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March 2011

MARCH 2011


Here, There, and Everywhere By Michael Hinchliffe

In 2006, IDIA launched its first international program, traveling to The Gambia in West Africa. In 2011 we’re expanding our overseas programming to three countries on three continents – but to be successful, we need you to join the team! Five years ago, IDIA launched the Capacity Building Program, traveling to The Gambia in West Africa to work with a group called the Better Africa Youth Initiative (BAYI). Over the course of two weeks, a group of seven IDIA staff members and alumni worked with BAYI to help them better understand how to manage events and educate girls about their roles in their communities. Our work culminated in a two-day workshop in which IDIA and BAYI collaborated to help a group of nearly 100 girls develop their own voices, identify challenges in their own communities, and begin the process of bringing about positive social change. IDIA has returned to The Gambia each year since, last year holding a Model Economic Commission for West African States (ECOWAS) for nearly fifty Gambian secondary school students. We’ve brought nearly 20 IDIA members and two high school teachers, and we’ve worked with more than 400 students from a dozen local secondary schools. Prior to the trip to The Gambia, and through our long history providing Model Congress and Model United Nations conferences, IDIA had developed a variety of teaching techniques and

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WHAT’S INSIDE? Here, There, and Everywhere Eat, Teach, Love Teaching Model UN: Resolutions Student Spotlight: Gwen Prowse Why I Joined IDIA More Students, More Places

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strategies focused on helping young people to develop important life skills like public speaking, conflict resolution, information synthesis, and critical thinking. Over the course of fifteen years of conferences, our delegates and staff members have tackled virtually every issue you could imagine from Access to Education to Economic Development; from Global Warming to Depletion of Fish Stocks. But we had never employed our strategies and teachings in the field. They sounded good and they seemed to work in the context of the Model United Nations and Model Congress settings, but we had never seen our strategies used by real people on real issues. The first trip to The Gambia was a difficult one – some things worked well, while others needed to be adjusted to the realities of a new audience. We learned that young people in The Gambia were desperate to develop their own independent voice, but that the elders in the communities were not quite ready for them to have strong opinions of their own. We learned that students in this small West African country were not used to actively participating in the classroom – our hands-on education strategy initially fell on deaf ears, as the

MARCH 2011 students were used to lectures, not question and answer sessions. Despite these initial setbacks, we learned that we were on the right track, and that the teaching techniques and strategies that we had developed and our theory of change worked in the field. And so we’re entering our sixth year of international programming with our most ambitious plans to date. From 2-16 July, we will be traveling to Nigeria to work with secondary school students through a leadership and skills development workshop and a Model ECOWAS conference. We will visit local schools, talk with students and teachers, and learn what it is like to be a student there. We will also explore the area, learning about the history of Nigeria, and experiencing its food, its culture, and its people. Then we’ll head to Croatia as we put together Vukovar International Model United Nations (VukIMUN) at the site of the most effective

peacekeeping operation in United Nations history. Taking place from 21-24 July, the conference, which represents a partnership between IDIA and our Croatian partner PushLAB (, will bring together 100 university and postgraduate students from around the world to discuss issues of social, political, and economic security. Instead of participating in a Model UN conference in the confines of a luxury hotel in a major European city, VukIMUN participants will be immersed in living history. They will see firsthand the scarred buildings from the Balkan Wars of the 1990s. They will talk to people who survived the conflict. Far more than just an opportunity to see the wounds of war, they will be an integral part of the new story of Vukovar – they will be taking part in the rebirth of the city into a center for economic activity, culture, and community engagement. In the Fall of 2011, we will head to Xichu, Mexico to work with IDIA alumni and Peace Corps Volunteers Arpan Dasgupta and Jill Matthews to empower the people of this rural community. Part of a large bioreserve, Xichu is an area with limited community engagement, and the stakeholders with Presented by the Institute for Domestic and International Affairs

