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Leadership Education for Social Transformation
Supporting Social Inclusion of Vulnerable Groups in European Societies

20 April 2021 - 21 April 2021

Header conference

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.

Social Inclusion and Citizenship

How powerful is the institution of citizenship in our modern society? What does it mean to gain, or to lose one´s citizenship?

In his recently published book ‘Neoliberal nationalism: immigration and the rise of the populist right’, political sociologist. Christian Joppke (University of Bern) argues that Western state citizenship evolves towards “earned citizenship”. Conceived of as “a privilege” and no longer “a right”, this is a form of citizenship that is simultaneously “more difficult to obtain”, and “easier to lose”, under pressure of a neoliberal and nationalist approach.

The new understanding of earning citizenship is, that since it is a privilege, one has to be deserving to receive it, and demonstrate one’s contribution to society through labour and self-provision. It is no longer perceived as a tool of integration, as it was regarded in a liberal sense, but from a neoliberal point of view, citizenship is a reward for proving that one is well-integrated into the host society. The new rhetoric is still to a degree liberal, since it is not a return to racial or ethnic exclusion, still individual and not group based, but it is neoliberal in a sense that the conditions of rewarding citizenship are merit-based.

From the state’s economic perspective, it is an investment in human capital, therefore financial barriers are pulled up. On the cultural side, receiving citizenship requires various tests on language, knowledge on basic history and institutions, and demonstration of civic integration. The rise of earned citizenship is a convergent trend across Western Europe and the classic immigrant nations of North America and Australia.

Even though our society becomes more and more complex, the mainstream idea of citizenship is still reduced to consumerism, which leads to competing ideas of self-interest. Civic participation is limited to votes and to pre-made options that are provided to us – argues Jon Alexander, the co-founder of the New Citizenship Project. The project aims to shift the perception of citizenship from an independent Consumer who chooses and demands, to an interdependent Citizen who creates and participates. While the role of the Consumers´ leader is to serve, the Citizens choose a leader who facilitates and creates opportunities for others.

New citizenship project

The New Citizenship Project offers consultancy in the aim of shifting the dominant story of the individual in society from Consumer to Citizen. Their client list includes The Guardian, the National Trust, the Co-op, etc.

Jon Alexander further mentioned 3 examples of anti-heros, who are facilitating the potential of Citizens:

  1. Kennedy Odede, a Kenyan social entrepreneur, who by simple actions, created opportunities for the poorest in slums across Kenya, which resulted in setting up and running a free school for girls, making clean water and medical care accessible, and helping individuals start small businesses.
  2. James Watt, Co-Founder and CEO of BrewDog brewery, whose philosophy is to shorten the distance between people who own and enjoy the products. With the means of equity crowd-funding, BrewDog succeeded to invest and own the company together with its consumers, involving them in the decision-making and creating opportunities for community building.
  3. Audrey Tang, a Taiwanese free software programmer, who created parallel governmental websites, where people could raise their voices and form their opinion regarding the political issues that concerned them. Audrey Tang later became a minister, creating platforms for direct communication between the government and citizens during the Covid pandemic.

Further projects on Citizenship Transformation:

  • Give a day – offering volunteering opportunities
  • The Better Arguments Project – finding arguments that bring people together
  • Empathy Week – building solidarity
  • Rob Hopkins – transforming “what if” into reality
  • Talitha Kum – saving people from human trafficking and empowering them through education
  • Ostbelgien Model – the German-speaking community in Belgium created a dual structure of a permanent Citizens’ Council and a Citizens’ Assembly, operating in parallel with the regional parliament

Recommended reading on the topic of citizenship:

  • Atkinson, John. Inside Total Place.
  • Carens, Joseph. The Ethics of Immigration, New York, NY : Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Cohen, Mitchell. T.H. Marshall’s “Citizenship and Social Class”, Dissent magazine, 2010.
  • Dauvergne, Catherine. The New Politics of Immigration and the End of Settler Societies. Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  • Davidson, Neil. Nationalism and Neoliberalism.
  • Goodhart, David. Too diverse?, Prospect, February 2004.
  • Joppke, Christian. Neoliberal Nationalism, Cambridge, United Kingdom; New York, NY : Cambridge University Press, 2021.
  • Marshall, T., & Bottomore, T. Citizenship and Social Class, London: Pluto Press, 1992.
  • Sandelind, Clara. What is the “progressive dilemma”?, 2016.
  • Somers, Margaret R. Genealogies of Citizenship, Cambridge University Press, 2008.

