How do you support a Community of Practice when the world economy is navigating uncharted waters?

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Guest blog written by Amrita Deonarine, Liana Elliott, Perihan Tawfik, and Urkhan Seyidov

January – June 2022 CoP Moderators (left to right): Amrita Deonarine (IPP ’21), Liana Elliott (IPP ’20), Perihan Tawfik (IPP ’20), and Urkhan Seyidov (IPP ’19)

2022, a new year, the IPP Community of Practice (CoP) welcomes a new batch of IPPers, a new group of moderators to the CoP, and a new plethora of complex challenges. By January 2022, when our term as moderators began, the world economy and livelihoods had already undergone much trauma since the start of the pandemic in March 2020. Countries were gradually beginning to breathe a sigh of relief as they bumped up vaccination drives and gradually eased restrictions. Even though the emergence of coronavirus variants brought about many doubts, by then, many of us in the realm of policy-making and policy implementation had already helped our countries emerge through several iterations to adapt to what many referred to as the “new normal”. A pandemic environment. Ghastly prospects of more lockdowns, closed borders, supply chain disruptions, nervous investors, and panicked consumers were still present. The expectation was for these to remain the designated threats to global growth in 2022.

Who knew additional uncertainties were about to emerge? When we thought the world was already stretched to its threshold of global disruption, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine proved us wrong. Challenges of human suffering, record-high commodity prices, economic shocks, and geopolitical realignment unfolded by February to set the tone for the global outlook in 2022. Against the backdrop of global volatility, successful policy implementation requires swift movements into iterations where one can act and learn quickly. Reflecting on our time together as moderators, we were privileged to have had the opportunity to support the IPP CoP as they energize action using PDIA during these highly evolving unprecedented times.

From the beginning of our tenure as moderators, we decided that we wanted to hear directly from the CoP. Every point of engagement was carefully considered and designed. Our objective focused on understanding the needs of the CoP and how we can construct sessions to meet those needs. Every session functioned as a springboard to subsequent sessions. In other words, we relied on the outcome of each session to determine the entry points for us to act for subsequent sessions. Yes, you’ve guessed right, we applied PDIA to how we managed the CoP and delivered events.

As moderators, we relied more on the CoP to guide the content of our events, asking people closest to the “problem” to inform interventions. We created the CoP initial survey as a result, and used that direct input and feedback to select topics, and ensure each session had interactive and engaging elements such as polls, Q&A, and real-world examples to bring lessons to life. We also found that accommodating the ideas coming from our peers attracted more discussion and eagerness to get (and stay) involved.

Embracing PDIA in our time as moderators gave us structure and pushed us to appreciate the challenge before us, from the perspective of the CoP. This perspective widened our options and ideas. A common thread moderators maintained across sessions was the importance of failing forward and incorporating the PDIA philosophy into our diverse cultural portfolio. We also utilized our PDIA training to adapt, based on what worked, what didn’t work, and how we needed to shift our thinking and approach for upcoming events. The team did not hesitate to try new things to embrace these cultural competencies such as experimenting with different time zones to validate the ease of attendance by alumni who spread across the globe. Even when disaster struck Ukraine as Russia invaded their borders, the outpouring concern and pleas to assist from the CoP prompted us to meet to extend support to our members directly and indirectly affected. Together, the moderators ensured that we stood in solidarity with our CoP throughout our tenure.

The number of participants in each session varied from event to event, and we learned that certain topics and formats work well for smaller groups (more intimate, able to dig a little deeper) and some worked better for larger groups. Tailoring the sessions to maximize engagement based on the number of participants and depth of each topic created more impactful sessions for attendees.

The high level of interactions during each session was encouraging, offering the opportunity to learn more about the successes and challenges we experienced as individuals and as a group. Being moderators from different cohorts for a six-month term was the first obstacle we faced together. Juggling the workload between four busy professionals on different continents was no easy task, and we had to get to know each other and support the community through virtual interaction. The team was made up of individuals in different time zones, at different stages of development, different cultural backgrounds, different areas of expertise, and diverse work ethics. A team with a cross-section of personalities created a challenge but resulted in rich content for each session. Though we initially struggled, as a team, we worked together to acknowledge each unique perspective, deriving ideas, and arrived at consensus that embraced our differences. Our common factor was our familiarity with the practical application of PDIA. As such, we capitalized on this commonality as the main topic to work around, causing us to lead sessions in line with what we learned during the course, particularly focused on the practical part. The challenges were turned into constructive and positive attitudes having the same objectives. To accommodate our demanding schedules, after an initial discussion and consensus on what the next session would look like, it was agreed that two moderators would take the lead in planning, facilitating, and moderating. This approach allowed each of us to both lead and support one another without overloading any single individual.

All in all, being moderators of the highly esteemed community was during a time when humanity has never been so divided and united at the same time around shared goals and problems. On one hand, we have a COVID-19 pandemic that the world responded swiftly to in developing vaccines, yet, at the same time, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have led to a humanitarian crisis and substantial negative global spillovers. Admittedly, there are major global problems such as the fight against climate change, access to clean water, public education, and the fight against hunger among many others. Nevertheless, one constant has been limited success in finding common ground to propel us towards progress. We learned from this experience mostly from our CoP peers and their stories that we need to stop reacting to problems just when they appear on our radar. The ad hoc solutions are good for nothing and have to be replaced by strategic and proactive thinking. One is compelled to recognize global risks and think about the consequences of the decision for the whole world. What is needed now is to learn to think wider than simply within the borders of our nations. In this regard, our IPP community indeed is a unique place where key decision-makers from around the world are constantly learning from each other and united by the idea of changing the world for the better. 

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