LiA project with makesense: Week 1 in Mexico City

LiA project with makesense: Week 1 in Mexico City
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What was done in this week?

The first week is an inspiration week. Scholars arrived by Monday, July 10th, had some rest and prepared for the following 6-week Leadership-in-Action program.

On Tuesday, our program starts with knowing our public working space, ‘Publico’, followed by the welcome session where we shared the story of our name and came to learn the essential safety guide of living in Mexico. Then we were given a talk and had a rough idea of what our 6 weeks would be like. As shown in the journey map below, our first 2 weeks would be spent learning the fundamental principle of running our project - design thinking and the following 2 weeks drafting ideas and making preparation and the last 2 weeks running our project.

What went well?

The progress I made; what was achieved and done


The first week is the inspiration week. I learned the first stage of design thinking is to emphasize. So we visited Xochimilco and helped the community collect rubbish floating over the river channel. We also listened to talks given by two special guests.

One special guest came from an indigenous group near Mexico City. He talked about the challenges indigenous groups in Mexico faced and their mistreatment. I was so surprised that some indigenous communities, after years of resistance and protest, built their own rules for managing a community. They built houses and infrastructure so they did not depend on the government for shelter, water, and electricity. They made a living on farming and creating handcrafts to ensure self-sufficiency.

I came to realize that not all government respect their people. China is also a big country with over 55 indigenous groups comprising 8.4% of the population. However, the Chinese government issued quite friendly policies toward minority groups. For example, students from ethnic minorities get extra points in their high school and college entrance examinations. The ethnic culture, including their language, clothes, and way of living, is promoted rather than banned. I admired the indigenous groups in Mexico who were mistreated, fighting for their fundamental rights of being respected.

What could have been done differently?

Things that did not get done and/or could be changed


If I had the cultural fair again, I would be better prepared. I would take traditional Chinese food with me to illustrate my PowerPoint.

What did I learn about myself when working with others?

Contributions, behaviours and values I exhibited


Through the experience of working with others, I have come to understand myself better. I noticed a tendency to rely too heavily on others when they appear reliable, which hindered my personal growth. In a large group setting, I found comfort in sharing responsibilities, but I realized that I needed to step out from behind the safety of the group and take more ownership. By embracing challenges, cultivating a growth mindset, and actively seeking personal development, I have been able to break free from this habit and unlock my full potential.

What did I learn about leadership?

Leadership attributes and insights I developed


First, leadership means a thorough understanding of what one is doing. From the talk given by the special guests with a master’s degree in climate change. I could see that she was well-equipped with scientific knowledge of climate change. She confidently explained quickly when asked about detailed questions requiring earth science understanding.

Second, leadership means empathizing. The design thinking strategy emphasizes the importance of empathizing, putting it at the first stage of strategy development. From my experience, I was more like an observer and assessor looking into the big ‘broken’ machine of ‘indigenous groups’ before the particular talk. After emotionally connecting with them, I felt inside the device, watching people try to fix the problems. I did not realize my arrogance at the first stage until I was filled with anger towards their experience of discrimination. So empathizing is essential so that a leader can put herself into the position of the people she wants to help.

What do I want to develop or focus on next?

What I still need to develop


First, the language barrier is a big problem. Though Google Translate helps a lot, I still felt the struggle in a Spanish-speaking environment. After all, Google Translate makes mistakes and cannot get through the cultural implications. Next time, I will pick up the language ahead of time and polish up my English.

Second, I want to develop the habit of taking notes. Even though managing a project is not a mathematical question, notes are still necessary because my memory starts to fade.

Third, I should avoid judging people without knowing their background. I felt uncomfortable listening to the special guest from the indigenous group for the first time. I felt slightly offended when he mentioned that uninvited guests were not welcomed in their community. And I found out that they set this rule out of safety reasons.

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