By Mansi Jasuja, President IHS Alumni International Board, 2014-2020
Dear IHS alumni of the best network in the world,
As my term of being President of the IHS Alumni International Board for the last 6 years comes to an end, I feel extremely grateful to you all and I’d love to share some of my journey, stories, revelations (Part 1) and some key highlights of my our board work over the 2 terms (Part 2).
Part 1: My personal recollections
It’s not just the network that grew and matured in these last 6 years. I witnessed my own personal growth and development with every interaction, event and connection that I made in these last years. Both my knowledge and my capacity for understanding the complex urban work expanding as I learnt about the various projects you have been involved in globally. I have mentored and coached numerous young urban professionals in the last years, learning a lot myself in these moments. I have had so many beautiful, heart-touching conversations with many of you - from different countries, cultures, generations. I heard incredible stories of urban and neighbourhood transformations, impactful personal and city transitions, innovative and enthusiastic ideas from young city-preneurs, small ventures and groups that sprung from the alumni connections during our events or networking programs. I am both happy and grateful to have been able to inspire some change.
My determination to work on women empowerment grew with stories I heard from our female alumni and masters students during conversations. I became a stronger advocate for balanced leadership and began a storytelling circle focused on women empowerment called “Raise our voice” together with Satya Patchineelam in 2018.
I have learnt so much from my colleagues during both board terms as well as the members of previous boards. It filled me with awe to witness everyone’s love, passion & joy in giving as we all volunteered our time and expertise to our community. Value and impact has nothing to do with money or position and I met plenty of people who could prove this. Most importantly, I learnt that apart from capacity building of young urban professionals with knowledge, tools and solutions, the most urgency with skills of conscious leadership, purpose, creativity to bring about real change and innovation. Up-skilling (young) urban leaders, especially women, has become a core element of my own purposeful work.
There have been many amazing moments in this journey. During my first term, we introduced the Youth awards in addition to the Urban Professional Awards in order to encourage and celebrate young innovative professionals (I still remember stopping abruptly in a street in Amsterdam when that idea first appeared). During the 3 award ceremonies that we organised during my terms, I was repeatedly inspired by the dedication the award winners have to their purpose. I remember the whole hall being emotional during the moving speech of Tri Rismaharini, Mayor of Surabaya (Indonesia) as she received her Urban Professional Award in Quito in 2016. It is no coincidence that the speeches of all winners over the years continue to move the audience with their purposeful work: Peta Jakarta (Indonesia; Enkhbayar Tsedendorj (Mongolia) 2018; Urban Curators (Ukraine) 2018; S.K.Das (India) 2020; Henk Ovink (The Netherlands) 2020; Farhana Rashid - Bhumijo (Bangladesh) 2020 & Claudia Lopez Hernandez, Mayor of Bogota (Colombia) who won the Distinguished Alumna Award in 2020.
The life stories of the special recognition winners were equally impressive: Prof. Alfredo Garay (Argentina) 2016; Chief Willie Abiano (Nigeria) 2016; Jennifer Semakula Musisi (Uganda) 2018; Yahia Shawkat (Egypt) 2018; Henry Gurajena (Zimbabwe) 2018; Besnik Aliaj (Albania) 2020; Poonam Bir Kasturi (India) 2020; Aakarsh Shamanur (India) 2020; Ritwajit Das (India) 2020.
One of the most emotional moments of my term as president came in September 2018. I was driving towards the graduation ceremony of UMD 14 in 2018 for a speech welcoming them to the alumni network. Somewhere between The Hague and Rotterdam, out of the blue this urban pledge just came to me and I started speaking it loud in the car, repeating it again and again until I arrived at the venue, found a piece of paper and wrote it down. The moment I invited the graduating students to take this pledge with me, they all stood up and spontaneously placed their hands on their hearts or in the air. The whole auditorium repeated this together (alumni and all urban professionals in that space), in one voice resonating through our heart and soul. It was a moment when I deeply felt the impact each one of us can have in this world and how we are interconnected.
This pledge is a reminder to be the best version of ourselves, a reminder of our inner servant-leadership, a reminder of the interdependence of life on earth and a reminder of how we are the stewards of cities to nurture and nourish all life for our future generations. We need love and purpose to hold this all together. This pledge has become a tradition for graduation ever since. I invite you dear alumni, to assimilate this pledge in your life-work.
"I, AN URBAN PROFESSIONAL,
PLEDGE TO BE TO THE BEST OF MY ABILITY
AN OUTSTANDING URBAN LEADER.
