by Donald E. Piburn, M.S.Ed.

We have come such a long way in the two years since the Men in the Lives of Young Children session generated “a great deal of interest” among delegates to the 2005 World Forum Montreal. When an early attempt to assemble a WF MECE in 2006 fell through, representatives of the World Forum Foundation,, and the Hawaii Association for the Education of Young Children (HAEYC) stretched out our timeline and initiated a series of events to build momentum toward holding the WF MECE Honolulu, Hawaii in 2008.

Articles on men in early care and education (ECE) and promotions for the WF MECE 2008 appeared in the pages of Exchange magazine in 2005 and early 2006; a United States all-day symposium on “Men in the Lives of Young Children” took place in the Fall of 2006 in collaboration with the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) Men in Education Network (M.E.N.) Interest Forum; and in early 2007, the World Forum Foundation took up the WF MECE as an ongoing Working Forum project.

Men and women known for promoting the many important roles of men in ECE were recruited and appointed to the WF MECE Leadership Team by the World Forum Foundation in early 2007. The initial challenge for this leadership team was to get to know one-another. E-mail introductions and discussions began well in advance of the 2007 World Forum Kuala Lumpur (KL). A rich exchange of ideas, whether from those team members able to travel to Malaysia or the others, set a powerful tone for the WF MECE Leadership Team Planning Event at the 2007 World Forum. By the time representatives of the Leadership Team arrived in KL, we were already fast friends.

The team members who traveled to Malaysia were:

1. Ron Blatz – Canada
2. Andrew Ikupu – Papua New Guinea
3. Jerry Parr – United States
4. Donald Piburn – United States (Hawaii)
5. Te Tuhi Robust – New Zealand
6. MacDonald Sembereka – Malawi
7. Kenny Spence – Scotland

The WF MECE Leadership Team assembled on Monday, May 14, 2007, two days prior to the start of the 2007 World Forum KL. Time was set aside at the onset for everyone to get comfortable with each other, share stories (both personal and professional), voice struggles, and begin to create a community of people empowered to make a difference around issues of men in ECE. One particularly powerful activity was borrowed from the opening day of Working Forum Belfast in 2004. Team members were invited to bring an object that represents or symbolizes the work which connects us to a vision for men in ECE. Team members brought items of cultural significance, pictures, or elements of nature, and shared the story behind the objects including why they were chosen. The purpose of the activity was to provide a way for members to get to know one other at a more personal level and to begin developing meaningful relationships that continue into the future.

Outcomes from those first two days together included a draft vision for the work ahead; a commitment by the individuals in the group for that work; a plan taking shape for the 2008 WF MECE Honolulu, and very strong personal connections. Our many stories, diverse points of view, and sometimes troubling testimonials, combined with a generous share of good natured ribbing, at-times hilarious dialog, and a fair bit of after-hours socializing to cement the bond between us. The “buzz” surrounding the work (and play) of the WF MECE Leadership Team during and now following the World Forum, has been tremendous.

World Forums provide unparalleled opportunities for delegates to share diverse points of view and to exchange practical ideas over a period of four days. The 2007 World Forum KL offered a wealth of incidental opportunities to network with global ECE leaders. WF MECE Leadership team members fanned out all through the World Forum to take in the learning, while sharing and promoting our views on the varied roles of men in ECE to many receptive listeners.

During an early plenary session, all World Forum participants received a pack of 12 action cards, banded together with a paper strip that was imprinted: World Forum Action Pack. The back of each card contained “next steps” for getting involved in World Forum initiatives. Delegates were asked to reshuffle the deck, placing the issues they are most committed to on the top. Among their choices was a WF MECE, 2008 card with a World Forum website address for more information. The image on the card showed a man leaning over scores of inquisitive children gently probing his face with their tiny fingers. The WF MECE logo appears on both sides of the card. It was simple, beautiful, and cleverly designed to make clear what anyone interested in participating in these global efforts could do to get involved.

Prior to KL, the WF MECE presenters all decided to wear Hawaiian Aloha Shirts to the panel presentation. The Leadership Team thought it might make for a good bit of promotion on behalf of the 2008 WF MECE Honolulu event, and the resulting group photo of us all dressed in our Aloha Wear is a classic. The WF MECE panel presentation at the World Forum employed a town hall meeting format. The leadership team shared their experiences, event proceedings, and collective plans, yet provided ample opportunities for other World Forum delegates to share their thoughts, experiences, and visions for the WF MECE and the 2008 WF MECE Honolulu. An Analysis Team member sat in on the WF MECE panel presentation. Her report extends the impact of our work in Malaysia, informs next steps for World Forum program development, and serves as possible editorial content for Exchange Magazine. The report will be posted on the World Forum Foundation website.

During the 2007 World Forum KL Closing Ceremonies, representatives from World Forum Foundation projects and Working Forums for 2008 placed handwritten commitments to young children into the World Forum “Commitment Bowl” (a Hawaiian Koa wood “calabash” that was a gift to the first ever 1999 World Forum Honolulu from the HAEYC). A representative of the WF MECE Leadership Team tendered our commitment to the WF MECE Honolulu, 2008 and extended an invitation for all to participate in the dialogue and work that lies ahead.

In the course of events, many World Forum delegates joined in with the WF MECE efforts; hence many new friends and allies were made in KL. Though quite a few people have agreed to leadership roles to date, we will need even more global participation to make the WF MECE dream into a reality. The form, format, and outcomes for the WF MECE are being shaped through the efforts of the leadership team, along with input from the delegates to the 2007 World Forum KL, and now others as we expand our efforts globally. With only one year to plan for the 2008 WF MECE Honolulu, we will need all the help we can muster.

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