By Noel Becchetti
Vision: To inspire, connect, and equip youth to transform global societies through movements that promote hope, non-violence, and reconciliation
Mission: To work alongside local leaders and transform conflict by hosting international summits, national conferences, specialized workshops, and strategic trainings to empower youth as agents of sustainable change
“You want your leadership to look like who you’re trying to reach.”
Sean Cooper comes to USA Unites from decades of experience in pastoral ministry. In July 2021, he moved from the church realm to help to found USA Unites, a member of Global Unites (GU). Launched as Sri Lanka Unites in 2006 by Prashan DeVisser, GU now comprises 10 member countries spanning four continents, the United States being the newest.
Sean co-leads USA Unites with fellow Orlando, Florida resident Jamila Millette, who serves as National Director. While their long-term goal is to spread USA Unites throughout the 50 United States, they are focusing first on their local Orlando area.
“Through November 2021, we have 87 workshops booked at pubic and private high school campuses in the Orlando area,” Sean told me. “Jamila is African-American and I’m white, so we have the beginnings of diversity. Orlando is actually quite diverse, with large Latino and African-American footprints. So we have our work cut out for us.”
What will they offer in the workshops? “We believe that the keys to moving young people toward hope, non-violence, and reconciliation is to help them to learn how to listen, learn, and lean in as we face difficult issues and challenging conflicts. Whether it involves recapturing these skills or learning them for the first time, this is where we need to start.
“We’re actually asking young people to be selfish in this sense: They will make the best life decisions when they put diverse people around them. So as they are open to engaging with a diverse group of friends and others in their communities, they will learn how to better react to disagreements and conflicts, especially compared to the toxic social media environments where most young people currently dwell.”
Sean describes the USA Unites leadership model as polycentric. “Jamila and I work together as partners. As our leadership team grows, we intend to keep it flat, with the focus being on collaboration. It’s not rocket science; it’s essentially a common-sense outgrowth of what we seek to teach.
“The coronavirus pandemic has exposed a number of additional pandemics we face in the USA—racial, political, and cultural, to name a few. As GU is committed to hope, non-violence, and reconciliation, we need to figure out how to apply these principles to the plurality of pandemics we currently face.
“This is 35,000-foot thinking, I admit, but I’m intrigued by the root definition of pandemic, which is a word from the Greek language. The Greek root is pandemos—pan meaning “all”, and demos meaning “people”. In other words, a pandemic is something that affects all people. Our experiences in the racial, political, cultural, and public-health areas the past several years have brought this truth to the surface all too clearly in our country.
“How to we take on the multiple pandemics looming over us?”, Sean asks. “GU Founder Prashan DeVisser puts it well:
We are about peacemaking. The key to peacemaking is keeping people at the table, as long as it takes, to make real peacemaking progress. To accomplish this, you must have the right people around that table—people who share a vision for the possibility of peace, and the willingness to invest themselves in what can be an exhausting, painful, exacting process. Without those people, you are lost. With those people, there is hope.
“Our dream is to raise up a nation of young people who will be the right people around that table, powered by leadership that looks like the young people we are trying to reach. It’s a big dream, but it can be done. That’s why I’ve signed up.”
Noel Becchetti is the Vice President for Leader Development at Asian Access. Previously, he served as Executive Director for Truthseekers International, a ministry committed to spiritual and social freedom for the oppressed lower castes of India. He previously served for 13 years as President of Center for Student Missions (CSM), an urban short-term mission and service ministry working in the United States and Canada. He also enjoyed over 12 years at Youth Specialties, where he launched and directed Youthworker Journal and eventually served as Vice President, Publishing.
This case study is from an interview with Sean Cooper of Global Unites and is published here with permission.
Header photo by Remi Walle via Unsplash.