Social Inclusion in Practice

.Equality education and the improvement of migrants’ social competence both serve as a potential for social participation.

The possibilities for inclusive education of children with a migration background were presented by Adam Bulandra, a legal advisor, doctor of legal sciences and criminologist. Since 2003, he theoretically and practically specializes in migration and refugee law, focusing on social psychology, sociology and contemporary norm-forming processes. He is a supporter of affirmation of diversity, full integration and limiting the spheres of social exclusion.

Bulandra’s presentation described the most contemporary discourse in reference to equality education and its implementation of principles in Poland. The Polish educational system is centralized, which on the one hand creates equal criteria for everyone to enter the schools, but on the other hand, allows the government to enforce certain ideologies in the curriculum, which results in lost opportunities for new and socially valuable systems of learning.

Empowerment of children serves the purpose of building better societies. Opportunities for equal education are increasingly important for children from marginalized groups. If children do not have the same access to educational tools and services, it is even more difficult for them to overcome structural barriers of poverty.

Bulandra emphasized the importance of such inclusive education, where schools and teachers are both prepared to welcome children with a migrational background, who are facing language, cultural, social and financial barriers. An adequate quality of teaching methods, competencies of teachers, modern laboratories, access to high speed internet and better social participation are all needed to achieve the children´s potential.

Bulandra presented the outcomes of two Horizon 2020 projects, MiCreate and New ABC, dedicated to practices considered to be an essential part of equality education. The research was conducted with teachers, educational stakeholders, as well as children in transition, whose education is particularly challenging. The students in this project were regarded as partners of the research, bringing their own experience to the table to find a solution from a holistic perspective.

The results showed that children with a migration background were abandoned in the education process, since the school curriculum did not allow the teachers to focus on their individual needs. Different teaching techniques and learning tools were implemented to enhance social inclusion, such as games aiming to strengthen the voices of refugee children or adapting educational practices to be more consistent with human mobility.

Ewa Sowa-Behtane‘s and Artur Wołek‘s work focused on the improvement of migrants’ social competence and intergration of Ukraininan migrants into the Polish community. Sowa-Behtane is the founder and president of the Association of Multicultural Families, and an academic lecturer at the Institute of Educational Sciences at Ignatianum. She deals with issues of intercultural marriage, multicultural family and socially maladjusted youth . Arthur Wolek is a system expert, professor of administration and public policies at the Ignatianum Academy in Kraków, associate of the Center for Political Thought in Kraków,

Sowa-Behtane’s presentation focused on the challenges connected with working in a multicultural environment. These challenges include the employees’ and managers’ levels of cultural intelligence, effective intercultural communication, and the efficient and effective functioning in a multicultural team. The study she presented was conducted as part of the Social Integration Leaders project, the model programme for the improvement of migrants’ social competence under the Operational Programme Knowledge Education Development 2014-2020, co-financed by the European Social Fund in the field of social competence of migrants working in intercultural teams. The aim of the study was to analyse the challenges of working in a multicultural environment identified by the respondents of the study conducted among the Ukrainians who live in Poland and work in culturally diverse teams.

The Ukrainian migrants in Krakow are rather an atypical group of approximately 50-80 thousand people (7-9 percent of the city population). The majority of them have a university degree, virtually all have at least a communicative command of Polish, their incomes are lower than the majority population but at a sustainable level, allowing them to reside among the majority population. Even though the Polish culture supplies a handful of anti-Ukrainian stereotypes, they seem to be “dormant” and do not inform the day-to-day relations between Poles and Ukrainians. They nevertheless in general work below their formal competences, they rarely participate in culture and they do not participate in public life.

The greatest challenges faced by this particular group related to multiculturalism in the work environment included issues with communication – given the language and cultural barriers-, and efficient functioning. In order to effectively cope with these issues, Sowa-Behtane argued that managers should be flexible enough to match different management styles to given circumstances. Trainings and workshops could improve the competences of employees and managers necessary to function effectively in this environment, leading to understanding and respecting the cultural differences. Further, it is crucial to increase employees´ language competences and their knowledge about the culture and history of the country where they work and the countries they are coming from.

Further, Wolek’s objective of the practice-oriented research project was to single out which social skills are perceived by migrant Ukrainians of Krakow as their weaknesses and what kind of assistance they would welcome. The result of almost 50 in-depth interviews and focus groups identified the most important shortages among the migrant social competences: lack of assertiveness, lack of skills to increase one’s motivation and inability to react to other people’s strong emotions. This is followed by a low level of motivation to undertake new challenges, shortage of effective self-presentation skills, the inability to react appropriately to conflicts in the work environment and to deal with stress and conflict situations. Surprisingly enough, linguistic and communicative skills were perceived by migrants as non-problematic.

