The 4th INSIHD meeting took place in Berlin the week of 3 March. We were able to bring together over 25 participants from 15 countries and ensure good representation from Motorola Solutions -which previously had been limited at best. We also secured the participation of 3 UNDP country office staff. This was also the first meeting with a full international flavour -albeit we lacked any government representation.
At the opening of the meeting I made reference to the fact that this was the first INSIHD meeting I as attending and quickly proceed to blame my ageing bones for my repeated no shows. Most participants thought I was joking which, in a sense, I was -but that does not change the facts by one bit. Hyper-reality (in the analogue sense) overtakes hype (of all kinds), easily.
Meeting participants were quite excited to be in Berlin and ready to deeply engage in the various thematic panels we designed for the gathering. Discussions were rich and friendly -except perhaps for one on gender where one of our male partners suggested that men have indeed written the best books about women, etc. We managed to stop this on its tracks, fortunately. But yes, chies do need to be sensitised on the issue, a lot more…
The meeting had two core objectives: 1. Designing a roadmap for launching national INSIHD chapters; and 2. Creating a Global Advisory Committee (GAC) to steer INSIHD in collective fashion. While the former was enthusiastically supported by participants, the latter received almost the opposite reaction. Although one of the three breakout groups we had set up did pick this as a priority, the plenary session totally ignore it -even after I intervened to support the idea. Plan B thus become handy. We decided to approach a selected number of people in private and invite them to join GAC.
I also learned a few things about the way we should run these meeting and go beyond.
First, we need to beef up our substantive and policy support. This we can do in two ways: 1. We need to have a spot on the agenda to present what UNDP does on the ground as well as the INSIHD concept. In Berlin, most participants were not aware of the ICTD/egov work UNDP does, nor that the INSIHD idea and concept was created by us. In addition, we need to be much more proactive in the discussions. Motorola privately conveyed to me that this has not been the case so far, with one exception.
In addition, we need to find a way to steer away from just holding meetings and entertaining talk shops. The mileage we can get from a multiplicity of gatherings and keep attracting media attention, something Motorola is desperately seeking, is quite finite. As I see it, the answer here is on the Foundation side. If we can get GAC to endorse say three national INSIHD chapters then we can ask the Foundation to provide resources for this purpose. We can also ask GAC to consider bringing changes to the way we do these meetings and align them with more operational stuff that might attract more media and has more on the ground relevance.
Finally, we need a sound strategy to expand the partnership beyond Motorola. Motorola is also very keen on doing this and is currently pushing as hard to walk down that path. Linking with BERA could be very important here. Orange and Telefonica are already aware of this.
Going back to my question in the title of this blog, the answer is: not bad, but it could also be so much better! Up to us…