ISSUE 2 the most to lose have the least voice in the community. We’ll spend a week in the area, running a grassroots leadership training program during which we will show how small projects can have major impacts. As part of the region’s Conservation Week, IDIA members will have the opportunity to work with community leaders to implement environmental strategies and programs designed to enhance and strengthen the bioreserve. The best part of these three programs is that they are all open to the IDIA community. We are actively looking for individuals to participate as delegates at Vukovar International Model United Nations. Information about the conference can be found at We are looking for people interested in learning about West Africa and taking part in the leadership workshops and Model ECOWAS conference. Information for this program is currently being finalized and you will receive an email soon with all the details. Lastly, as we get closer to November, we will be looking for people interested in working with rural Mexican community leaders to preserve their rich landscape. As you can imagine, hosting programs overseas comes with considerable logistical and financial challenges. While we are undertaking formal fundraising and grantseeking efforts, your support is needed! There are a variety of options available if you are interested in contributing your time, enthusiasm, or money for these important programs. For more information about any of these programs, please contact Michael Hinchliffe at Michael Hinchliffe is the Executive Director of IDIA.

Eat, Teach, Love By Ruchi Gupta

Recently, I had the incredible fortune to partake in a four-day professional development workshop in Mumbai, India. Developed by Teach for All, a global network of organizations that aim to close achievement gaps across the world, the

MARCH 2011 “Change Begins Within” workshop gave me a chance not only to meet more than 65 other educators from 18 different countries and educational contexts, but also to explore many ideas of holistic learning that the average American is so encouraged to ignore. By the time I returned to the U.S., I had undergone a sufficient renovation of spirit that also reaped many benefits in my practice as a teacher. I would like to share the things I learned in Mumbai because I think we— educators, students, world citizens, and human beings—tend to lose focus on the importance in development of self. And if I learned anything in India, it is that if we cannot undergo genuine personal transformations, than we have no hope of encouraging transformation on a global scale. The lessons we learned were not lectured to us, or given in a PowerPoint presentation. Instead, to teach us how easy it was to interact with our students as human beings instead of hormonal miscreants, we were dropped into one of the largest slums of Asia and asked to connect with a child. We did, despite the language barrier, through song or dance or pictures or soccer, parents inviting us into their tiny yet clean homes, proudly serving us chai as their children practiced halting English. To teach us about encountering obstacles with a sense of possibility, we were given impossible tasks (such as earning 25 rupees in a slum without selling anything) and asked to use only our ingenuity and tenacity to overcome them (we drew pictures of people and asked for donations before donating back the costs). To teach us how to become part of communities we used to ignore, we went on home visits with Teach for India fellows, a group of high-performing college graduates and older professionals who commit to two years of teaching in low-income areas across Pune and Mumbai. Bolstered by seeing their optimism and hard work as they taught kids who often had no money for food let alone tuition, we began to feel less alone in our own trials. We began to learn, really learn, what a communal effort the movement for equity must be. And we began to think. The influx of new information and scenery had the potential to be overwhelming, but each day we came back to the hotel to engage in rigorous reflection, looking inwardly for a stretch of time, engulfed in an almost meditative silence. The gains that matter are not my killer tan, lots of Indian clothes, and a renewed energy to teach, having missed the whole first week of January. The

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ISSUE 2 gains that matter are the ones that occurred internally. For once in my adult life, I was being made to think not only about what I wanted and why I wanted it, but also how I was going about getting it. For once in my adult life, I was being made to think about the legacy I would one day leave and the lessons I was imparting to others simply through action alone. And for once in my entire life, I realized that the world was indeed a product of our own making. When I came back to the U.S., I changed my last unit from learning about constructed responses on state tests to learning about Gandhi. Instead of writing the perfect response to a question about sherpa farmers, my students turned in personal reflection journals. And maybe hardened cynics will see my blatant disregard for district mandates as a granola, too-liberal approach to education that will inevitably get me canned. But the message of “be the change you want to see in the world” and then, “the change begins within” resonates in me too loudly to believe the cynics. I hope it will in you, too. Ruchi Gupta is a public school teacher at Benjamin Franklin High School in Philadelphia.

