The Pendulum Swing – Team Building and Resilience in GAs

The Pendulum Swing – Team Building and Resilience in GAs

As this 2016 IFMSA August General Assembly approaches its end state, so is my optimism for a good ending. The Organizing Committee had proved itself resilient, and impressively so, but notwithstanding the powerful push towards better transportation plans, lunch venues and time, for its last mile to drive the GA home, it has failed in every respect, and impressively so as well.

The last night of the GA sums it up quite well: we are sent to the plenary’s venue like sheep to a slaughterhouse: yes, at this point knowing very well what’s ahead of us. While it is announced that we will have plenary until 11, followed by a closing ceremony and a themed social event, around the famed Dia de Los Muertos celebration, none of us are really buying it. It’s already been revealed that the Organizing Committee has busted its budget, and the plenary sessions have their reputation done: never-ending motions, punctuated with flares of unconsciousness. But nonetheless, good willed, we headed to the plenary to the rhythm of a Nietzschean proverb: « what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger ».

The plenary killed two socials with one stone. It lasted until 3am, and we got neither the closing ceremony, nor the Dia de Los Muertos. Having slept little over one hour in total (in the past two days), my capacity to stay focused was also compromised rather mercilessly. And the recipe for disaster was complete: the last event of the GA, and I was half asleep up some stairs, confused as others were as regards my possible input; I noticed delegations painting their faces with cadaver motifs, to realize soon after there would be no such amendment to the night; and finally, as buses were leaving the venue, nothing was really ending nor starting in the plenary, much like a state of limbo we could do nothing about, a mix of uselessness and common despair exacerbated by fatigue.

The most dire consequence of this hardly coherent GA, for me, was the feeling of fragmentation of the delegation. Inherently, each delegate had its own calling and objectives: while Xiya had a research exchange focus, Alexander was involved in medical education, and Bing in organ donation policy statements and programs, while presidents were expected in presidents’ sessions. Wrapping our team in one common gesture was a struggle, and while the lack of organization gradually stretched our patience thin, it was more difficult being empathetic to one another. Team-building is more than a soft-skill taught at a TNT: it is a fundamental resource, a mechanism for safety in chaotic times. Yet sometimes there is hardly room for such fine-tuned dynamics: displaced by the unforgiving complications of the meeting, staying together despite the brownian motion of our bodies was oftentime a quandary of time and space. I should have gotten mobile phone with 3G internet access.

This GA will truly have been a lesson in team building and resilience. I take it as a warning for IFMSA-Quebec events to come during my mandate: the most elaborate and demanding the event, the better equiped must be the team, at attending to one another’s concerns, at knowing their expectations, their objectives and limitations, and feeding each other encouragement. It sounds like common sense, but really it is a form of discipline: once sleep will be deprived and the path to follow anything but clear and steady, perhaps then a delegation’s real challenge is maintaining coordinated valence despite atomization.