Impact Istanbul (2): Workshop Culture

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Mini-Series: Impact Istanbul features conference highlights, round-ups, interviews, Q&A’s, and speaker profiles. It is part of our International Business Forum 2013 live coverage. This time, Apolline Nassour asks: What is typical workshop on inclusive business at IBF2013 like? Definitely inclusive, but also quite fun, as learnt first hand.

Energy workshop, IBF2013.

Student Reporter / Apolline Nassour

Energy workshop, IBF2013.

What makes a productive, engaging workshop at conference like the 2013 International Business Forum (IBF)? As an important element this year’s IBF, “Landscape Workshops” and “Parallel Workshops” provide opportunities for conference attendees to gather in small groups to exchange ideas, explore innovative business models and share best practices. Here is a portrait of a recent workshop to catch the “culture” of exchange alive and well at IBF:

At 12:50 pm, I enter the Energy workshop on the lower ground floor of the International Congress Center- slightly late. “No problem” says the facilitator. A friendly start.

The audience, divided between four squared tables, is colorful and diverse. White-haired honorable attendees, ladies in pink and a man wearing a vibrant green suit. The facilitator, Daniel Philipp from MicroEnergy International – a consultancy firm that focuses on energy and development, leads the session like a diplomat in an old-fashioned pale brown suit.

Thus, everyone feels comfortable when he proposes we start with a game. “Please stand up side by side in order to form a human line,” he says. “The more work experience you have in energy, the more on the left you stand.”

With the strength of my non-existent experience in the energy sector, I shamefully direct myself to the right side of the room. I stand alone, until a well-suited man from Zambia joins me.

“Do you all use electricity?” the facilitator asks. My Zambia neighbor is the only one to calmly answer “no.”

When the facilitator asks us to re-arrange the queue according to the price we pay for one kWh, my neighbor is as confused as I am. (Though, after checking, my electricity bill indicates €0.15 per kWh on peak hours and €0.11 on downtime, which, for better or worse, puts me in the “cheap” side of the human file.)

The facilitator then switches off the light, and tell us to use our phones screens to illuminate ourselves. The room is now like remote parts of Africa, he explains: off-grid but fitted with mobile phones.

After more games, including red light green light, blind man’s bluff, and musical chairs (where each table represents a continent, and people have to sit to the one they work in), we are divided into the sectors we work, then are asked to transfer to the sector we think is most valuable for building green and inclusive enterprises.

Eventually, after plenty of good laughs and awkward shuffling, we get to the point of the panel: to learn about several unique approaches and inclusive models for energy.

We heard from people like Ghita Hannane, whose company arranges low-interest loans for Tunisians willing to equip themselves with solar water heating, and Mr. Agyei Michael Yaw, a Ghanaian social entrepreneur who designed the HolyCookStove, a modern cookstove that burns charcoal 40% more efficiently than traditional cook stoves.

The attendees were just as active as the presenters. For example, Suhaj Wahab, whose, company Toyola has sold 400 000 efficient charcoal stoves in four West African countries through a network of self-employed artisans, spoke up in support of his Ghanaian cookstove counterpart.

This is what workshops are all about- and the workshop culture at IBF2013 hit the mark. First, they connect people from every part of the world geographically; then physically, through interactive games; and finally, intellectually, by sparking interactive discussions. Three pivotal steps, allowing ideas to spread.


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