Teaching Model UN: Resolutions By Michael Mahrer It happens every fall. Half-way through the first day of the first Model United Nations conference of the year (in our case the Rutgers Model UN Conference), usually during the lunch break, a student accosts me and with great indignation, sputters, “Mister! How come you never taught us how to write these resolution papers? Why did we spend so much time writing position papers, and now nobody cares about them? Now they want us to write resolutions! What is this?” My immediate, canned retort is, “Why did you waste so much time procrastinating on the position papers so I never had the chance to teach you about the resolutions?” But this is always a tongue-incheek delivery. In reality, the students raise one of the greatest challenges faced by every first-time Model UN student-delegate, every upstart Model

MARCH 2011 UN team, and every newbie Model UN advisor. I teach in a GED program, so almost by definition, practically all of the students I advise at Model UN conferences are relative newcomers to the program. In my capacity as a staff-developer for new Model UN advisors, I see the same dynamic at work. The high-pressure rush to research country policies and to complete position papers takes over the process for the uninitiated, students and their teachers alike, at the expense of getting to the crux of what Model UN is all about: working in committee to craft resolutions to the issues at hand. If we are lucky, we get to practice a little debate procedure, but it is the resolution process that inevitably receives short-shrift. Of course, by the time the first conference is over, the students have become old hands in resolutions writing. This is especially true at an intensive, four-day conference like Rutgers, after which they have spent more than twenty hours in committee, almost all of that dedicated to writing and passing resolutions. Many Model UN teachers and advisors, however, ask me how they can reinforce this new skill, keeping students in practice until the next conference. Throughout my own first few years as a Model UN advisor, I struggled with this myself. When it was time to get ready for the next conference, we would plunge back into position papers, and we even practiced procedure by conducting Model UN class as if we were back in committee: taking attendance became “roll call”; announcements and assignments became “setting the agenda”; students’ questions about classroom tasks or upcoming conferences became “points”; classroom discussions became “moderated caucus,” placards raised high; and working on projects was “unmoderated caucus.” Still, as the forgotten child of Model UN class, resolution writing was always reduced to a perfunctory revisiting of terms, clauses, and the basic structure of a resolution. Finding a way to practice the very technical and esoteric language of the United Nations resolution remained elusive. That was until one day, at a Model UN PD I was co-facilitating, a teacher shared her approach to freeing resolution writing from the shackles of complexity and inaccessibility. She had, most Presented by the Institute for Domestic and International Affairs

ISSUE 2 brilliantly, assigned all of her students to write “Dear John/Dear Jane” break-up letters in the form of resolutions. The student products she shared with us were at once plainly-written and, more importantly, humorous and fun. At the same time, they had followed, most faithfully, that dreaded resolution format. This teacher had discovered the magic key, and ever since, I have kept it firmly affixed to my keychain of Model UN tricks. After one subsequent conference, I announced to the team that they needed to write a letter of thanks to the ambassador of the Permanent Mission of Lebanon, who had graciously allowed us to interview her in preparation for writing our position papers. It was one of the students who suggested that we write the letter in the form of a resolution like I had them do with the break-up letters, a brilliant stroke. Today, every time we return from a major conference, the first task our Model UN team takes on is to think of all the people to whom we owe debts of gratitude. We make a list of the efforts they made to help our team, whether material, financial, or informational; these become the preambulatory clauses. We make another of all the ways we would like to acknowledge the assistance we received; these are the operative clauses. Then the students are asked to assemble these into working papers. Once I have approved the language, they type them up and they become draft resolutions. Finally, we go into voting procedure, attaching amendments and parsing language along the way. In the end, we package the resulting “conventions” in big manila envelopes with photographs of our team at work at the conference. What better way to kill two birds with one stone: strengthening students’ sense of diplomacy by expressing gratitude while reinforcing their new found understanding of the resolution process at the same time. Michael Mahrer is teacher at ACCESS Manhattan in New York City.

