What kind of program can prepare leaders for the new realities of a multi-cultural, interconnected world? And what method of training leaders can effectively integrate practice based learning with critical reflection? What kind of program would you build if you were free to dream, unencumbered by past models designed for a world that no longer exists?
The LGP program at George Fox leverages social media to connect cohort members and advisors as spiritual friends. The majority of work is done in an interactive online environment, which includes chat sessions with the whole cohort (a learning community usually a dozen people who walk through a three year process together). The yearly face-to-face advance is set in a different international location each year. So far, S. Korea, London, and Capetown – Hong Kong and London coming up. Members gather to explore and interact and learn together for six days each year. I spent nine days in Capetown as a new advisor with the program – here is my story.
In 2014 the New York Times named Capetown the best place in the world to visit. In the same year the city was named the World Design Capital by the International Council of Societies of Industrial Design. With a population of 3.75 million, it is not nearly as densified as the comparably situated city of Vancouver, Canada (yet Vancouver is much, much smaller).
According to a long time resident, Dr. Alan Storey, Capetown is less diverse and more wealthy than the other large South African cities. The setting is unique — perched between the mountains and the sea. Unfortunately, my dates there were Sept. 23 to October 1st, and the weather was cloudy and cool up to the last days. We were ensconced near the waterfront in the Commmodore Hotel: making it easy to walk to the waterfront area and the fairly expansive mall and boardwalk. An outdoor performance venue on the waterfront side of the mall was in use a number of the times I was in that area.
We gathered as a part of the doctor of ministry program with George Fox Evangelical Seminary: ministry leaders from ten nations — 55 of us in total. We toured some historic areas and met with local leaders who lived through Apartheid, experiencing its effects as well as working for its end. Those in the program are wrestling with questions around globalization, post-colonialism, welcoming and empowering the multi-cultural voice of the church, equipping the church for mission in this new world, doing local theology, and raising up leaders who can strongly engage in this inter-connected world.
As an advisor in the program, I have been impressed with the structure of the program, with the vision and heart evident in those making it fly, and with the women and men who have signed up as a way of enriching and expanding their own ability to guide and empower others in these times. “Impressed” isn’t really the right word. If I had to design a program for enriching Christian leaders today, this would be it! On the last day I asked Dr. Caroline Ramsey, lecturer at the University of Liverpool and a specialist in learning – how she would evaluate the program design. She said she would give it a 9 out of 10, and it might only be her natural British reserve that would prevent the 10!
It strikes me that a community of learners can function as a smart mob — and combining face-to-face relationships with regular interaction can generate emergent conditions and unexpected learning. Individual leaders can’t be smart enough these days: we need to leverage the intelligence of larger groups to avoid the “echo chamber” effect.
A final note – this program grows out of the vision of a number of leaders and practitioners in a seminary that is set in the reflective context of the Quaker tradition. That spiritual rooting was evident in a variety of ways, but perhaps mostly in the quiet humility of the leaders – and their frequent laughter! – their desire to function as a true community, and their desire to make Christ the heart and outcome of the engagement.