Reflections on the Clinton Global Initiative University 2014

10 Apr

“Don’t let schooling interfere with your education”

Reflections on the Clinton Global Initiative University 2014

Paul Iannetta


In March 2014, the partnerships that exist between 30 Scottish and Tanzanian schools (see for details) were highlighted at the Clinton Global Initiative University (CGIU) in Phoenix, Arizona.

CGIU was launched by President Bill Clinton in 2007. It is, to use the website’s own words, “a meeting where students, youth organisations, topic experts and celebrities come together to discuss and develop solutions to global challenges”. Students are chosen to attend based on the “commitment to action” they develop. Commitments must be new, specific and measurable means of addressing a global challenge. The University of Edinburgh joined the network of universities whose students attend CGIU in 2014 and my commitment was one of four chosen from Edinburgh.


You may be wondering what my commitment was.

First, let me explain the background to it. I visited Tanzania in 2008, left Holy Rood High School in 2009 and have remained involved with Twende Pamoja (Swahili: Let us Walk Together) since then. It is unusual for so many schools across both the primary and secondary sectors to both link with schools in another country and work together. In the last few years, pupils have connected by letter, live video and exchange visits in both directions. Young people in every partner primary and secondary school and community have together created their global vision of how they would like the world to be. Over 13,000 young people have now been involved in this process, many through a variety of seminars and workshops. All of these activities, meetings and gatherings help raise awareness in very practical and personal ways of what life is like on another continent and within another culture. School partnerships can make an effective contribution to global education and in encouraging young people to see themselves as global citizens.

There are two significant obstacles that can contribute to school partnerships working less effectively: lack of time and ever-changing personnel. Students have increasing amounts of coursework and examinations every few months and consequently find their free time limited. Staff face the demands of teaching, curriculum development and assessment as well as pursuing their own personal commitments and interests. Students who have been involved with school partnerships eventually leave school and may pursue other activities in other cities. Staff may move on or retire. A challenge I have become very aware of is to find ways for staff and students to effectively pass on their knowledge and experience to ensure the ongoing development and sustainability of the partnership. Where this does not happen the benefits of a partnership may not be fully realised and the relationship itself may even be lost.

It is with this in mind that I have committed to the creation of a partnership pack for Scottish and Tanzanian schools. The partnership pack will draw on and bring together the best practice from each school in both countries. Therefore, when a school comes to fundraise for a trip to Tanzania by way of a sponsored bag pack, for example, it will know exactly which supermarkets have participated in the past, how much was raised and who to contact to arrange it. A partnership pack would also contain the contact details of students, in Scotland and in Tanzania, who have participated in a trip in the past and are willing to visit a school and speak or answer questions. A partnership pack for a Tanzanian school might contain an international SIM card and iPad-type device to allow for video calls between students in both countries. In short, a partnership pack is designed to provide resources, ideas and advice to keep school partnerships strong even though the people in them may change.

The pack is very much still in the development phase at present but was well received by others attending CGIU. My priority now is to secure funding for the project and to conduct research into content in both Scotland and Tanzania.

As for the CGIU conference itself, it was hard not to be inspired to act listening to Bill, Hillary and Chelsea Clinton, political heavyweights John McCain and Gabrielle Giffords, the Wikipedia founder, Jimmy Wales and women’s rights activist, Manal al-Sharif, to name but a few. The event was also a unique opportunity to meet some of the 1000 other students from 80 countries, some of whose commitments to action also featured Tanzania. Many business cards were exchanged and e-mails sent afterwards. All the sessions were recorded and can be viewed at

One of the speakers was Bunker Roy of India’s Barefoot College. He quoted Mark Twain in response to a question he was asked that weekend – ‘don’t let schooling interfere with your education’, he said. As can be seen from the picture below, this quotation made an impression on a few of us attending CGIU. Education can often appear to be driven by the requirements of the examination system. The Scottish vision of education identifies the 4 capacities, which all centres of learning must work to nurture. As well as producing successful learners they must also produce confident individuals, effective contributors and responsible citizens. It is my experience as a school pupil and as a student that partnerships between schools and other educational institutions in different countries can make a significant contribution to this process and the quality of the learner’s experience.

If this partnership pack, even in a small sense, helps Scottish and Tanzanian young people become global citizens, contributes to their development of a global vision and supports those leading partnerships to sustain their growth it will have been a success.


