There is only one word to describe the Next Generation Leadership conference – excitement. There was a buzz felt throughout the two-day virtual conference, by youth and youth leaders that lingered on after in group chats and social media.
Over Valentine’s holiday weekend, February 13-14th, 2021, just under 100 devotee youth leaders and youth workers gathered for the ISKCON 3.0 Next Generation Leadership Conference to share their realizations, stories, and goals for building the “house” of the International Society for Krishna Consciousness (ISKCON), together. Led by a second-generation devotee team of Gopinath Bloch, Sri Rupa Das, Rama Govinda Das, Janaki Bloch, and Sruti Sagar Das as well as Vraja Bihari Das and Manorama Das supporting the facilitation. The two-day event was full of love, faith-affirming stories, and networking shared amongst the North American group.
The title “ISKCON 3.0” encapsulates the stage ISKCON is in; in its third-generation of devotees, as well as the organization’s stage of evolution. This conference explored the best features of ISKCON’s past and present and gave a framework for creating its future. The conference moved the topics forward through the use of stories and experience, encouraging participants to look deeper at themselves to understand that there are often solutions to even difficult situations, right in front of them. They encouraged that these experiences and stories are all worth sharing, as a way of reminding and inspiring each other as individual leaders of the society.
“Embedded in this approach is the choice to focus on our future through an appreciative lens,” said Gopinatha Bloch. “For us on the organizing team, this means finding gratitude for each person’s unique contribution and service they have offered, trusting that Krishna has pulled us together into this service for an important reason, and remaining in a learning space to emerging wisdom, resources, and guidance towards our future,” he said.
One of the major aspects of the event was presenting the idea of a simple shift in perspective; from the minute to the broader perspective, from a problem-oriented approach to a solution-oriented approach.
A major portion of the first day was spent doing a reflective listening and interview exercise with individual groups. The topics discussed in the exercise were the foundation of the future building exercises done the next day. These topics included highlighting organizational and leadership stories of success and building upon them. The second day was creating ISKCON’s future: a visualization exercise done in a creative way. and sharing this with the larger group. Many of the groups chose to do a skit showcasing the way ISKCON’s future could look at local levels. Many of the words used to describe the future the group saw were: inclusive, compassionate, empowered, and re-focus on the core elements of kirtan, prasadam, and leaders of spiritual wisdom.
The North American Leadership Conference series started in January with the North American Temple Leadership Council Meeting, which was then followed by the Next Generation Leaders Conference in February, and the Senior Devotee Conference in March. All of these conferences are leading up to the ISKCON Leadership Summit in May 2021. The future segment started in these conferences will take shape at the Summit when all generational participants will be asked to design projects, initiatives, and collaborations to work together on creating this future for ISKCON.
“The North American Council recognizes that making plans for the future of ISKCON must involve devotees from all of our many generations, from east to west and north to south, from all of our levels of devotional and professional experience and in the mood of cooperation and inclusivity,” said Praharana Dasi, North American GBC Executive and Regional Secretary for Canada. “The present-day leaders can only be successful in bringing ISKCON North America to the levels of success that Srila Prabhupada envisioned if we work together as a devotional family utilizing and appreciating all the talent, enthusiasm and know-how of our American and Canadian devotees from all walks of devotional life,” she said.
Jan 22, 2023
Bhaktivedanta Institute for Higher Studies