Cultivating Leadership & Business at the service of our territories

In March 2024, Inesto embarked on a transformative journey with a group of 28 enthusiastic youth workers from different organizations working in rural areas from all around Europe: Turkey, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Ireland, France and Portugal. The stage was set in the picturesque town of San Vito Lo Capo, Italy, for a six-day immersive training program titled "With Ideas We Grow: Training on Design Thinking and Business for Rural Youth”.


This unique training experience was not just about acquiring knowledge; it was about holistic personal and professional development. Drawing from the methodologies of Design Thinking and Inner Development Goals (IDGs), participants delved deep into a journey of self-discovery, creativity, and community building.

IDGs workshop

Teaching our favorite methodologies

The foundation of the training rested on the principles of Design Thinking—a human-centered approach to innovation. Throughout the six days, participants navigated through the various phases of Design Thinking: empathize, define, ideate, prototype, and test. However, what truly set this training apart was its emphasis on embodying leadership through different daily practices based on the 5 dimensions of the Inner Development Goals (IDG) Framework for human inner growth and development: Being, Thinking, Relating, Collaborating and Acting.

Each day was meticulously crafted to address specific aspects of leadership such as presence, communication skills (active listening & NVC practices, pitching), long-term orientation skills, creativity, collaboration & co-creation skills. Mindfulness sessions provided the space for introspection and self-awareness, while Psychodrama & Gestalt sessions nurtured a deeper understanding of oneself & the challenges of the professional roles and the interconnectedness with the ecosystems we are part of. 

Dance and ceramics workshops served as catalysts for unlocking creativity—a vital skill for problem-solving and innovation. Through these activities, participants honed their ability to think outside the box and approach challenges with fresh perspectives.

Getting to know each other warm-up workshop 

Working together to solve real-world challenges from our territories

The highlight of the training was the collaborative project work where participants applied their newfound skills and methodologies to real-world challenges. Working in groups, they tackled issues ranging from gender equality and river conservation to rural development and cyberbullying. Through iterative prototyping and testing, each group developed innovative solutions aimed at creating positive change in their respective communities. 

Participants shared insights gained from the training and crafted action plans for implementing what they learned in their respective communities.

Build your ideal Business Planning Ideas


Community building

Team and community-building activities were woven into the fabric of the training, fostering meaningful relationships between the participants and the locals. It is in Inesto´s nature to provide different experiences that can foster the connection between participants and the local community hosting the retreat experience. 

For example, we organized a hiking day out in the natural reserve of Lo Zingaro where participants could celebrate and relax after the work and effort they put into the training, a typical Sicilian music concert by local artists, and a Cannoli workshop session with the oldest pastry maker of the village. We also had different proposals from participants such as a dance session, a theater workshop, an open-mic night, a forest bath experience in a hot spring in nature, and a drawing-in-nature session.

Forest bath experience in a hot spring, Segesta

Renewed sense of professional purpose

As the six-day journey drew to a close, participants left with more than just a certificate—they left with “a renewed sense of purpose” (that's what some of our participants actually said), equipped with practical tools and strategies to drive meaningful impact in rural areas and in their own lives and relationships. 

The training was definitely a stepping stone in their ongoing journey of personal and professional growth as leaders and changemakers in their organizations. It was an opportunity for self-reflection and collaboration with people from very different cultural backgrounds, embracing diversity and tolerance for our differences. 

Inesto's commitment to empowering rural communities through innovative methodologies and holistic development stands as a testament to its vision of a more inclusive and sustainable future. With ideas as their compass, these empowered leaders of different communities are poised to be catalysts of change in their communities, driving progress and prosperity for generations to come.

Curious to discover how we spent our days? 

Day 1: Connecting with Passion and practicing the muscle of Self-awareness

The first day was about getting to know each other, setting group agreements in order to collaborate well together, and going through the learning by doing the design thinking process that was lying ahead.

Participants delved into an exploration of their passions and concerns. They not only identified different local challenges their territories are facing but also began cultivating self-awareness—a cornerstone of authentic leadership. Participants started cultivating trust and sharing their concerns for the future with each other and their commitment to act to create alternative scenarios. 