Paul Iannetta

April 2014










Opening Ceremony

22 Mar

Waiting to see Bill and Hilary



Day 1: Preparing for CGI and the opening ceremony

22 Mar

As we rehearse our elevator pitches and get into gear, literally, for the opening ceremony at ASU (and for the Clintons) this clip explains the weekend ahead:

Chelsea talks about the Clinton Global Initiative University on the Jimmy Fallon show who will also be here at Arizona State University this weekend.

Edinburgh Students invited to attend the Clinton Global Initiative 2014

22 Mar

From March 21st -23rd, nine Edinburgh students are at the Clinton Global Initiative University conference in Phoenix, Arizona. Six of us are Masters students on the MSc Global Environment Politics and Society programme, and were selected with two projects to attend the conference. Go Wild and The Bee Line are both part of the Pachamama Project at the University of Edinburgh.

Our aim is to educate, integrate and engage the local community in a green campus initiative.

Einstein claimed at that when bees vanish “mankind will have just four more years to live; no bees, no pollination, no plants, no animals, no humans.”  The European honeybee delivers over $150 billion of benefit a year to humans.

This is why the Bee Line, an apiary project aiming to facilitate research and teaching about honeybees at Pollock Halls, together with Go Wild, a community garden project based on campus, intend to draw together educational and environmental coWe believe it is an essential part of sustainability for the University of Edinburgh, the city and beyond.

This weekend we are meeting with other university initiative groups surrounding climate, education, poverty alleviation, health and conflict resolution.

Keep track of our journey here!

#CGIu #EUSAglobal


Back & rethinking global citizenship

17 Mar

It was a great couple days at the U21 conference and I’m finally back in Scotland – grateful for the cooler air and getting out of the hotel routine, but inspired by the people I met and the discussions shared.


Rethinking mobility.  Most institutions approach international experiences from a study abroad perspective and I think that this can be really limiting, as there were some great points addressed regarding accessibility. Not everyone can spare a year (or the cash for it!) to go overseas to study.  While it’s important to create opportunities at home for students to become global citizens – there are loads of other ways to gain international experiences.  At the University of Edinburgh, many of our students participate in student-led schemes such as Edinburgh Global Partnerships and Project Mongolia. Many students also partake in work experiences in other countries – often in the summer. We can’t be rigid about this but instead, find ways to acknowledge these activities such as the Edinburgh Award in International Experiences.

I also think that staff mobility plays a large role. My time on the Study America trip with ten students at the University of Virginia changed the way I work and gave me some great ideas which I have taken back with me.  We shouldn’t limit mobility to our students, but include staff in the target community as well. If you create a culture of empowered staff, students will reap the benefits.

Rethink our community. At some points of the workshop, we talked about getting student buy-in for opportunities, services, and projects.  Instead of designing a project and then asking for student feedback. Why don’t we design it together from the start? This requires time, love and often times letting go of the original vision – but the process and end product will be more meaningful and no doubt, more effective.  By the end, more conference attendees were talking about co-designing together with students.

Rethinking employability.  When thinking global citizenship and employability, the conversation seems to focus on opportunities within big businesses overseas, often multi-national companies.  While we identified the values of a global citizen (community focused, action based, empowered by impact of choices, adventurous, risk takers, caring, etc) – I’m uncomfortable with the lack of pushing social enterprise, entrepreneurial opportunities, careers for the creative arts, and other socially-minded careers as part of the global citizenship agenda.  For example, the University of Edinburgh recently launched the Creative  Cultural Careers Festival and I think this is a really positive step.

Rethinking the definition global citizenship. Over the conference, we struggled in defining global citizenship.  But as one speaker suggested, do we really need to define it?  As our student communities change and grow and internationalisation opportunities increase, maybe our definition should be fluid and shift. Maybe it’s our job to provide a platform for these conversations to brew and a space to act on them.

Be a global citizen. If we want to promote global citizenship alongside our students – we need to operate as global citizens.  As institutions and organisations, we need to find solutions outside of the box, pull together partners and collaborate on problems together. We need to think about where we get and spend our money, how sustainable are our practices, what is the impact of our research, how we recruit students – especially from those from developing countries, and the list goes on.

If we require our students to be global graduates, how do our global citizenship practices align with this ethos?

I ran a session early in the workshop and you can find my presentation here.  Thanks to Mihaela Bodlovic and Chris Rubey for many of the photos.

Day 2 in Malaysia

13 Mar

After the first day of the U21 workshop on global citizenship (despite another 4am jet lagged morning), it’s easy to feel inspired by the possibility of what institutions can do alongside students regarding global citizenship. We seem to face similar barriers and questions regarding the topic, so it was useful to get around the table to discuss solutions at the network level.

