Stephen Levesque’s story of bringing Inclusive Leadership to his community shows the powerful ripple effect that results from a single Inclusive Leader taking action. Stephen is an Inclusive Leader, a Parent, a Horticulture Therapist, and an Organic Farmer who lives on Gabriola Island located about five miles across the water from the city of Nanaimo, on Vancouver Island, BC, Canada. Gabriola Island is a small island of forests, beaches, wildlife, and about 4,000 people running farms, resorts, and small businesses.
In September 2014, Stephen contacted his mutual mentors in the Inclusive Leadership Co-operative with a dream and a request. Stephen’s dream was that the Inclusive Leadership values about honouring diversity and skills for being welcoming and inclusive would prepare Gabriola Island students for their upcoming transition from their family-oriented elementary school on Gabriola to High School in the much larger city of Nanaimo. Stephen asked us to support his dream of bringing a weekend Inclusive Leadership Adventure to Seventh Grade students on his island.
The first example of the power of ten was when more than ten of us Inclusive Leaders said YES to Stephen’s request. We agreed that when the time came, we would travel to Gabriola Island and volunteer to help Stephen guide his Inclusive Leadership Adventure. Stephen then connected our group of ten with the teachers and parent advisors at Gabriola Island Elementary school. Brenda Peacock (Grade 7 teacher), Heather Anfossie (Parent Advisory Committee President), Eileen Jubinville (Principal), and about ten more parents and volunteers also said YES to his idea. They volunteered to help Stephen organize the venue, food, and all the other practicalities involved in bringing youth and adults together for a weekend Inclusive Leadership Adventure.
From then on the ripple effect created by these two groups of Inclusive Leaders and Gabriola Islanders began multiplying. During the six months that we took to go from dreaming to doing, over one hundred more people became involved:
- more than 20 Grade 7 students who were the reason for this event
- more than 20 High School students who came to share their perspectives and participate as enthusiastic role models
- more than 20 parents and other volunteers (teachers, youth workers, counsellors) who came to participate and help build a safe, respectful, positive and joy-filled community of shared leadership and shared learning.
- more than 40 business owners and members of non-profit organizations and service clubs who donated money, food, firewood, time, and provided a reduced rental at the summer camp to make this event possible. We were especially thankful for $2,000 contributed by the Gabriola Paraent Advisory Committee, a $1,000 community service grant from our Mid-Island Co-op, a $500 Healthy Schools Grant from DASHBC and thankful for Chef Adisa Lafayette whose many hours supporting the rest of the kitchen volunteers helped this Inclusive Leadership Adventure become such a nourishing event for all of us.
Our Inclusive Leadership Adventure took place February 5 to 8, 2015. Our inter-generational team of volunteer Inclusive Travel Guides joined with the youth and adults from Gabriola Island to explore, share, and celebrate differences as gifts that enrich communities. With the international Earth Charter as our global framework, we built skills for connecting with differences, communicating with compassion and standing up for inclusion. We explored interconnections between our various ecological and social concerns in schools and other parts of our lives. Together we looked ahead to possibilities for forging inclusive solutions while learning through co-operative games; art, drama, story-telling and social justice workshops. We learned through nature walks, playing in the rain, opportunities to help in the kitchen, heart-to-heart discussions about our lives, hula-hoop contests, costume parades, and a couple of hours of getting the adrenaline rushing while flying high on some incredibly fun rope swings. Youth built awareness, skills and action plans for making the most out of their high school years and adults were inspired to build our awareness, skills and action plans for making the most out of our daily opportunities for learning and growing in the coming days, months, and years. What were the outcomes?
- Sixty more people in the world who identify themselves as Inclusive Leaders who are transforming communities by embracing diversity.
- Strong commitment from everyone involved to organize an Inclusive Leadership Adventure on Gabriola Island next year.
- Many skills learned and many seeds of inspiration, hope and positive action planted that will grow and multiply through this power of ten times ten in the months and years to come.
Here are a few gleanings from presentations and conversations: “At an Inclusive Leadership Adventure the gold at the end of rainbow is respect for diversity…we are leaders who take time for those who matter – all living beings…. One pillar of the Earth Charter is democracy, non-violence and peace so don’t argue or punch or be mean, don”t do things that make people die, and don’t bring drugs around us… We can encourage each other to use the skill of challenge by choice to choose to do the right thing…Adults listened to me and learned a lot from what I know about justice, nature and about anti-discrimination…We communicated with compassion….We learned about the people we will meet in high school from a wide spectrum of gender and sexuality orientations…New experiences….Learning new names of plants….Learning that nothing is embarrassing….I made an action plan for doing what I love and I shared how becoming really good at sports teaches determination and persistence….Sports, music, drama, cooking, volunteering are all comforts and strong protection for living good lives…The reward of being an Inclusive Leader involves being entrusted to carry out important responsibilities. Even though so much is unknown, there is so much support”
Parent, Josee Velsen sent this email: “Hi all, my (daughter) Keana and I are feeling so full and privileged to have been part of the first Gabriola Inclusive Leadership weekend with the grade 7 class. So much was learned and shared over the weekend…We came away from the weekend having learned so many new tools (such as) new games for team building. We enjoyed the workshops offered, the Digital Stories Workshop, Anti discrimination 1st Aid, writing, and the dress up show time. I really liked how the kids had to make choices on where and how they were going to spend the time, some in the kitchen helping and learning how to cook and clean up. The whole four days were fabulous, I feel that this kind of team building/inclusive time is so valuable for our kids and especially the ones heading off island for grade eight.”
As for Stephen, he transformed our debriefing session into a celebratory party with an energetic happy dance! Stephen has been involved in Inclusive Leadership since 2007 when he participated in six days of experiential education in Facilitating and Mentoring Inclusive Leadership. Since then he has returned as a volunteer Inclusive Travel Guide, and participated in additional Facilitator Education sessions.
If you dream about transforming schools, organizations, work-places or entire communities by embracing diversity, we warmly encourage you to consider signing up for upcoming Inclusive Leadership educational events: We all have the power to create ripple effects of shared Inclusive Leadership that multiply throughout our communities.