August 2009 – Roxanne Krystalli – Munich, Germany

August 2009 – Roxanne Krystalli – Munich, Germany

August 14, 2009 – Munich, Germany

First Foreign Placement: United Nations Development Fund for Women, Egypt

 Earlier this summer, I established contact with the United Nations Development Fund for Women (UNIFEM) in Egypt. UNIFEM has carved out an interesting spot in the changing discourse on the position of women in Egyptian society. In response to a recently passed law mandating the creation of a quota for women in the parliament, UNIFEM is designing a program on women’s leadership for parliamentarians, which closely mirrors my Fellowship research theme of women as leaders, public speakers, and negotiators in communities with challenging gender perceptions. In my meetings with academics and professionals over the past two months, I asked largely theoretical and exploratory questions on how to assess need and how to devise culturally-sensitive and efficient responses to women’s challenges within certain communities. I am now thrilled to have the opportunity to apply some of this theory and to learn even more while making Egypt my home for the next three months.

The 2008-2009 Fellows: Revisiting “servant leadership”

One of the experiences that defined the way I think about leadership took place at Camp Rising Sun, where I spent the summer of 2001 sharing tents with young people who have since become some of my dearest friends to date. The sixty of us, hailing from all corners of the U.S. and the world, designed and performed projects in our community while sharing experiences and stories from our backgrounds. This was the time in my life when I attempted to chop wood (and failed!), learned how to fend off a skunk that wanted to feast on the Craisins illicitly stuffed into my duffel, and first understood how much communities – creating them, sustaining them, and feeling a sense of them—meant to me.

In one of her addresses to a gathering of campers, the then Director introduced us to the concept of “servant leadership,” as such has been discussed by theorists ranging from Kautilya in ancient India to Robert Greenleaf. Her speech has stayed with me because it constituted the first articulation of leadership I had witnessed at the time that did not center, at its core, primarily on the narrative of the leader; rather, it encouraged and prioritized the transformation of individual traits into valuable assets for a community. The main tenets of this service-based leadership clearly highlight the importance of listening, investing in the growth of others alongside oneself, and fostering communities. Although this type of leadership resonated with me strongly after leaving the campfire, aligning my convictions with the application of the tenets of servant leadership has been challenging. Meeting the 2008-2009 Insight Fellows in my last week in Boston deeply reminded me of the campfire chat, as they reinvigorated my faith in servant leadership by their unparalleled example and filled me with ideas, energy, and humility in facing my own projects this month.

No account of their travels, encounters with individuals in post-conflict communities worldwide, and stories that emerged along the journey could do justice to the experience, service, and lessons that punctuated Carl, Carrie, and Mika’s Fellowship year. Upon meeting them, their verve and warmth drew me in and I am still awed as I attempt to take in their unique blend of insight and empathy, humor and compassion, intelligence and ambition with dedication and sensitivity. One of my last memories of Boston involved consuming countless chocolate éclairs in succession while lying in Boston Commons in what Insight Director of Operations Enid Cherenson affectionately called “a pile of Fellows.” There is no image I would rather cement in my brain as the final still of the Boston Fellowship placement and simultaneous beginning of the onward journey than the snapshot of these individuals who provide endless inspiration, ask probing questions, and exhibit unbridled care for all around them.