Sharing ideas and methods, a moment for reflection 

Day 2: Deepening Empathy and Defining Challenges

Diving into the empathize phase of the DT process, participants ventured into the streets of San Vito, observing and reflecting on the ecosystem they inhabited to then think of challenges from their territories they were passionate about solving them. Through different activities, they were divided into teams and encouraged to envision solutions to local challenges.

They dived into the root causes of chosen problems and redefined the challenges they aimed to address, picking one challenge per group. They learned to identify patterns and structures perpetuating these issues, setting the stage for impactful solutions.

Group work on ideas and territories

Day 3: Ideation and Creativity

With a clear understanding of their challenges, participants dedicated the day to ideation. Artistic expression through clay allowed them to visualize their projects, while brainstorming sessions sparked creative solutions. The "How might we..." approach reframed challenges into opportunities for innovation.

Vitamin D workshop on the beach

Day 4: Prototyping and Communication

Participants translated their ideas into tangible prototypes, considering project viability and impact. Elevator pitch training equipped them with the skills to effectively communicate their projects, highlighting the problem, solution, and unique value proposition.

Sharing regeneration projects for territories

Day 5: Appreciation and Celebration

A journey to Reserva de Lo Zingaro and the archeological area of Segesta made participants hike in a very beautiful setting, and a dance session in a historic Greek temple provided opportunities for embodied expression and celebration. Through psychodrama techniques, participants reflected on their growth journey and affirmed their commitment to transformational leadership.

Dance in the Temple

Day 6: Looking towards the future

Participants strategized the next steps for implementing the projects they had just created, guided by the principles of Design Thinking. Evaluating project viability and alignment with ERASMUS+ criteria ensured sustainability and impact. 

Group work in the garden 

Day 7: Integration and Closing

As the journey drew to a close, participants engaged in introspective reflection and collective integration. Gestalt-based exercises facilitated the exploration of strengths and challenges as professionals, empowering participants to tackle their blind spots and embody their leadership potential fully.

The journey culminated in a symbolic fire ceremony, where participants committed to carrying forth their newfound insights and leadership skills into their communities.

Sharing tools and tips workshop

Art Residency that  blends Music and Storytelling in Rural Community

Aligned with Inesto's mission of bringing cultural enrichment to rural areas, the training featured an art residency that seamlessly blended music and storytelling. The Sicilian duo of Roberto Stimoli, a multi-talented musician specializing in seven-string guitar, clarinet, and cavaquinho now living in France, and Ciauda, a captivating storyteller, accompanied the participants throughout their journey. Through their soulful melodies and evocative tales, they provided a vibrant backdrop that celebrated the rich cultural heritage of the region. Art residencies are an integral part of Inesto's projects, fostering cross-cultural exchange and enabling participants to immerse themselves in the local artistic tapestry, creating a holistic and transformative experience.

Roberto Stimoli and Ciauda during a  concert and stand-up poetry night

Inspiring Changemakers for a Sustainable Future

As the training came to a close, the participants left San Vito Lo Capo with a profound sense of purpose and a renewed commitment to driving positive change in their communities. The holistic approach of the training, combining Design Thinking methodologies with Inner Development Goals, had equipped them with not only practical skills but also a deeper understanding of themselves as leaders and changemakers.

The collaborative projects they developed during the training were more than just hypothetical exercises; they represented tangible solutions to real-world challenges faced by rural communities across Europe. From addressing gender inequality to promoting river conservation and rural development, these projects demonstrated the power of innovative thinking and collective action.

As the participants returned to their respective organizations and communities, they carried with them the seeds of transformation, ready to apply their learnings and implement their projects. Their journey with Inesto was not merely a training program; it was a catalyst for personal and professional growth, empowering them to become agents of positive change.

Cannoli workshop with local pastry Chef

Inesto's commitment to empowering rural communities through innovative methodologies and holistic development aligns with its vision of a more inclusive and sustainable future. By nurturing a new generation of leaders equipped with Design Thinking skills and a deep sense of self-awareness, Inesto is paving the way for a future where rural areas thrive, and their voices are heard.

The success of this training program is an example of the power of collaboration, diversity, and a shared vision for a better world. As these empowered changemakers continue their journeys, they will inspire others to join them in creating a more sustainable and equitable future for all.

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