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Leadership Education for Social Transformation
Supporting Social Inclusion of Vulnerable Groups in European Societies
April 20 - April 21
Leadership Education for Social Transformation
by Lucia Korcsogová
This International conference, organized online on the 20-21st of April, 2021 by the Jesuit University Ignatianum in Cracow, as member of the SCRIBANI-network, posed the following question: What kind of leadership is needed for European societies to achieve more inclusive communities based on civic participation of all its citizens?
SCRIBANI is a network of 15 European Jesuit centres from 11 countries, created on the initiative of Father Mark Rotsaert S.J., then President of the Jesuit Conference of European Provincials. The participating centres and institutions share Ignatian spirituality as a common source of inspiration and they work in line with the themes put forward by the General Congregation of the Society of Jesus: faith and justice, culture and interreligious dialogue. The centers further nourish the policy debate on social matters such as migration, are involved in professional education or pursue concrete social action, such as taking care of the poor or giving support to refugees.
Minorities and marginalized groups in Europe often encounter barriers for active participation in society. Since democratic societies depend on the inclusion of all subjects, it is important to shape citizenship in a way that it creates the necessary conditions and institutional framework for the inclusion of all. A leader’s role in this regard, from a Church perspective, is someone who helps others to find their strength and potential to become responsible citizens ready to act for the greater good.
As Senior Fellow in Political Philosophy and Catholic Social Thought at Campion Hall, University of Oxford, Revd Dr Patrick Riordan stated in the opening speech, that, even though each citizen has the responsibility to contribute to our community, there is still a need for the virtue of leadership. Leaders, however, do not emerge spontaneously, they need to be created by our communities.
How do we coach our leaders of tomorrow? What skills are required to respond to the needs of the marginalized? The conference sought to explore new insights on leadership education and formation.
This conference, dedicated to the topic of social leadership and lessons to learn for educational practice, brought together professional experts from civil society and the Society of Jesus from all over the world, involved in social practice and leadership formation.
As stated by the President of the SCRIBANI network, Patrick Riordan, in his opening address, interdisciplinary encounters with a focus on vulnerability, inclusivity, participation and civic education lie at the heart of the network. We need new leaders dedicated to enhancing civil participation of vulnerable groups, such as migrants. This is a prerequisite for inclusive citizenship in the interest of the whole of society.
But citizenship becomes more difficult to obtain and harder to sustain today, it needs to be earned, Christian Joppke demonstrated. In the current neoliberal interpretation juridical, economic and cultural barriers emerge; you may lose your citizenship due to a traffic offense, you may not apply if you depend on welfare, you need to pass integration tests, …
Citizenship has become less ethnically exclusive since the liberalization of migration policies after the 1960s. Instead you need to vow to a set of liberal values. Under increasing nationalist and populist pressure, it has become more of a privilege to be merited on the ground of individual performance than a right.
Is this the price to be paid for opening up societies? Are we forced to choose between diversity and solidarity?, some of the participants remarked. Is this not in conflict with the Church’s teaching of universal dignity?
Citizenship goes beyond the law and is more than a status; it is a practice that requires agency, Jon Alexander explained. We need to evolve from the pre-war subject, over the contemporary consumer, to the future citizen. Social media may call to protest, but mostly they just amplify like-minded ideas and keep us in the position of passive consumer. What should a post-corona leader look like? In Alexander’s opinion (s)he is an anti-hero, who dares question an unjust situation, act against it and facilitate others to realize their full agency.
The Society of Jesus tries to address these issues through an ambitious international formation programme for lay people developed by the International Association of Jesuit Universities at the Gregorian university in Rome, that many of the attendees have followed. David McCallum explained how it started from the need to rethink the church organization to become more inclusive by sharing insights from Ignatian leadership education.
The coordinator of the Brussels-based European Leadership Programme of the Jesuit European Social Centre for young master students from all around Europe, reflected on lessons learnt and ways of enhancing this leadership formation programme for youngsters from various denominations, including non-religious people.
Former President of the SCRIBANI-network and former European Provincial of the Jesuit Society, Mark Rotsaert gave the advice he took from lived experience: do not limit yourselves to sharing ideas (fairly easy), but try to share your sentiments on working together (which is a lot harder). That is what builds community.