Twitter Expert Directory
Marieke and Stella meeting with GDL members in Accra; Photo by: Jean-Baptiste Housou
Marieke and Stella meeting GDL members in Accra; Photo by: Jean-Baptiste Hounsou

The story of GDL's strategy development

by Marieke de Wal and Stella Pfisterer
(GDL Knowledge Partner)

In the summer of 2019, in warm and colourful Accra, Ghana, a group of GDL members and representatives of the GDL Secretariat and the GDL partner institutions meet for the first time to work on a new strategy. The workshop starts with a circle conversation about the value of GDL. Different points of view are discussed, varying from the personal connections members were able to make, the interesting other perspectives that are brought to the table, the chance to exchange challenges and opportunities. Then they are asked to think of a metaphor: which image or story best reflects the meaning of GDL?

One of the participants starts talking about a journey, a search for the unknown: “it is not about where GDL is going but more about which way to travel. It is like building the boat while sailing.”

A challenging assignment

GDL wanted to take stock and decide on its future direction. While members and partners experience a great drive and commitment to be part of the GDL community, there were different perceptions on how far, and at what level, GDL’s activities achieve tangible and measurable impact. The five-year anniversary of GDL provided the right moment to reflect on what GDL has achieved so far and what its future goals should be. The assignment was challenging: GDL’s future strategy must be supported and owned by its members. At the same time, it should leave enough space for new members to co-shape the GDL further in the years to come. A group of selected GDL members, facilitated by the Partnerships Resource Centre, worked on it for more than a year.

A co-created strategy

Formulating the strategy for an experimental platform such as GDL requires a tailor-made approach. It was determined by three interrelated key aspects that characterise GDL.

GDL is a member-driven platform. In other words, GDL leans on a self-managed network in which members are responsible for delivering, supported by a Secretariat but without the usual managerial supervision or accountability mechanisms. On the one hand, this allows the strategy development freedom and creativity. On the other hand, the lack of clear guidelines can feel unfamiliar and uncomfortable. The most important reference point was the members. Therefore, the strategy approach required various mechanisms for involving members throughout the process. Ultimately, the strategy should be owned by the GDL members.

GDL is characterised by diversity of ideas and approaches due to its wide variety of members. With more than 200 members in 2020 – some more active than others – and some 40 new members joining GDL every year, this issue was a key challenge for the GDL strategy process. Feedback loops by members and partners were integrated into the strategy process. This required building on each other’s ideas instead of pushing own ideas and preferences. And an important element for decision-making was consent. This means that, while members may not fully agree with a decision that has been made, they can live with it. But it is important that members had the possibility to contribute their ideas and opinions, also later on in the implementation of the strategy.

GDL develops new formats and processes for a more inclusive diplomacy. It is not known how exactly this will look in five years from now, or how diplomacy and the notion of inclusivity will evolve during this period. GDL is therefore not a project with clearly defined outcomes and indicators that can easily measure and attribute the impact of its activities. It goes beyond well-known strategy formats. Above all, it requires courage to work with the unknown. It also requires the members’ confidence that the strategy group will work on their behalf.

Want to learn more? You can find the developed strategy "GDL 2025: Diplomacy 4.0" here.

The article was written by Marieke de Wal and Stella Pfisterer, from the Partnerships Resource Centre of the Erasmus University Rotterdam, Knowledge Partner of the GDL.

Published on May 28, 2020.

Further Articles

Gender Alliance: The Feminist Manifesto
In the framework of the Gender Alliance, several GDL Members initiated the articulation of the Feminist Manifesto. Take a look at the result of the cross-network collaboration!
GDL Talks on Security
We are facing common threats that no longer take borders, nationalities, age or gender into account. Listen to the apeals from GDL members Gabriela Canales and Shakeel Ramay on how to face such insecurities.
GDL Talks on Leadership
Listen to the powerful messages delivered by GDL members Netta Ahituv and Chris Fowler on leadership in the 21st century.
Positive Impact of COVID-19: Solidarity and Compassion
COVID-19 has shown humanity the importance of solidarity and compassion. That is good news, says GDL Member Gaurav Sharma.
Collaborative Leadership in Washington, DC
In light of Donald Trump’s controversial Presidency, GDL Member Khaldun Abdulkader Al Saadi reflects on a workshop on collaborative leadership held by the Accountability Lab in Washington, DC in March of this year.
“I am just going outside and may be some time”
Eirliani Abdul Rahman is a diplomat turned activist. To raise awareness for survivors of sexual child abuse, she is setting out for an expedition to Antarctica in December. Eirliani will be documenting her inner and outer struggles as she is preparing for this trip, pulling a sled with 200 pounds in food and gear, in temperatures dipping to minus 48° Celsius.
Cookie Policy
This website uses cookies to help us customise your experience and to provide optimal functionality. To learn more about cookies and their benefit and how you can control them, please view our cookie policy. By closing this message, you agree to the use of cookies.