I COMMIT TO NOT ONLY MAKE CITIES WORK
BUT WORK WITH INTEGRITY, PASSION AND PURPOSE
AND BRING COMPASSION, KINDNESS & JUSTICE
IN MY DECISIONS TO BRING ABOUT MEANINGFUL POSITIVE CHANGE
WITH RESPECT FOR CITIES, COMMUNITIES & NATURE
FOR A HAPPY AND SUSTAINABLE PLANET"
Here’s wishing all my best for the upcoming Board to have a wonderful time and a lot of success stewarding this great community! I am sure you will bring in new vision, ideas and energy to continue the good work.
I would like to express my sincere thanks to all of you for your support and wishes the last years, to my fellow board members including Emiel Wegelin, our honorary board-mentor, the wonderful moderators and ambassadors for the award ceremonies especially Claudio Acioly, Henk Ovink, Rogier van den Berg, Billy Cobbett and last but not the least the IHS management team particularly Kees van Rooij, Jan Fransen, Carley Pennink, Academic & support staff and especially the Marketing and Communication department - Charmae Pyl, Hanna Schultz, Sarah Steendam, Stefana Cozan and all your interns over the last years!
I wish all of you love, light, safety and good health and hope to stay in touch!
PART 2: Main highlights of the last two IHS Alumni International boards (2014-2020):
I still remember stepping into the role and getting a briefing by Julia Skinner (former President) and Charmae Pyl, the then Alumni Relations Officer of IHS on a beautiful sunny day. I wondered how on earth can four people in a Board bring together such a large, spread-out network in two years. It was a daunting task. Slowly, over an intense week of conversations with the new board members, team-building and planning we unpacked a plan for the next 3 years (yes, we figured that a board term of 2 years was too short to make an impact). My dear board members in this task were Bernard Abeiku Arthur, Vice President, Ghana; Tanya Gaurano, Events & Communications Officer, Philippines & Charmae Py, Alumni Relations Officer, The Netherlands - Philippines.
Some of the key contributions that we made in this period were:
Hosting the Urban Professional Awards.
Introduction of the Youth Urban Professional Award, in addition to the Urban Professional Award. To give opportunity for young professionals to bring forth their ideas, innovations and inspire us. These awards were held during the Habitat 3 at Quito, Ecuador in October 2016.
Broadening the umbrella of the Alumni Network by including IHS staff, teachers and other associated professionals who have worked with IHS for years and inviting some of them as honorary members of the alumni network.
Introduction of biannual alumni events at IHS to strengthen the connection with the alumni community within the Netherlands with the IHS staff and students (Masters and PhD.). We brought in various themes and flavours in these events including speed networking, informal drinks, games, workshops etc.
Expansion of the career services and skills of the current Masters students with workshops, events.
Organisation and facilitation of local Alumni events such as Nigeria, Indonesia, India and networking events during the World Urban Forum at Kuala Lumpur in February 2018
Supporting local alumni associations and refresher courses.
The change of board occurred in September 2017, whereby I was asked to continue my position as President for another term. This time based on our experience of the last years, we decided to expand the board positions and align the roles to what we perceived we needed in the network. The new board members included: Yanu Ramirez Rivera, Vice President, Honduras, based in Poland; Justin Hyatt, Network and Community Builder, USA based in The Netherlands; Eduardo Zdanowicz, Events & Communication, Brazil; Charmae Pyl, Alumni Relations Officer & Stefana Cozan, Alumni Relations Office Support, The Netherlands. We also introduced a team of Regional Board members: Sonia Islam, Bangladesh; Randy Wilson, Ghana; Donia Tawakol, Egypt-The Netherlands; Michael Brown, Canada; Destri Pratiwi, Indonesia who were our sounding board and helped us assess the regional needs.
Some of the key contributions we made in this period were:
2 Urban & Youth Urban Professional Awards
November 2018 in Rotterdam together with IHS’s 60th anniversary Conference
February 2020 at the World Urban Forum in Abu Dhabi, UAE
Development of a new alumni website including a blog: https://www.makingcitieswork.net/
Organisation of regular Webinars. The viewership of these webinars is continually on the rise and a very positive response from our alumni community!
Diagnostic Survey of the alumni around the world.
Continuation of biannual alumni events at IHS.
Annual career support for the graduating Masters students.
Growing our social media presence and our network on various platforms and bringing relevant content there.
Online interactive Alumni meets during Covid times on zoom. Sessions that bring inter-generational, inter-cultural alumni together in one space to connect and do a collective sense making.