ICAI online regional gatherings facilitate peer to peer support and collaboration

This article was reprinted in ICA:UK Network News, issue 49 and ICAI Winds and Waves, issue 3.

fuller world mapICA International is the international body for the global network of the Institute of Cultural Affairs, with member organisations and related organisations and groups in over 40 countries worldwide.  Increasingly online gatherings are playing a key role in facilitating peer to peer support and collaboration among ICAs and ICA colleagues, within and across regions.  ICAI convenes online regional gatherings three times per year, for three regional time zone groups – Asia/Pacific, the Americas, and Europe/MENA/Africa.

These regional gatherings are open to all ICA members, staff and volunteers worldwide, and people are welcome to attend another region’s gathering if they cannot attend their own.  The first gatherings of 2013 were held March 25 & 26, and attracted 25 people from 17 countries.

The aims of the gatherings are to connect ICAs and ICA colleagues with each other, and help to build & strengthen relationships between them; to share information and facilitate peer-to-peer support and collaboration among ICAs and ICA colleagues; and to hold ICAI accountable to its members, and seek input & support to strengthen our global network and advance our global mission.

The agenda this time included introductions, activity reports with questions and discussion, a brief review of the new 2013-14 ICAI business plan and a preview of draft plans for a global ICA network survey, and a closing reflection.

Topics of discussion emerging from the reports shared this time included:

  • New groups emerging in France and Colombia, and ICAs re-emerging in Guatemala, Croatia and Brazil
  • Peer to peer support & collaboration between UK & Spain, Taiwan & France, Japan & India, Tanzania & Canada, Cote D’Ivoire & Japan, Taiwan & China, Chile & Colombia, Guatemala & Chile, UK & Togo, Brazil & Colombia…
  • New projects and achievements in Ukraine, Spain, Kenya, Zimbabwe, USA, Nepal, Peru, Guatemala…
  • The face-to-face annual ICA European interchange held in Paris earlier in March
  • Translation of curriculum and materials into French and Russian
  • The impact of financial constraints on programmes and operating structures , and the challenge of sustaining core funding & sales of services
  • Challenges of defining and communicating identity, mission & strategy, sustaining focus on both local and global priorities and managing skills development & transition of people
  • Developing relations between ICA and IAF
  • Global co-ordination on ToP facilitation and training, as more and more markets overlap
  • A proposed new ICA Americas network for sustainable development
  • Proposals for international ToP facilitation training of training initiatives in Europe and in Latin America
  • Confirmation that  ICAI’s UN consultative status remains valid with ECOSOC, FAO and UNESCO
  • Draft plans and questions for a thorough survey of the global ICA network, to gather & share basic information as a platform for expanding peer to peer support & collaboration

Reflections from those participating in the gatherings included:

  • Very good facilitation
  • Great conversations before and during the call
  • Ran smoothly – a good survey of what others are doing at their ICAs
  • Appreciated quick introductions with what people are currently doing/thinking about
  • Great to connect with you all
  • The ICAI business plan is broad enough ,and yet specific enough to measure what you plan to be doing
  • Great UN status report and actions already moved forward
  • Adobe Connect is excellent
  • Great to hear what is going on, and to think about potential partnerships
  • Great to talk, listen and exchange ideas
  • The technology is great and ever easier to use.  VERY well organized meeting!
  • It would be nice to have more present, especially from other countries – please all invite others to join next time!
  • Maybe a little more next time on brainstorming regional activities- what are clear regional next steps?
  • Need to look at topics across the regions as well as within regions – host meetings on ToP expansion, IToPToT etc.
  • Please all continue to connect with each other between meetings
  • THANK YOU all, good night, hasta luego!

A full transcript of the gatherings has been circulated – please ask if you’d like a copy.

The gatherings also provide a valuable opportunity for us all to develop our expertise in virtual meetings and virtual facilitation, to the benefit of our work with clients and partners as well as with each other.  They are held using Adobe Connect online meeting software, which has been adopted as the platform of choice for many virtual ToP facilitators.  Each meeting is preceded by some time for orientation to the technology for newcomers, and for additional technical support for those that need it.

ICAI is grateful for the technical support volunteered by the US-based Sisters of Virtual Facilitation in developing and hosting these gatherings over recent years.  The online training in virtual ToP facilitation offered by ICA USA (the ‘bootcamp’) is highly recommended for anyone interested in a more thorough grounding in the tools and skills – details are at www.ica-usa.org.

If you weren’t able to join the March gatherings, please do look out for the next in July and try to join us then.  Please also let me or another ICAI Board member know if there is anything that we can do to make these online regional gatherings more valuable and accessible to you.

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