Dipa Sultana, a Business Consultant at LightCastle, has been a part of the Young Expert Programmes (YEP) since August 2021 in the Agro-food segment. She recently joined other participants from 12 countries in training in The Hague, Netherlands. In this article, Dipa recounts her experience to you.
The Young Expert Programmes (YEP) is a joint effort by the Netherlands Water Partnership, Netherlands Food Partnership, Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, and Netherlands Enterprise Agency. The mission is to create a young, renewed, inspiring international network and build expertise in the field of Water, Agrofood, and Renewable Energy through Dutch organizations operating in developing countries and emerging markets.
In 2021, I was fortunate enough to be nominated as a Young Expert under the Agrofood segment of the programme for the period of Aug 2021-2023. My batch of Young Experts consists of Dutch and International Experts from 12 countries worldwide. Over the past year, the experience as a YEPper has been remarkable, with vast scope for practical learning experiences and intercultural collaboration.
As a year-mark event, in November of 2022, I attended the three-week-long return training in the Hague, Netherlands, a follow-up of the start training held online at the beginning of my YEP period. This was the first time the entire batch met each other, along with our coaches, in the past year. As a batch, we participated in carefully designed training sessions focusing on personal development, team building, intercultural collaboration, and skills development.
The programme has identified five learning tracks to design the training sessions and activities.
The main track of the YEP programme is Personal Development. In this track, the focus is on us, our talents, experiences, and our development. Initially, for the first two days, the batch was divided into the Dutch Young Experts and International Young Experts. As a part of the International Experts team, we focused on Personal Development Tracejtory for the upcoming YEP year. We exchanged our experiences and reflection during the training through interactive group assignments. Furthermore, we explored more in-depth models of personal development. By the end of the workshop, we had better ideas for an improved personal development plan (PDP) and in-depth insight into our personal and professional performance.
As a part of the Context track, we participated in a workshop where we got to explore the role we work in, both locally and globally. The session of ‘Putting your Strengths to Work’ helped us gain insights and exercise assessment tools into elements of personal effectiveness, i) personal strengths, ii) organizational goals, and iii) the working environment. The training used a combination of theory, exercises, and group discussions. We performed a scan of our own organization culture (using the OCAI as an assessment tool) and an individual assessment of our strengths (using the book: Strengthsfinder 2.0, Buckingham & Clifton). By the end of the session, we gained self-awareness about our strengths and the relationship between talents, context and results, self-knowledge, and situational application.
Under the communication track, we were allowed to participate in Storytelling and Non-Violent Communication training (an alternative to Entrepreneurship in Practice training under the Entrepreneurship Track). I participated in the Nonviolent Communication training that focused on communicating effectively and providing and receiving feedback in a nonviolent manner. This training, amongst others, used the Nonviolent Communication model – or better said, ‘vision’ created by Marshall B. Rosenberg. Through this session, I became familiar with the principles of open and effective communication and non-violent feedback.
Under the Intercultural Leadership Track, we participated in sessions on Managing without Power, Cross-Cultural Collaboration, and Harvard Negotiation. In the managing without power session, with the help of Movie Learning, we looked at images of power and forms of power. Then we created insight into various influencing styles and practiced with role-play of different scenarios. Subsequently, we illustrated this using, among other things, the theory of the conflict pyramid versus the management funnel.
As a part of the cross-cultural collaboration, we adopted a highly interactive and personal training approach, combining theory and practice. We received an intake in advance to share our experiences and reflect on our cultural interactions with our international colleagues and partners.
Lastly, through the Harvard Negotiation skill session, we learned how to negotiate effectively with the Harvard negotiation method. This course featured dynamic lectures and demonstrations, negotiation role-play, and other skill-building exercises, and facilitated small group discussions designed to actively involve participants in the learning process. Apart from these theoretical training sessions, we visited a solar park involved in sustainable food production and a circular dairy farm with a holistic value chain operation. This provided insights into the sustainable practices being adopted globally and identified replicable practices in the context of our countries.
We also had networking opportunities with our YEP alumni and participated in the Rythm workshop to rewind and open ourselves to learning through enjoying ourselves. Going forward, our YEP batch aims to work on improving as professionals and ensuring our personal growth through collaborating activities and personal initiatives.
As a whole, the experience has been a highlight of my year. The Netherlands as a country has been very warm and welcoming to all of us. Their traditional Dutch pancakes and hot chocolate with whipped cream made us feel cozy in the cold weather. A country with more bicycles than residents showcased their determination, hard work, and work ethics through their everyday interactions. In the upcoming months as a YEPper, I would utilize my time and learn from the inspiring group of fellow YEPpers, and upon completion of my tenure, I aspire to carry on my learnings to the people who come next!
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