I’m excited to see the role that technology can play in this. It was great to talk about what we are doing through EUSA Global as well and despite a few technical problems, we launched a film I’ve been working on alongside the very talented Chris Rubey.

It was great to work with Chris on this as I learned a lot about the filming process, but it also confirmed my belief that we have a massive pool of skills and solutions right on our doors step.


What is Global Citizenship? from Chris Rubey on Vimeo.

EUSA Global goes to Malaysia

10 Mar

Tomorrow I leave for Universitas 21’s Global Citizenship workshop in Malaysia.  The workshop will explore current understandings of global citizenship and best practice around negotiating University strategy and student experience. I’m very excited to be able to facilitate part of the workshop and showcase some of the great work of our students and the role EUSA Global plays in the process. You can read more about the conference here.

Our Edinburgh Award in Global Citizenship is a great example of this. Tonight, we had our last session of the Award (read more about the award here). It’s activities such as this which create spaces for students from across disciplines to come together to reflect upon their development and experiences around global citizenship.



I’ll be blogging about the trip here so be sure to watch this space.


Third Space is born!

12 Feb

For the past few months, I have been working with people from University to develop a project for students preparing for an international adventure.

It’s been such a pleasure to talk with students about their time overseas and hear their ideas on how to better support and prepare for their cultural encounters.  I’ve enjoyed meeting staff who specialise in counselling, ethnography, storytelling, and intercultural communication to see how we could design something really meaningful.

It has been like putting together a puzzle where you know all the pieces are meant to fit, it’s just a matter of getting them into a room together.

From all this hard work has come Third Space, a new series of activities which wrap around students’ international experiences giving them the tools to explore, reflect, engage, and share culture during the different stages of their time away. Simply put, third space refers to when one culture meets another culture – something new is created. With so many students moving between countries and cultures, I feel the university environment can often be a third space and I see this project as something that can help students make the most of that.

You can read more about Third Space here. There will be a pre-departure retreat, a workbook full of cultural explorations, and returnees conference.  Students will even be eligible for the Edinburgh Award.

So, I’m asking you for two things:

1. If you are a student preparing for your third-year abroad, apply to be part of this special project. I promise that it will not only change your life, but can also be included on your Higher Education Achievement Record through the Edinburgh Award. You will enhance your cultural toolbox and meet some lovely people.

2. We need your strategies, activities, things to do while away, among many other things in a new cultural context.  We are filling the workbook (both physical and online) with these activities to encourage students to fully, openly and thoughtfully engage in the ongoing life of the place they are visiting. While it is inspired by ethnographic research methods, it is not meant to be a “how to do ethnography” book.  It is a collection of ethnographically inflected tips, notions and things to do.

For example, one could suggest that they find out what the most popular street food is? Then they could ask someone who cooks it for a living how to show them how it is done? Then they could have a go at trying to cook it themselves?

Alongside a brilliant illustrator, we will produce a workbook which is playful, engaging, and hopefully – useful. After a year, this will be their portfolio of cultural adventures and something they can treasure for a long time. You can email ideas to me at

It’s an exciting project to be a part of and I feel everyone behind it really cares about the ethos of Third Space. Watch this space!

Languages. Communication. Community. Tandem!

27 Jan

A while back I wrote my first, and so far only, blog post for EUSA Global. I (silently) promised myself would write often and well, but not only for whoever might be reading it- it was also for myself. Overcoming barriers, gah. It has been difficult. Not only because it is scary to write things that will be on the interwebs forever, but because it is difficult formulating something that can only be experienced. Anyway, I’ve made it a new year’s resolution now. I suppose I need to keep my word, right?

Having been a part of the Tandem team for over 6 months, the dynamics and composition of the group continues to surprise me. There is a myriad of languages embodied within those who frequent Tandem. In addition to the usual suspects – German, French and Spanish, there are people wanting to learn Icelandic, Arabic, and Malay. Even hieroglyphs and ancient Greek are on the menu! There are complete beginners, polyglots and hyperpolyglots (you know, those who are casually maintaining 12 languages or more…) and everyone in between. It makes you wonder; you wonder about the stories behind the languages. Why Norwegian when you could learn something more useful such as Mandarin? And that’s it, isn’t it: Experiences. There are good stories. There are bad stories. There are sad stories. There are cool stories. Community. Lives. Fun. That’s what we’re dealing with, and what makes Tandem worth it for anyone who comes along. So whether you’re obsessed with heavy metal from Finland and wanting to find your ‘Inner Finn’, love South East Asia with a passion, or just want to learn the basics in Portuguese for your holiday in Mozambique- there’s room for you.