Staff Spotlight on Gwen Prowse One of the goals of “EMPOWERED by IDIA” is to bring attention to individuals that are personally

MARCH 2011 working to bring IDIAâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s mission to more students in more places. Fortunately for the organization, the student chapter at Rutgers is full of individuals that fit this description. Each issue, we will put the spotlight on one particularly deserving conference staff member and have them tell you a little about themselves, their reason for being involved in the organization, and what their plans on to continue addressing civic engagement after they graduate. Our first staff spotlight is on Gwen Prowse, a graduating senior at Rutgers University. Gwen has directed numerous committees throughout her time in IDIA and last year, served as Executive Director of Rutgers Model Congress. Upon receiving her degree in Urban Planning, Gwen hopes to address urban public policy and civic engagement as she embarks on the next stage of her life and the beginning of her professional career. To learn more about those plans and her thoughts on IDIA, we asked her just a few questions< How would you describe your time in IDIA? What has the organization contributed to your college life? I knew I wanted to be a member of IDIA after my AP Government teacher dragged me to my first (and last) RMC conference in the spring of my senior year of high school. However, I never anticipated the range of benefits that it would bring to my college experience. First of all, IDIA introduced me to an amazing group of lifelong friends diverse in personality and passion. Because many of us have different majors and interests, I feel as though I've been exposed to a very broad network of individuals - ranging from campus activists to future doctors. Second, IDIA has greatly enhanced my communication skills. Not only am I more adept and speaking in front of my peers, I have also learned creative techniques for being an effective educator. Finally, by working with and educating young people, I feel as though I am sharing the benefits of my college education in a socially valuable way. Because the high school Presented by the Institute for Domestic and International Affairs

ISSUE 2 experience really only lends to "dabbling" in different interests, I feel that many high school students can benefit from talking to college students about how they have chosen to pursue a particular interest or area of study. What was your favorite conference and staff position during your time in IDIA? I would say my favorite conference was RMC 2009, where I served as director of Senate Banking, Housing, and Urban Affairs. As it was my first time directing, I was probably more nervous than the students in my committee! I had no idea how my topics would go over with the delegates. The first topic, the Subprime Mortgage Crisis, had the potential to be very dry and difficult, and the latter, Homelessness, could have been daunting and emotional. To my surprise and excitement, my students remained engaged in both throughout the entire conference. The highlight was my guest speaker, a volunteer from the Elijah's Promise soup kitchen and former victim of homelessness. He spent nearly an hour describing his personal experience with homelessness, and what he saw as possible solutions to this national problem. The opportunity to connect the realities of homelessness with their work at the conference invigorated debate and enhanced the solutions proposed in their legislation. Additionally, the guest speaker and the delegates' subsequent excitement about the topic was an inspiring reminder that as staff members, we are not simply giving the students an intellectually stimulating weekend, we are empowering them to make real change for real people. You served as conference manager of RMC. What did that experience mean to you? How will it help you in your professional career? My year as conference manager of RMC 2010 was a critical period of personal growth and development. First, I had the opportunity to introduce a theme that I saw as an important part of American political development to my peers and hundreds of high school students. The theme, sustainability, transformed from something I

