Posted by: thebluemusicblog | January 30, 2015




For me January is very much like my daily bread. I am always in Geneva, I go to the office every morning, I receive a lot of visitors and we all have intensive meetings from morning till night, and often we sit around the same table for an evening meal. Sometimes we meet in my place, in Avenue Krieg, sometimes in the new guest apartment in Velour and sometimes around the fondue pot in some Genevoise restaurant.


January atmosphere in Avenue Krieg, Geneva

The first major event in January each year is the Executive Staff Team coming to town for the first staff retreat of the year. We have an increasingly decentralized Executive staff. This has many advantages. Just now we have Executive staff members living in Kenya, England, Australia, India and USA. We have three new Programme Assistants to Youth Empowerment living in Peru, Maria, Kosovo, Adi and Russia, Misha. In this way we are building important bridges to national YMCAs around the world, and to the Area Organizations in each area. Important realities from all corners of the world are flowing to Geneva, and knowledge about the plans of the World YMCA is flowing back, all the way to local levels. Another part of this scheme is of course that it becomes very cost effective. Modern technology makes it possible to keep in daily touch without added cost. Face to face encounters will always be essential, and therefore we organize at least three Executive staff retreats in Geneva every year. We meet also sometimes else in the world, when we can combine it with another meeting to save cost for travel.


Hopes for spring

The Executive staff is a real star team. Michal Szymanczak is the new Senior Executive Secretary for Movement Strengthening, located in Geneva and following in the footsteps of Selma Zaidi. Selma is continuing as a Special Advisor to the Secretary General in 50% position located in Seattle, USA. Romulo Dantas is continuing as Executive Secretary for Youth Empowerment located in Geneva and Andrew McKenzie is the new Executive Secretary for Communications, located in Melbourne, Australia. Jose Varghese is full time Executive Secretary for  Leadership Development and Resource Mobilization, located in Kerala, India. Ian Green is Special advisor in 50% position located in England and Carlos Sanvee is Special Advisor in 25% position, located in Nairobi, Kenya.

At this staff retreat we missed Selma, still in the process of establishing herself in Seattle and Andrew, who starts with us February 1st.


We did not make a group photo this time, but you will see at least three of the staff team meeting with the staff team of the Swiss YMCA-YWCA. They visited us in January as well for an inspirational day of sharing. The Swiss NGS, Oliver Berger, to the far right

These staff retreats are intensive, inspirational and strongly team building in nature. We sit together and share the different challenges we face and develop plans and action steps to deliver the ambitious OUR WAY Strategy. It is a very conscious team approach and I dare say on behalf of the team that we enjoy this fellowship enormously. It gives us strength and inspiration and shared visions to go home and work alone with these challenges, knowing that soon we will be back around the same table and share and laugh, discuss and pray and internalize the new concepts of OUR WAY.


The Big 6 or Alliance of Youth CEOs

The next important January  meeting every year is the meeting of the Big 6, or the Alliance of Youth CEOs. These are the CEOs of the biggest youth organizations in the world coming together to be a peer support group and a strategic meeting place for leaders representing a few hundred millions of young people. This time we brought each a senior member of staff, and I brought Romulo with me for discussions on the Youth Agenda. Around the table you see from the left 2 representatives of the International Award Associations in London, YMCA, 2 from the Red Cross/Red Crescent, YWCA, Girl Guides from London and then the Boy Scouts, recently moved to Kuala Lumpur. Last year I hosted the meeting in our headquarters and this time we met at the Red Cross Head quarter. Next year the meeting will be hosted by the Scouts in Kuala Lumpur. These meetings are inspirational and they are creating a good fellowship between us as CEOs of big organizations. I plan to invite a few of my friends from the Big 6 to visit the Blue Music Blog this year to express what is important challenges in their work and lives.


Winter atmosphere from my home country

Peter Jeffrey, Chair of YMCA England and member of the World YMCA Executive Committee, came to visit me on the 19th of January, and Peter and I spent a full day of sharing and discussing and planning for the future. I enjoy such days enormously. They are deeply meaningful in that they create mutual understanding and shared enthusiasm, we learn from each other and  from our side we can use such days to seek more wisdom and good advises from our membership and volunteer leadership. Peter and I agreed that we are very much on the same course and that we are walking together into a very exciting future for the World movement. We evaluated the past, went through the World Council experiences with smiles on our faces and even had a preview of the World Council video, not yet finished.


From a previous meeting of the International Secretaries

I regularly have days like the one I had with Peter Jeffrey here at the World Headquarters of the YMCA. We have meetings with leaders from many National Movements and we welcome them warmly. This January Oliver Berger and his regional staff team from YMCA-YWCA Switzerland came visiting, and we had a day full of sharing and inspiration and thinking forward about the future for the Swiss movement as well as the World movement. I am grateful that people take time to visit and find pleasure in sharing our different realities and planning for a joint future. And as always sitting around the same table and enjoying a good lunch feels the right thing to do for friends! And that brings me back to my daily bread(s):


Own production

Next month we organize the annual meeting of National General Secretaries, this time generously hosted by YMCA Mexico. On both sides of that February week, Romulo and Ingunn and I are going to visit as many Central American YMCA movements as we can, and I look forward to report to you from each of those destinations, given that I have good internet connections!

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