Working alongside incredible people with powerful stories of their own is one of the many privileges of being a part of the international environment we have at Tandem. We aren’t just there to learn grammar or new vocab; we are there to communicate. We’re there to talk, we’re there to listen, and we’re there to understand better and learn more. It makes you think about communication, and all the ways in which our lives interact across borders, ages and backgrounds. The global community is only really real in communication at the grassroots. The value of speaking to someone in their native language is at the core of it all; you are not only speaking with or to someone, you are speaking to their hearts.

PS! Speed Lingua this Friday- get excited! 7-9pm in Teviot Dining Room, see YOU there! 🙂

He has enabled us to know what we can become

9 Dec

In addition to being a Professor of African and Development Studies, Acting Director of the Centre of African Studies, and Director of the Global Development Academy, James Smith is a great friend to EUSA Global.  While in South Africa, he shares his thoughts on the country, the impact of going away, and Nelson Mandela.

– – –

I boarded a plane in Johannesburg late on Thursday night. In the morning I discovered Nelson Mandela had died.

Two days before I had driven more or less past his house in the northern suburbs of Johannesburg. 18 years before that I had travelled to Johannesburg, to Africa, for the very first time, to become an international student. It changed me, as it must.  In the years since there hasn’t been a day, or moment, which hasn’t been refracted through that experience. It shaped me as a person, honed my values and led me to where I am and what I do now.

I moved to South Africa at the end of 1995 just a year after South Africa’s first democratic government had come to power, led by Mandela. I went there to study for an MSc at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg; basically because it seemed an amazing opportunity to be in South Africa when everything was changing and everything was so essential. I didn’t intend to stay more than a couple of years but I ended up staying for several, completing a PhD, a postdoctoral fellowship and working for a handful of development organisations.

Its difficult to write a blog post like this without it simply becoming a string of fish-out-of-water, self-deprecating anecdotes; especially when I have such a good stock of them. In my first week I managed to find myself living in a YMCA in Hillbrow, which is one of Johannesburg’s least salubrious (translation: dangerous) suburbs. Midnight gunfire turned out to be celebrations for a win for the national football team and not a coup. I learnt that relief is measured on a different scale so far from home. A few months later I succeeded in getting a very small and old car stuck in a sandy track in Zambia’s biggest nature reserve. I was saved by US missionaries, strictly in the physical sense. I caught malaria once, twice, three times. I ended up the subject of an academic article by an excited Dundee GP long before I wrote my own.

I was in Mandela’s presence once, or technically I suppose he was in mine. He was present in the audience at my masters graduation in 1998 as one of his granddaughters was also graduating. The slow burn realization of the audience was something not easily forgotten and is something that Edinburgh hasn’t quite managed to match despite repeated invocations to John Knox’s breeks. Apologies to the Principal for that.

The thing is, strings of anecdotes on paper or screen only scratch the surface of the transformation within. I went there as one person and came back as another. Life isn’t so linear and predictable that counterfactual life courses might not have been equally transformational but the transformation I can trace is the one that I own. Rian Malan, in his extraordinary My Traitor’s Heart, quotes Neil Alcock, an idealist who lived and died trying to improve life in rural KwaZulu-Natal: “To live anywhere in the world, you must know how to live in Africa”. I don’t think that is necessarily true; to live in the world, you have to know how others live. Elsewhere, everywhere.

My own transformation, shaped by my experience in what seemed another world was at least in part sparked by the transformation Mandela dreamed of for South Africa. After all, what could be a more inspiring place to live, work and study a blink of history after the fall of Apartheid?

I was more upset than I had imagined I would be when I heard the news of Mandela’s death, but that sadness transformed too, into gratitude for the inspiration that sparked an international adventure that led to a lifelong commitment and connection. My (almost) final thought is actually Desmond Tutu’s, leading a prayer in memory of Mandela: “he has enabled us to know what we can become”. That’s the beauty of inspiration, of an international perspective, of a global connection; is helps each of us know what we can become. Hamba kahle Madiba. Ngiyabonga kakhulu.


The Apartheid memorial in Edinburgh (down Lothian Road) where people have left flowers and tributes


The hall at Wits University where James had his own encounter with Nelson Mandela