For three days at the SEAMEO Innotech, November 25 to 27, an international conference is pursuing a series of conversations on “Transitions for Youth Success: Creating Pathways for Work and Life.”
For tomorrow’s closing session, I have been asked to summarize the conversations. But of course there is no way to do justice to the rich and diverse voices that have been heard. All I can do is to highlight the main recurring themes and threads.
This afternoon, the Innotech staff showed a short video of youth voices from the Philippines, talking about what success means to them, what makes them happy, and what future they hope for. It was well edited, the music and the images catching the spirit of the young voices.
That gave me an idea which I broached to Linda Pefiangco, director of Innotech. “Can I ask your communications group to help me shoot interviews with the youth delegates from the different ASEAN countries? I want them to contribute to my summary.”
She readily agreed and Carol, head of the unit, worked out arrangements with me. We would shoot a rep from each country at the end of the afternoon session.
The good idea felt even better when many of the rapporteurs from the workshop groups spoke. Most of them were youth delegates, and they were confident and articulate.
But just before the session ended, I got bad news. The young delegates informed the staff that they had already planned to have a break from the conference, to do some shopping before dinner.
It would be a downer to ask them to stay for an hour for the interviews.
Still, I want them to be part of the summary report, so I requested for a quick 10-minute meeting with them. “Remain standing,” I told them, “so this meeting will really be quick.” I explained my idea, and they liked it. But since we can’t shoot them tonight, I told them we will just go “live” tomorrow, and I will ask them for their views during my presentation.
All I asked from them is to choose one rep from each country whom I can call for a live interview tomorrow. And whenever they find time to do so, I asked them to help their rep prepare answers to three questions about the conference conversations.
The questions follow the three “As” which I use for evaluation: A-1, A-2, and A-3.
A-1 is for “Affirm.” What did you know and believe in before the conference that have been confirmed and reinforced by the conversations?
A-2 is for “Add.” What new knowledge has been added through the conversations – facts, ideas, proposals?
A-3 is for “Alter.” This is usually the more difficult question. What ideas did you have that have been challenged during the conversations? You may not have immediately changed them, but you felt the need to reconsider.
By noon tomorrow, I look forward to checking with the young delegates what they have chosen to say.
Picking up the concept of the conference as “conversations” I thought back to the conversations I had when I was in the underground resistance. It may have been due to a combination of intense conviction and the feeling that at any time I would be arrested (or even killed, though I hardly ever thought about this), but there was a tendency to want “every conversation to end in a conversion.”
The intensity and urgency of such conversations may have led to faster conversions, but may also have turned off others from pursuing further conversations.
But in a restored democracy and the market of open debates, it is not easy to adjust to the notion that a conversation need not end in any immediate conversion. After the exchange of ideas, each one may leave with the same original convictions, but hopefully with a better understanding of one’s own and the other person’s positions.