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Carol Craig is the Centre's Chief Executive. She is author of The Scots' Crisis of Confidence, Creating Confidence: A Handbook for Professionals Working with Young People, The Tears that Made the Clyde: Well-being in Glasgow and The Great Takeover: How materialism, the media and markets now dominate our lives. Her latest book is Hiding in Plain Sight: Exploring Scotland's ill health. She is Commissioning editor for the Postcards from Scotland series. Carol blogs on confidence, well-being, inequality, every day life and some of the great challenges of our time. The views she expresses are her own unless she specifically states that they reflect the Centre's thinking.

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Posted 06/12/2007

I went along to Greenock the other night to an event organised by Columba 1400. In case you haven’t heard about the project, it is a community and international leadership Centre in Staffin on Skye. It has been set up as a social enterprise to run leadership courses and ‘release the potential of young people who have weathered tough times.’

I have heard young people give presentations before on their experiences and it is truly inspirational. The Greenock event was particularly moving as a number of the speakers were from a drugs project in Inverclyde. What they all said was that Columba 1400 was a truly unique experience because, for the first time in their lives, they felt they were really treated with dignity and respect. One man explained that he really felt that he was accepted, and even loved, right from the beginning. This was given to him freely and only his own behaviour would have forfeited this trust.

Behind Columba 1400 is a remarkable man: Norman Drummond. He is a former chaplain, Governor of the BBC and Headmaster of Loretto school. Columba 1400 is his brainchild and a manifestation of his own life’s purpose and values.

The Columba 1400 website states:

Underlying all our work is the belief expressed in the Buchan quotation: ‘Our task is not to put the greatness into humanity, but to elicit it, for the greatness is there already’. This drives our methodology at all levels. When people come to Columba 1400 they experience the power of being valued and finding purpose. Crucially, they become part of a culture that reflects this and in turn offers an emotional connection to what is really important in being human by seeing, feeling and noticing others as role models. The Columban Code of Responsible Leadership provides the underpinning structure to all our programmes and guides our personal and professional behaviour.

Yesterday I ran a session with some staff in Save the Children. We got on to talking about SEAL (the English school based emotional literacy programme) and my critique of it. I also mentioned Columba 1400 at one point and how I was impressed by what it was trying to do.

Then, understandably, someone asked me if there wasn’t a contradiction here: wasn’t this exactly the type of thing that SEAL was trying to achieve? It was a great question and I understand why it was asked.

However, there is a world of a difference between SEAL and the likes of Columba 1400. For a start the people who go to Staffin go willingly – they are not conscripts sitting in classrooms with no means of escape. And then there is the commitment, and training of the staff, who deliver the programme.

Finally, it is also about size. Columba 1400 is still a small venture driven, and energized by its founder and his inspiring values. Ask them to design an annual intervention for every pupil in Scotland in a classroom context, and what makes Columba so good would be lost. Add in learning outcomes and assessments and it would be a travesty. This is much nearer to SEAL than what happens in Skye.


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