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The Think-and-Do-Tank that Makes Diplomacy Work 

"In the two years since I have been a member of the Global Diplomacy Lab (GDL), it has become a big part of my life – both personal and professional."

By Elsa D’Silva

I was invited to apply to become a GDL member in 2017 after my organisation Red Dot Foundation, which strives to prevent sexual violence, was awarded the Intercultural Innovation Award by the UN Alliance of Civilisations and BMW for our crowd mapping platform Safecity. At first, I didn’t really understand its full potential and what we were attempting to do. But then I attended my first lab in Buenos Aires in June 2017. The lab was an attempt to address mass atrocities and genocide prevention in conjunction with ESMA in Argentina, a museum that serves as both evidence and a condemnation of state terrorism. GDL is a network-driven membership organisation, supported by the German Federal Foreign Office and German foundations, and it was inspirational to meet committed, passionate and solution-driven individuals across several sectors, collectively attempting to find answers to difficult problems.

The “think and do” format is very insightful, using theory and practice to generate solutions. In business, we are constantly dependent on large consulting firms to provide us with insights and show us the way forward. However, in the social sector, there is very little collaborative effort involving diverse stakeholders to find solutions. There is clearly a space for this niche offering, and this was highlighted when we represented the GDL at the Paris Peace Forum, where several organisations expressed interest in our work.

For me, the GDL represents an opportunity to work on large social problems that are beyond my personal and organisational expertise. It is a chance to work alongside some of the most intelligent people on the planet with whom I would not normally have contact. More importantly, it constantly broadens my knowledge and skills not only with theoretical knowledge but also through attempts to find practical solutions via idea generation, brainstorming, collaboration on hyperlocal solutions with government and NGO actors and prototype testing.

GDL has also given me opportunities to engage the wider community in discussions on topics that matter to me, such as promotion of gender equality, creation of safe public spaces and preventing sexual violence. I have led a learning session on using social media for good, a workshop on safe public spaces at the Global Media Forum and the Paris Peace Forum with Eirliani Abdul Rahman, a former diplomat turned activist who is passionate about ending child sexual abuse.

As GDL reflects on its five years of existence and strategises to strengthen its impact over the next few years, I am excited to be part of the Strategy working group. I personally will be looking to put “Gender on the Agenda” so that we don’t lose sight of this important aspect. I would encourage each of you to take part in the survey we have circulated and add your valuable input as we flesh this out together. At the end of the day, as a network-member-driven organisation, we each have a role to play and learn in the process. It is a collective effort which makes us unique and impactful.

I am looking forward to working with you closely so that together we can tackle one problem at a time.

Published on April 17, 2019.

Further Articles

Care and Inclusiveness as Values for Diplomacy
86% of people want a more equitable and sustainable world after COVID-19, according to a recent study. Can we achieve this goal if we continue to do the same as we did before this crisis?
GDL Talks – Daring to Change: Alternative Ideas to Address Current Global Challenges
With pressing issues around the globe, it is more important than ever to break patterns that lead us to business as usual. The GDL Talks at the 2020 prE-Summit brought powerful and inspirational ideas on how to face some of the current global challenges.
City-to-city Diplomacy
In an article written for the Brookings Institution, GDL member Max Bouchet is discussing city-to-city diplomacy with regard to the Covid-19 crisis and gives an insight into its potential.
Elizabeth Maloba on the Empowerment of Women in Africa
In an interview with the BMW Foundation, GDL member Elizabeth Maloba is discussing the empowerment of women and the importance of the Gender Alliance for rising awareness of gender equality.
Responsible Leadership Starts With Me
GDL Member Amarachi Adannaya Igboegwu reflects on the SDG Global Festival of Action held in Bonn, Germany earlier this year. Read about what she learned when it comes to responsible leadership.
How street lights can ease women's lives and boost the economy
A major factor blocking women's economic integration is the lack of public safety. This is especially relevant in India, recently named the world’s most dangerous country for women. Elsa Marie D'Silva suggests that to make cities safer, decision-makers must finally consider women’s needs.

Elsa Marie D’Silva

Elsa Marie D’Silva is the founder and CEO of Red Dot Foundation (Safecity), a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces. Since Safecity started in December 2012, it has become the largest crowd map on the issue in India, Kenya, Cameroon and Nepal.
Elsa Marie is an alumna of the US State Department’s Fortune Program, a fellow with Rotary Peace, Aspen New Voices and Vital Voices, and a BMW Foundation Responsible Leader. She is listed as one of BBC Hindi’s 100 Women. Moreover, she has won the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award launched by Dušan Stojanović (European Angel Investor of the Year 2013) and the SheThePeople’s Digital Woman Award in Social Impact.
Prior to Safecity, she spent 20 years in the aviation industry, where she worked with Jet Airways and Kingfisher Airlines. In her last role in aviation, she was Vice President Network Planning.

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Read more about Elsa's work at Safecity and see for yourself in this documentary. She also has a very clear vision for the Global Diplomacy Lab.

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