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On Saturday, June 2, we had the session No. 2 of the Global Agenda Seminar 2012 2nd term.  This time, we tried the discussion on the topic of Genetically Modified Crops.  We divided the participants into three groups–Biotech MNC such as Monsanto which has seeds for GM crop, NGO whose objective is to eradicate poverty in Africa and the governments in Africa.   The issue was whether Genetically Modified Crops could resolve the food problem in Africa?

The objective of this set up is to assign all the participants into one of the three groups above, have them take a certain position about GM Crops and discuss with other two parties which may have completely different positions/interests.    All in English.

I facilitated the discussion in rather informal way.  As the discussion was rather slow at the beginning, I repeated my rule of the GAS seminar series, i.e. every participant has to speak up  in every session.    It is because I feel that many young Japanese have so few opportunities to discuss issues in English.  As I am convinced of the importance of practice for developing the capability to have a position, express and share with others to develop better solutions, I almost “forced” them to speak up.

Though the discussion began rather slow and low key, it picked up the speed and heat toward the end.  Everyone spoke up!

Judging from the responses to the survey taken after the session, it seems that majority of the participants found the session good and useful.

After the discussion, I asked them whether their view has changed as a result of discussion.  I also asked them what was difficult about the assignment (each participant was to write one page paper, representing the group each is assigned.)    I explained hypothesis driven problem solving and the importance of having a position.

I then talked about my experience of participating in the World Economic Forum on East Asia, in particular, how I find Aung San Suu Kyi.  (We showed a part of the video of her session which is available on the WEF website.)

We will have one more session to go for the Second term of GAS2012.  For the third session, each participant is expected to represent the private company and develop a solution to the food security issue of the world.  I plan to conduct very interactive session engaging all the participants in the discussion again, as I feel my role is to provide as many opportunities as possible for the young people to practice taking position, expressing it, discussing/debating so that we can make the world a better place.

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