CHANGE seems to be the KEY word all over the world these days.
At FAO, two main events just took place last week. The Organization is undertaking a deep and serious process of internal restructuring. After the IEE (Independent External Evaluation) report, which suggested many and different changes in the strategy, the approach and the structure, now it is time for implementation. It will officially start after the approval of the action plan by the member states, late this November. As you can see in the picture, all of us were invited to attend a presentation meeting organized by the Senior management to illustrate the guidelines of the FAO Reform.
At the same time, in parallel and due to this process, a new ad-hoc tool to promote change has been created in the house: the “Culture Change Team” is in charge of taking care of this change-of-mentality process. The first public appearance was the convocation of a voluntary gathering called Open House session, which I attended last Tuesday.
The meeting was very informal and easy, with a short introduction of the Team, which is composed by 15 people, both from headquarters and Regional offices. Second step consisted in an invitation to comment and complement in a proactive way the draft list of vision statements prepared by the Team. Lastly, a longer World Cafe session allowed people to gather in small groups of 5/6 persons to discuss for some 25 minutes how we would like the culture of FAO to be. Each group’s final report was publicly illustrated to the assembly.
In the meanwhile, the issues of change, reform and new culture are being addressed more and more also in the web Forum on the Intranet which is, I think, a good sign of commitment and willingness by people involved in the process.
Still, scepticism persists. It is clear and widespread. The question “Is this the real time for change?” came clearly out during the presentation meeting. Again TRUST came out to be the fundamental factor upon which collaboration is built. If people do not trust the leaders, than their actions, whatever they are, will be unlikely to be successful. In this regard, I can say that many colleagues, not “trusting” this trend, choose not to join the presentation meeting which had been organized by the Senior management to illustrate the guidelines of the FAO Reform.
To me, this need of reorganization is deeply connected to a wider change the entire world faced in the last decades, where two key factors mainly changed: transportation and communication. In my vision, in a world where space and time ceased to be strong barriers, an international organization committed to eradicate hunger and poverty in the framework of the United Nations, as FAO is, and which is fundamentally based on knowledge to achieve its goals, has to find in the worldwide scenario a completely different role from the past. In my opinion, it has to move from “supporting” Governments in the management of development activities, to “facilitating” the interaction between Governments and local/regional/international actors to work jointly on development projects.
In a nutshell, in the future I see FAO as a facilitator of processes, at local level, and as a supervisor for strategies, at regional and international level.
As a consequence, the range of activities, skills, tools, methodologies and even type of knowledge the organization has to use have necessarily to change considerably in the near future.