MARCH 2011 considered as a student of urban planning and as an environmental advocate; however, throwing it out into the abyss of RMC mean that young people could contextualize and interpret it in ways meaningful to them and particular policy issues. Watching this small idea I had about sustainability evolve into something multifaceted and universally meaningful was an amazing experience. Second, this experience taught me a lot about leadership. In addition to managing RMC, I was also managing a "Get Out the Vote" initiative for an important referendum in New Brunswick. Both of these roles required that I interact and negotiate with numerous stakeholders: for RMC - students, advisors, and my peers and for the referendum supporters, opponents, students and community residents. Having always been uncomfortable with "telling others what to do" my experience as conference manager taught me how to be a leader who is both personable and effective at accomplishing a set task. I think this experience was pivotal for strengthening my communication and leadership skills in future professional settings. What was it like to visit the Gambia and participate in IDIA's capacity-building program there? My trip to the Gambia was my first time outside of North America. Initially, the thought of promoting civic engagement in country I knew little about was just as intimidating as it was exciting. However, my anxieties eased almost immediately after entering the classroom of Gambia High School and meeting the members of The Better African Youth initiative (BAYI), a small West-African NGO who shares IDIA's mission of civic engagement and youth empowerment. For the first two days of the capacity building program, I was paired with Bakary, a 20-year-old member of BAYI and an all-around extraordinary individual. He and I worked with a group of about 10 high school students to help improve their skills in issue identification and critical thinking, as well as selfconfidence. While I created the structure of our various workshops, Bakary made the workshops relatable to the students and the culture of their community. By the end of the two days, the Presented by the Institute for Domestic and International Affairs

ISSUE 2 students' public speaking skills greatly improved, as did their confidence and ability to identify and address issues that affect Gambian society. This life-changing experience not only opened my eyes to the way we as American students can affect change abroad, but also the importance of crossnational collaboration in doing so. Without Bakary being there to translate the principles of civic engagement to Gambian high school youth, I do not know that I would have left feeling that our efforts inspired and activated youth to the extend that they ultimately did. How does IDIA's mission relate to your personal mission to address urban planning issues? One of the most under-addressed problems in urban communities is that its poorest, most underserved residents lack the knowledge and resources to advocate for change. Lack of social capital is largely the product of a lack of civic education, both in and out of schools. I can demonstrate this problem best through a personal story that occurred while I was working on a local referendum in New Brunswick. With just a few hours left in election day, I stood outside the poll station in one of New Brunswick's most neglected neighborhoods. Across from me stood several members of the opposition team, cheering â&#x20AC;&#x153;Vote No for War!â&#x20AC;? For a moment, I misunderstood them, for had the contentious local referendum been about war, I too would have found myself on the other side of this campaign. However, the ballot question was not about war, it was about wards, and the potential to restructure the cityâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s at large system into a wardbased system of governance. Shortly after this bizarre campaign tactic began, a New Brunswick committeeman joined me outside the poll station for the home stretch. He confirmed that our campaign adversaries were all unemployed or mentally ill. While the referendum lost by less than 100 votes, the most disappointing part of this experience was watching the current administration maintain their seats in City Hall through the miseducuation and bribery of their most politically underserved constituents.

MARCH 2011 Not only does IDIA promote civic engagement, it espouses that belief that providing individuals with the tools and resources to make informed decisions strengthens the integrity of a democratic society. If students in urban communities have the opportunities throughout their curriculum practice and refine the necessary skills to be more civically involved, they will be less likely to join a political campaign or cause simply because they need the money or security. Additionally, they will be able to identify and advocate for new resources, and perhaps large-scale change for underserved communities in general. Gwen Prowse is a graduating senior at Rutgers University and an IDIA grant writer.

Why I Joined IDIA by Charlie Kratovil

I was forced to join IDIA against my will. You see, in high school I had a history teacher that fostered an interest in government and politics in me and in hundreds if not thousands of students before and after. I participated in the school's Model UN club, for which he was the advisor. But when I got to Rutgers, I figured I was done with all of that. I wanted to switch gears and pursue a career in television. It was not until I started to run into more and more familiar folks from high school that encouraged me to try out for RUMUN staff. People like Adam Gold, who was serving on the conference board, as well as other staff members like Darren Halverson, Justin Hemmings, and many more continued to push me because they believed in the organization and in my potential. Adam even went so far as to set up a meeting between the RUMUN Crisis Director Matt D'Amico and me. He knew the only hope of getting me to join was to appeal to my creative side and by telling me I'd have the opportunity to ham it up. And it worked. I decided Iâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;d give it a try and there was no turning back after those first few meetings and

