RDI Conference 2017: What did we learn?

Topics Cross-sector partnerships | Networking | Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)
RDI Conference 2017 Keynotes

The RDI Conference 2017 Partnering for Impact on Sustainable Development continues to spark conversations as attendees reflect upon what they heard and the conversations they engaged in.

Challenged by a keynote address from Rt. Hon. Helen Clark, participants were called to “move away from old patterns of development which sacrificed the environment in the pursuit of economic growth, and often widened social inequality as well.”

…when we use the term ‘partnership’ as a soother, a calmative, to disguise the real challenge and mess and struggle of collaborating meaningfully, we do the concept a disservice.
Yeshe Smith, La Trobe University

Another highlight in the program was the ‘Great Development Debate’, which invited thought leaders from the sector to challenge the ideas of “partnership” and “evidence” as nothing more than buzzwords, reducing their potential value and contribution towards effective development practice and policy.

Over 400 participants representing 170 organisations attended the conference, including academics, NGO staff, students, consultants and Government representatives. The Conference program addressed a broad range of different geographic and topical expertise, maintaining a strong overarching thematic thread of activating partnerships and collaborations for impact.

Some of the key learnings sourced from participants through our participant survey included:

  • Partnerships need to be based on shared goals and mutual respect; they don’t necessarily need to be only between those who think or look exactly alike.
  • Power imbalances between parties to a partnership should be acknowledged and addressed openly
  • The voice and energy of young people is a powerful source of ideas, and youth represent important potential collaborators in international development projects.
  • The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) offer a valuable framework around which partnerships across sectors and disciplines can flourish.

The survey also surfaced interesting participant statistics:

  • Over 80% of respondents indicated they made 5 or more new connections during the course of the conference. To us, this reflects the effective use of space and time created in the program to foster networking and the exploration of collaborations.
  • Over 50% of these connections above were made on the basic of theme or topic of interest. We are encouraged by this indication of shared ideas between participants from different sectors and organisations.
  • Over 50% of respondents indicated that they had taken away a new or innovate program approach which they plan to apply in their work.

We look forward to continuing the conversations started at this event, and tracking the impact of connections that have been made.

You can listen to recordings from the plenary sessions of RDI Conference 2017 via SoundCloud. Further background information about the conference is available here.

We welcome your feedback and ideas about future events or activities that could advance ideas surfaced at the conference. Limited funding opportunities are available.