A pilot training-programme has been prepared based on the results of research. It is composed of three modules and several training sessions available to participants. The modules are focused on language skills, entrepreneurial skills and interpersonal skills. The training programme is now implemented, but its evaluation has been postponed due to the pandemic situation.

Leadership Education and Social Transformation

What kind of leaders does our society need? Joan Sorribes approached this topic from the perspective of social inclusion. Sorribes holds a PhD in Economics in the discipline of Applied Economics from the University of Girona. His scientific interests include Economic crisis, Corporate Social Responsibility, Human Resource Management, Sustainable Tourism and E- learning.

Sorribes analysed the Barcelona Social Inclusion Plan 2012-2015, as an example of inclusive support measures and teamwork on a European and international scale. The plan included training, employment programs and job placement programs for the unemployed. Further, it aimed to improve the socio-educational service provided for children and their families to break the cycle of generational poverty and social risk. Sorribes pointed out that when it comes to social inclusion, municipalities play the first role, since this governance level is closest to the problem, but they often lack the necessary resources which makes them dependent on European, national and autonomous funds.

As Sorribes concluded, this dependence on resources is not sufficient to overcome social risks, the call for new participating actors is needed, who set goals and help citizens to achieve them. The success lies in effective leadership, that brings more participants to fight for a common interest, and fosters altruism and goodwill to be exchanged for the commitment of all members of society. A common purpose as a country and society must enable us to overcome exclusion for the sake of optimal participation of all members of society.

Related publications:

  • Barcelona Social Inclusion Plan 2012-2015. Area of Quality of Life, Equality and Sport. Barcelona City Council.
  • Sorribes, Joan. Leadership education for social transformation. Barcelona Social Inclusion, Escola Universitària Formatic Barcelona Universitat de Girona, 2020. DOI: 10.12775/SPI.2020.3.001

But who is responsible for forming such leaders?

David McCallum introduced the Program for Discerning Leadership (DL Program), a special project of the International Association of Jesuit Universities and the General Curia of the Society of Jesus. Fr. McCallum is a Jesuit priest serving as the Vice President for Mission Integration and Development at Le Moyne College in Syracuse, NY; and as Executive Director of the above-mentioned DL Program.

He serves as a facilitator for mission driven, personal and organizational development programs, provides developmentally informed executive coaching, and delivers leadership development programs and spiritual retreats internationally. He co-founded the Contemplative Leaders in Action program (CLA), an initiative of the Office for Ignatian Spirituality, as well as the Global Jesuit Case Series. His research interests include adult learning and development, group relations, leadership and organizational development, mission integration, and spiritual maturation.

The DL Pogram provides leadership formation for senior Vatican officials and major superiors of religious orders in Rome, Italy, in the manner of synodality, meaning to become more inclusive by gathering diverse voices, through collaboration, rich and complex conversation, multilateral decision-making and a participatory approach.

The content of the DL Program is in itself a praxis for synodality, enriched by theological reflection rooted in Ignatian spirituality. The DL Program offers courses in English and Spanish for approximately 70 people a year, so far with 100 alumni. Webinars on the topics of Leadership, Management and Synodality are offered to the participants with the aim of deepening the Church leaders´capacities and competencies, and bringing provoking questions to the table, such as how does the Church better serve the needs of the poorest and most marginalized populations; how can a Servant Leadership be better expressed at a time of rising populism and authoritarianism; and how do we discern together the future that we are called to co-create?

The participants are encouraged to find better ways of organizing, collaborating and co-creating a more vibrant, mission-inspired Church, with broader diversity beyond cultures, to address the complex reality we are confronting. There is a deliberate attempt to shift from a hierarchical governance with traditional management focus, to a hierarchical, yet at the same time inclusive and participative management and leadership, with a right balance between tradition and innovation, appropriate extent of centralization and decentralization, and a rich ecology of diverse complementary roles of clergy, religious and lay people. A Church that listens and speaks.

The DL Program aims to cultivate a space where spiritual conversation is the modality, and each person brings its expertise to the room via dynamic engagement and on-the-spot peer learning. An international community of highly experienced Coaches and Spiritual Directors was created with the aim to accompany and support Church leaders through Coaching, Spiritual Directions and Group Facilitation in their daily roles and challenges as leaders.


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.


20 April 2021
21 April 2021
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Online via Whova
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Jesuit University Ignatianum
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