12.05.2016 Engage. Learn. Build. InterAction Forum 2016

I attended the InterAction Forum 2016 in Washington D.C. during 18 April- 20 April, 2016. It was enlightening to be amongst colleagues from non-governmental, non-profit and governmental organizations as well as private businesses doing great work in the field of development. The forum was developed around the question of “how do we achieve the world that we want, that we deserve?” This was a question asked in the opening plenary session which set the tone for the conference, reminding us of the role we have as international development workers. Plenary sessions and workshops available touched on topics such as “Engaging the Other Half: Educating and Empowering Women and Girls to Fight Poverty,” “Planning and Measuring Social Media and Digital Advocacy: What Really Matters,” and “Creating a Culture of Knowledge Sharing and Learning Within Organizations Large and Small.”

While I attended the forum to learn more about international development regarding other organizations’ experience with learning and knowledge management, I was intentional in encouraging my peers to think about how Persons with Disabilities are relevant in their work. It was thrilling to hear keynote speakers and presenters to mention the importance of Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in our current work. Jeffery Sachs, one of the opening plenary session speaker, stated “We need to promote the SDGs within the U.S. and the whole world”. A common theme in the plenary sessions declared by panelists, “SDGs are a combination of political agenda and human rights agenda and should be led by the young people in their communities”. Powerful statements made about including marginalized populations in LMICs in development but I could not help but notice how women, men, girls and boys with disabilities, were not mentioned consistently.

The forum revealed many opportunities for learning and sharing with mainstream organizations and disability-specific organizations on issues listed below:

• Knowledge management: We need to push each other to learn different perspectives and our failures because learning should exceed your actual skills. An effective learning organization leads to an effective development organization. We know that building staff capacity in collaboration and facilitation as well as recasting “implementers” and “beneficiaries” as colleagues are successful in building an effective development organization.

  • Gender equality: Development work has been focused on young girls but we need to shift our focus a bit to include adolescent girls and boys. Achieving primary education for children proven to be successful but not secondary education. We know that there is a gap there because it was brought to attention by Malala Yousafzai.
  • Online advocacy: Important to understand your audience and to “make implicit learning explicit.” Online advocacy is important but it is only a part of a larger strategy.
  • Evidence-based approach: Important to record your work over a period of time to analyze what is successful and what is not successful then use that to build your programmes on. Why repeat methods that are not successful and why ignore the methods that are proven to be successful?

The interaction and sharing the successes and challenges with our colleagues opened my eyes to the opportunities available for growth. This forum made me more excited for the work that CBM is doing and look forward to CBM’s further interaction with mainstream organizations to bring attention and empower persons with disabilities. “Together We Can Do More.”