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AIESEC youth train to change the world with new management

  • 1999-12-16
  • Sandra L. Medearis
RIGA - For Latvia's chapter of the international student group AIESEC such well-worked over issues as corruption are becoming smaller and smaller specks in the distance as the future movers and shakers look ahead to solving bigger problems.

What could be bigger than corruption in retarding Latvia's metamorphosis from a fragmented economy into a viable robust economy?

Four or five things, said Igors Djacenko, AIESEC spokesman at a youth leadership training session held in an auditorium at horticulture college Bulduru Darzkoptas Tehnikums in Jurmala.

"In Latvia there are many companies that still have Soviet management," he said. "But we don't think of that, or corruption. We look ahead to solving Latvia's four more serious problems for its future. The first is Latvia's lack of a clear image to ourselves or in the world. People don't even know where it is or anything about it," said Djacenko. "We need a vision independent of the EU. We need a clear idea of what we want to achieve independent of the EU. The EU - we are not for or against it. Unless we know what we want to achieve, it is hard to know the correct routes. Maybe EU is real cool, but where Latvia is going to be in 20 years is the question that needs an answer."

"After that, the next problem for Latvia is regionalism - Daugavpils versus Riga, for example. Then there is culturism, differences between ethnic Latvians and Russians being emphasized rather than all people in Latvia having common solid goals and a vision of where Latvia is going."

"The last is the worst: negative thinking. People in Latvia don't trust in Latvia's future. If a person doesn't trust in the future, then he takes what he can now. This negative thinking leads to corruption - getting what you can when you can," Djacenko said. "We are training people with a new kind of management in the right way. In this way we can work against the causes of corruption. We can't change it today but we can tomorrow."

The new management training was taking place in the auditorium as Djacenko spoke, where young people from the Baltics - 40 from Latvia, one from Moscow and 20 each from Estonia and Lithuania - met to work out project components in groups.

"Where is PR and education? Where is medicine and environmental?" trainer Pauls Irbins barks from the stage. "You are meeting in two groups. One is telling about a project, one is questioning - only questioning! Ten minutes, now, only 10 minutes!"

Some groups are meeting on folding theater seats while others sit on the floor, legs doubled beneath them.

"These old ladies teaching school now, how will we change their attitudes?" asks a young woman sitting between the first row and the stage.. "We don't have only old ladies who need to change their minds," replies a colleague. The group is discussing how to update discussion between teachers and students to make it more productive.

The groups break up.

"Was it hard?" Irbins asked. "Give me two words. Hard? Yes or no? Did you get what you wanted out of the group?"

This activity preceded a session during which trainees reviewed the acronyms of project building, including SWOT analysis: strengths, weaknesses (can be changed), opportunities, and threats which can break down a project.

The AIESEC program depends largely on an exchange component which allows students to demonstrate and learn leadership skills in other countries.

"It is important that we get this experience locally and abroad to gain new management skills in meeting the challenge to create new leaders," Djacenko said.

Meanwhile, Irbins is cracking the whip again up front. He becomes a motivational speaker.

"It depends on us. You can go home and forget all of it. About 70 percent WILL forget it, but the rest of you will remember it and be someone. You try to be in that 30 percent," he tells new recruits.

A couple of soft-drink bottles stand on the floor center stage with candles burning in them. Irbins takes off again.

"What are one and one?"

"Two?" a voice says out of the dusky auditorium. "Three?"

The speaker holds sup two fingers side by side. "Eleven?" comes another voice.

"Right," he says, launching into a speech on strength from cooperation and combined efforts.

"One and one are 11. That's not mathematics, that's logic."

The conference convened for four days beginning on Dec. 2 and ending on Sunday, Dec. 5, containing team-building sessions, workshops on international educational exchanges, and project process skill tracks still allowed time for leisure and bonding activities. An evening cocktail hour with juice available followed by a dress-up dinner highlighted a Saturday of hard work in training sessions.