If the nature of a setting is an indicator for the success of an event, the conference venue at Boldern on the hills of Lake Zurich was the most perfect match. The venue, deliberately chosen by hosting Platform member Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC), provided everything a creative retreat aiming for an innovative inventory-taking and strategizing required. Like in the past years, facilitation of the AGA was in the hands of Nancy White, the Platform’s long-term moderator.
The two-day long retreat focused on examining and possibly redefining the Platform’s purpose and mission while searching for a new modus operandi. The agenda comprehended a series of collective and individual exercises and offered many opportunities for bilateral or group conversations during and in-between sessions, providing the necessary space for further exploration and analysis of the discussed.
From maturity over creative destruction to birth of new ideas: the Platform’s eco-cycle
In their welcome address, both Co-Chairs, David Hegwood (USAID) and Patrick Herlant (EC) highlighted the immediate challenges as well as the range of decisions to be taken to sustain the activities and partnerships both in the short and the long run. The challenges are manifold, in particular the new paradigm under the Agenda 2030 that changes the roles of donor agencies and international financing institutions and impacts the shape of programmes and policy priorities.
In the subsequent exercises and discussions, Nany White led the participants on a journey of introspection and reflection, visually supported by the concept of an eco-cycle. Six key aspects were central: Purpose („What is the fundamental justification of the Platform?“), context („What is happening around us that demands change?“), challenges („What are the challenges we face in order to make progress?“), baseline („What are the Platform‘s current strengths that are valued by its members?“), ambition and action & evaluation.
In detail, this included introspection on past achievements and core functions as well as characterisation of internal and external challenges (e.g. preserve, overcome fears, seize opportunities). It included furthermore the assessment of the context and analysis of critical uncertainties, which included gaining insights from a background paper on thematic multi-stakeholder networks, prepared especially for the members’ retreat.
Building and using relationships: the Platform’s success factor
A strong asset of the Platform are its various thematic working groups and the space for networking it provides. There was also consensus that the Platform has established a highly valued set of formats and tools with regard to knowledge-sharing and communication (i.e. state of maturity). In another step, participants identified those products and activities, which they consider to be dispensable in order to dedicate resources on new innovative ideas (i.e. creative destruction, gestation and birth).
Members work together to influence ideas and resources for sustainable agriculture and food systems transformation
In the further course, the participants defined a new Platform purpose in an iterative process of scoping and refinement. What Platform members valued highest is that the Platform is a space to interact formally and informally, to meet with peers and network for knowledge-sharing and informing policies and strategies. The core qualities linked with this – coordination and exchange – will also have to play a key role in the future of the Platform. This holds particularly true if the Platform aspires towards more strategic influence. Purpose and legitimation must be thought of together to justify the Platform. That was obvious, when participants shared their ideas for a purpose statement, that they would consider the trademark of the Platform. The one claim, that received the highest score of all, perfectly summarises the purpose: “Members work together to influence ideas and resources for sustainable agriculture and food systems transformation.”
Form follows function: Transition to a new phase
The subsequent Board meeting approved the installation of a Member Transition Task Force. The task force will present a proposal for a Global Donor Platform 2.0 by the end of November 2019. The revised format should secure the Platform’s role in continuing to provide thought leadership in changing environment, and to collaborate to influence ideas and resources.
For your reference, please also see the latest Platform statement „Innovation and change on the road to 2030: Making the Global Donor Platform fit for new challenges and perspectives“ in the link and download section.
The AGA 2019 was preceded by a series of meetings of several of the Platform’s Thematic Working Groups which are separately featured on the Global Donor website. As per Board decision, the SDG2 Roadmap group became an official Thematic Working Group of the Platform.