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ISSUE 2 especially after that first conference. The community that I became a part of still has a profound effect on my life. Nine conferences later, the folks who I met in IDIA programs are amongst my most supportive and influential friends. And it's very rewarding to see how far the organization has come since I joined staff so long ago. That's why I was so proud to see IDIA step up its efforts to keep alumni involved in the community last year and that's why I contributed $20 to become a member. Without IDIA, it's highly likely that I would not be where I am today academically or professionally and would never have gotten my degree or opted to stay in New Brunswick to create a career in civic engagement and politics. IDIA provided me with much more than two dozen nights at the New Brunswick Hyatt (and a couple in Philadelphia), it fostered lasting relationships with some of the most intelligent and engaged people in my University. I lived with several of these folks and came of age along with my peers in the organization. We studied together, we partied together, we even worked together. I learned a ton about politics, international relations, working with kids and organizational leadership and management in IDIA. But beyond that, I also learned how to survive at Rutgers. By far, the most important thing IDIA taught me was how to build successful volunteer community, one that cares about each other as much as those they serve. IDIA helped give me the skills (and relationships) to organize a grassroots movement in the City of New Brunswick. I came full circle in 2009, directing the first-ever New Brunswick City Council simulation in my final conference as a staff member. Just months later, IDIA members, years younger than I, ran for local office in New Brunswick and won with my guidance. Itâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s this type of direct impact on me and on my community that makes me so proud to say that I am a member of the Institute for Domestic and International Affairs. I will always support IDIA because IDIA has always supported me. Charlie Kratovil is a community organizer at Citizenâ&#x20AC;&#x2122;s Campaign.

MARCH 2011

More Students, More Places by Adam Gold

As you can see from this issue of “EMPOWERED by IDIA,” our organization is committed more than ever before to bringing civics education, engagement, and empowerment to more students in more places. While Michael addressed many of our exciting new programs in his article on Page 1, I wanted to make sure that we addressed our growing capacity to bring more students to the programs we already run. Through membership fees, donations, and other contributions, IDIA has been able to grant hundreds of students access to our big three conferences (RUMUN, PhilMUN, and RMC) over the last decade and we plan to

increase those numbers significantly over the next decade. As members of this organization, we can never forget that we were fortunate enough to have access to IDIA programs either in high school or college and that many students who could benefit from gaining an IDIA experience do not have those same opportunities. To expand access, I’d like to officially announce IDIA’s 2011 fundraising campaign: “More Students, More Places.” In four words, this campaign simplifies our current phase of growth, as we are both developing more programs in more places and bringing more students to the programs that we already run. This campaign will be broken down into three different fundraising strategies: memberships, sponsorships, and grants. If you have joined IDIA over the past couple of months, you have already contributed to this campaign through your membership fees. While our membership program is still in its early stages of development, the money that it has already generated is going to directly to bring our mission to “more students in more places.” We are also going to be sending out emails periodically looking for support for individual schools and students that are interested in participating in our programs yet do not have the Presented by the Institute for Domestic and International Affairs


funds to do so. In these emails, you will find narratives and pictures to highlight these students’ stories and will continue to stay connected with them by hearing about their experiences after attending the programs. Lastly, we have stepped up our grant-seeking and corporate fundraising efforts and are always looking for support from those interested in actually writing grants to those that know of grants that may fit our mission. If we all work together to expand our membership program, contribute to underprivileged schools and students, and seek support that can help grow our organization, IDIA will be able to reach its full potential and have the same impact it had on you – on more students in more places. Adam Gold is the Director of Development at IDIA.


IDIA Contact Information Mailing Address: 205 W Main Street Suite 205 Somerville, NJ 08876 Phone: 732.249.4227 Email: Website:

EMPOWERED by IDIA - Issue 2  

The second issue of IDIA's magazine, "EMPOWERED by IDIA".