It’s been a busy few months at AbilityMate and a lot has happened - including a trip to Spain for the 2017 Laureate Global Fellowship!

The fellowship supports 20 young leaders who are working with social ventures that are transforming how old-age challenges are addressed in their communities and countries. Each year, 20 young leaders are brought together from around the world and are not only given the opportunity to join the global network of social entrepreneurs, but also learn the qualities of being an extraordinary young leader and how to continue making positive change with our social ventures through a week-long intensive leadership training program in Spain.

It’s an absolute honour to be selected as one of the 2017 fellows and to be representing Australia in youth leadership and social entrepreneurship. The fellowship kicked off with an 8 day in-person retreat in Madrid, followed by a year-long of support from mentors to help the continual growth and development of our social venture and leadership skills. I still find it difficult to find a word to describe what it was like spending the week with a group of extraordinary young leaders, learning from world class mentors and connecting with a global network of like-minded people who are passionate about social change. It was an incredible experience!

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I remember at the opening of the retreat one of the mentors gave an overview of what to expect throughout the leadership program and he described it as the “dance floor and balcony view”. When we are immersed in our daily routine we don’t pay attention to the people or things around us because we are constantly trying to race against time and find a balance between work and life - he compared this to being on the dance floor, where we are moving to the beat of the music in a loud, crowded and noisy environment without much time and space to think for ourselves. He then went on to explain the purpose of the Laureate Global Fellowship retreat is to take us out of the dance floor and onto the balcony where we can look at the dance floor and see the bigger picture and spend some time working on ourselves; Throughout the program we focused on how we see ourselves as young leaders, what our leadership style is, what it takes to be a social entrepreneur, where we are today, where we want to be and what we need to do to get there. It was definitely refreshing, and even a relief, to be able to take a step back from the chaos in everyday life and focus on personal growth and development.

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The leadership program then shifted its focus from personal development, to team management and effective communication, before looking at how to maintain sustainable social ventures and continue growing impact whilst also challenging our assumptions.

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Personal growth and development is an area I’ve always wanted to spend time on but never had the capacity to do so because I get caught up with work and everyday tasks - it almost feels as if balls are thrown at me from all directions and I spend all my time and energy trying to keep track of everything; but what I really need is to just take a minute to think about what I want to focus on and which path I want to take.

Meeting the fellows from around world and directors of the program broaden my horizons and I learnt many valuable lessons in the week I’ve spent with them; including the social challenges in different countries and the solutions that are created to address these issues. Perhaps the best part of it all is sharing AbilityMate’s story - showing the power of technology and it’s ability to create life-changing solutions for people with a disability. Most importantly, it was about showing how this initiative was brought to life simply by bringing together like-minded people who shares the same vision and sees the potential for change and innovation.

The trip to Spain was definitely an incredible experience, but of course, there were some challenges around accessibility along the way. Stay tuned for part two of this blog series where I’ll talk a bit more from the accessibility point of view!

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