This is the second part of a report on the first 6 months of The Exchange. Over a period of a few weeks we will update you on progress on each of the collaborative projects as well as continue to publish the participants papers on lessons from collaborations. We will also publish some reflections of challenges already met.
Impact is hard to assess at this early stage. However, it is quite significant that the participants have already identified a number of issues to work on and chosen who they want to work with. This was not expected until late June at the earliest.
It is also significant that The Exchange has incorporated a new funder: the Knowledge Sector Initiative (KSI) in Indonesia. This extends its reach beyond the two main regions represented by the other participants and includes three of the largest think tank funders in the developing world.
A number of recommendations for the future have already been described throughout the report but we highlight the here:
- Maintain flexibility in order to foster learning: The programme has been flexible enough to accommodate a new funder and think tanks from a new region, to change its meeting plans (from one multilateral to a few bespoke meetings in June 2014), from a desire for 5 bilateral partnerships to 2 or 3 multilateral collaborations, from a focus on both policy and organisational development issues to organisational development issues only, etc. This flexibility has been well received by the participants. It is inevitable that they will face a number of challenges to maintain their participation over the two years. This presents opportunities for learning. Our efforts ought to focus on not missing out on the opportunity to record and reflect on the process and what may be learned for The Exchange and future collaborative efforts.
- Shorter and open meetings: The challenges of organising a workshop to encourage matchmaking could be sensed by all those involved. In the end, the workshop schedule, carefully planned between organisers and IEP, was changed and adapted as the days went by. In the future, we propose testing approaches based on Open Space technology. These will allow the participants to make use of the time and space provided as they best see fit, with organisers providing a framework (objectives, tools, support, monitoring, and guidance).
- Establish better direct channels of communication with each of the participants: As The Exchange progresses participants will face a number of internal challenges that may present risks to the programme. These issues will not be necessarily shared with the whole group. To address these issues properly we ought to establish and maintain more frequent contact with each participant and support them in identifying future challenges and possible solutions.
- Rotate hosting by regions: Although this was planned already we consider important to provide each region with the opportunity to host the other participants.
- Revisit and establish the Steering Board: With three funders and the first meeting over it is important that the Steering Board is revisited. It was useful in helping choose the participants and access new funding. It will be very useful to review the concept notes, the proposals, and adjudicating the research grants.