Entrepreneurial in spirit and team-based in approach, ITM is an approach to leadership development that builds upon the experiences, knowledge and skills of a diverse group of young people to create a cadre of youth leaders committed to public service and public problem-solving. It is intended to teach the skills and concepts that they can then teach to others. This ripple effect has the potential for reaching thousands of Americans with renewed hope and an increased involvement in our participatory democracy.
Philosophically, ITM recognizes the natural tension that exists between individual and community developmentand by focusing on six key conceptsworks to maximize personal leadership potential while making positive, community-based social change possible. ITM combines many of the country's most innovative training practices in a way that supports the development of authentic leadership and ensures community development.
Creativity & Entrepreneurship
ITM recognizes that everyone has the ability to be creative, innovative and entrepreneurial. Fortunately, everyone expresses these abilities in different waysfor some it may be expressed through art, poetry, music or dance; for others, it may be through writing, evaluating, explaining or conceptualizing. Through the ITM, participants are provided with opportunities to explore their own skills, talents and abilities; and experiment with new ways of imagining and acting upon their own creative potential. Through their work in this area, participants are encouraged and assisted in uncovering and discovering their own talents and skills drawing upon these innate gifts to design and implement innovative solutions to community problems.
ITM encourages young people to take risks and challenge assumptions. The program asks participants to "step outside their comfort zones" to experience the world in different ways. It provides opportunities for young people to think about new ways of defining and solving problems; communicating and working with people whose cultural backgrounds are different from their own; and struggling with concepts, attitudes and ideas that may be new to them. ITM suggests that it takes personal courage and commitment to stand up for change in a community, and that by facing their fears, young people can move beyond problem-identification to implementing practical solutions.
Self-Determination & Internalization
ITM is premised on the notion that everyone has the right to define themselves. Self-Determination is the training concept that supports this core value. It means simply that the training program is intended to help create a space where there is trust, respect and safety, so that participants can explore who they are and who they want to become. Internalization takes this value a step further by demonstrating that not only do I (as a participant) have the right to be who I am, but everyone else has that same right. This is a critical point in a process which allows people to embrace and struggle with conflictultimately moving through the stages of tolerance, acceptance, and celebration of human differences. It is at the point of celebration that we can work effectively across our differences to solve pressing social problemsthe point at which we begin to find common ground.
The model also relies on a belief in the power of communities to solve their own problems by providing participants with an opportunity to be part of something that is larger than themselves. The ITM recognizes stages of group development and has been intentionally designed to foster the organic development of a group dynamic that supports a young person through their personal, professional and community work. ITM teaches that by understanding each others' skills, abilities, strengths and weaknesses, participants can be more effective in their community problem-solving efforts. Especially in this area, the ITM emphasizes cultural competence and introduces the concept of social justice as an area for reflection and action
Public Problem Solving
The model also underscores the importance of teaching and supporting the development of critical thinking skills. Through the ITM, participants are encouraged to seek the root causes of social problems and then to think creatively about the range of possible solutions. They are also taught specific coalition-building, strategic-planning and community needs assessment skills to assist them in their efforts.
The model has been designed to help redesign traditional notions of citizenship. In the context of the ITM, citizenship equals action. It represents the step that the participants take to begin implementing the solutions they have identified to the problems they have defined. Through their work, participants become actively-engaged citizens to ensure that local decision-makers and programs are accountable to individuals and communities.
ITM represents an innovative approach to preparing our nation's next generation of leaders for the task of solving America's most pressing social problems. Grounded within the interplay of two ideashuman potential and social responsibilitythe model has been strategically designed to stimulate and cultivate each participant's unique leadership potential while simultaneously preparing them to work toward solving community problems. The program is highly adaptable and uses distinct components to accommodate a wide variety of learning styles and personality types. At every stage the program challenges participants to use their own life experiences to recognize themselves and their teammates as leaders.
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