position, he often led collaborations with security teams from other sectors–local government, military, and security–and as he was reaching out to his counterparts, he found he was able to build those relationships with more ease because of his training.
“I’m a better leader,” he said. “A better father, and a better husband.”
When people ask me why I do this work, I often think of him.
I also think of a young man in his mid-20s who had been assisting one of our partner organizations in the middlebelt region of Nigeria. After over a year, he was able to take the Engaged Identity training in full, as part of a course we did for a Master’s program there.
Unemployment in the area is among the highest in the world, ranging from 60-80%. There is precious little opportunity for people there, even those with an education.
After the course was over, this young man approached me. He confessed he’d been having a difficult time finding resilience and a sense of self worth in the face of the myriad challenges he faced. In particular, as a coming-of-age man unable to make any money.
This young man was also traumatized from the ongoing conflicts in the region, and the violence he’d been exposed to.
“My family has always looked down on me because my brothers were stronger, and I haven’t been able to bring money to my family,” he said. “I am the runt of the litter. I didn’t know what I could do to make a contribution to the world. After this training, I realize I have a contribution. It’s in me. It is me.”
“I realize it’s about being this way in the world, and through that, I’ll find my way.”
This young man had come to us without a shred of self esteem, because no one had supported him or made him feel he had any worth. This experience helped him realize his own untapped capacity. For the first time, he saw himself as a strong, able human being who could effect change–if for no other way than the way he was seeing himself.
“This training made me feel,” he said.
These men’s reflections, their experiences, their strength and their growth–are out of my hands. Their evolution is about them, and the ways they’ve embraced their work.
I founded The Contact Project a decade ago this year, in 2007. Since then, I’ve witnessed the way the Engaged Identity Trainings have transformed organizations . . . and the people within them. And it’s stories like these that have inspired me to incorporate Learning Journeys into our suite of offerings.
We believe the solutions to our most complex problems begin at the individual level. We are committed to enhancing human capacity for global change. These Learning Journeys will offer an immersive Engaged Identity experience to individuals, a holistic intensive that will offer participants the space and support to reflect, renew, and re-engage with the world.
To learn more about TheContactProject’s new Learning Journey offerings, click here.