Brian Dawson from South Africa: "We live in a world of changing attitudes and values"
Brian Dawson was born in Uganda, spent time in Kenya and Swaziland but lived most of his life in South Africa.
He has spent his life in the teaching profession, other than a two year stint in the army, and has a fondness and compassion for young adults. His interaction with Round Square has given him the opportunity to realize the immeasurable value it returns to its younger members. Currently he holds the position of the International Executive Coordinator.
WSN: What are the challenges facing Round Square (RS) today?
Brian Dawson: There are a number of issues that we are addressing and some that are beyond the control of the organisation. The question of growth - and here I refer you to a statement from the chairman Mr Rod Fraser
The continued growth of Round Square in terms of its member schools and influence should be supported and that the challenges presented by should be addressed as required but should not be seen as a barrier to continue further expansion.
Whilst there is much work to be done in evaluating the type of growth that should take place, the speed at which it should occur and in particular the need for addressing the issue of diversity with membership, (however this is defined), the notion of continued expansion was unequivocally supported by all in attendance at the Canada conferences. It is interesting to note that the Governors in a separate meeting arrived at the same conclusion.
Essentially the plan is:
To grow strategically ('intelligently') over the next two to three years, emphasising growth in unrepresented or under-represented areas as a means of extending our diversity.
To develop a plan which addresses the issue of longer term growth and which is endorsed by the current membership.
As an adjunct to this, an effective system of evaluation of current members to ensure that they are 'worthy' of membership of the Round Square needs also to be undertaken.
The global economic meltdown will have an effect on member schools, on projects and on the poorer communities that RS schools assist worldwide. We will have to wait and see how this works out in the coming months.
Another challenge is to ensure that Kurt Hahn's philosophies although from a different era and although relevant today, are embraced and presented by member schools. We live in a world of changing attitudes and values and the youth are often the first to experience the effects of this change and may be less prepared for it than the older generations.
WSN: How should RS deal with the 'Environment' within the IDEALS in times of global warming?
Brian Dawson: Have holistic philosophy and apply this where possible but encourage schools to develop and implement their own specific programs that address local and global environmental issues. There is no one size fits all here; the organisation has a very diverse membership and one must acknowledge this and celebrate it. At the same time one must allow regions the autonomy to make the decisions regarding their own particular circumstances.
WSN: How could RS profit from cooperation with other international network organisations and these from cooperating with RS?
Brian Dawson: The common philosophy with other Hahnian (WSN: Kurt Hahn) based organisations and a sharing of ideas and information will generate growth and cooperation and energy. Round Square will actively seek to link with organisations such as World United Colleges, The Duke of Edinburgh Award and the Outward Bound Schools. This will likely focus on pupil, teacher and group exchanges between organisations.
WSN: Who gains more from RS projects - the helpers or the people that are helped?
Brian Dawson: In effect, both parties gain but essentially the helper's benefit far more due to the long term effects the "project experience" has on cementing their capacity for international understanding, democracy, leadership, adventure, service and the protection of the environment. These young men and women will someday be in positions of importance and when having to make significant decisions will do so drawing from many experiences and the "project experience" and the RS IDEALS should form a major part of this as a result of spending time on a RS project.
WSN: What is your personal motivation to support RS?
Brian Dawson: There is the long and the short answer. I will try to find a happy medium. I have been an educationalist all my life and have a passion for working with young men and women. I believe that i have moved from a local to global capacity in my opportunities to influence the youth of the future. I formulated a mission for myself as the director of the organisation and it encapsulates this purpose.
To develop a global community of emerging adults who by their commitment to considered social, environmental, political and economic decisions will ensure or contribute to the sustainability of 1st and 3rd world populations through their collective efforts and energy delivered on a global canvas and focused towards a common good.