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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 Marie 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.

About the author

Elsa Marie D’Silva is a social entrepreneur with interests in the fields of social and personal development, peace, aviation and mental health, and she is also the founder of the Red Dot Foundation (Safecity), a platform that crowdsources personal experiences of sexual violence and abuse in public spaces. 

Further Articles

The Social Impact Travels of the Global Diplomacy Lab
GDL Member Imran Simmins explores how the GDL encompasses the message and essence of a book entitled “Crossing Boundaries: A Traveler’s Guide to World Peace”.
Dialogue with ‘opposite’ Actors: Business Sector
In the last posts and the ones to come, Gina addresses dialogue between civil society and stakeholders from other sectors. Today, Ginas describes her experience of the dialogue between the business sector and civil society in Latin America.
Water Diplomacy 4.0 - Hope is on the Horizon
GDL Members Kathryn Bryk Friedman and Elsa Marie D'Silva, joined by water expert Prof Irena Creed presented their vision on Water Diplomacy 4.0 - Process Matters at the Transatlantic Climate Bridge Conference hosted by adelphi.
Dialogues among different kinds of Actors: Religious Actors
In previous posts Gina has talked about processes of dialogue between civil society organisations (CSOs) and societal stakeholders, in the next few posts she will address dialogue between civil society and stakeholders from other sectors. Today, Ginas describes how to open up dialogue with the religious sector.
Gender is way more than just women’s rights
Camila Gomide writes about how working with the Gender Alliance helped her do more to achieve gender equity.
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?

Elsa Marie D’Silva

Elsa Marie D’Silva is the founder of Red Dot Foundation Global (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, Nigeria and Nepal.

She is an advisor to Women 7 (W7) under the German Presidency and part of the working group on Ending Gender based Violence. The W7 is a group of civil society organizations who come together to promote proposals on gender equality and women’s rights to governments within the Group of 7 (G7). At the same time, Elsa is a D&AD Awards Jury member for Impact (2021, 2022) and Future Impact (2021) and an Impact Council member.

Elsa Marie is an alumna of the US State Department’s Fortune Program, Stanford CDDRL as well as the Swedish Institute Management Program. She is a fellow with Gratitude Network, International Women's Forum, Yale World, Rotary Peace, Aspen New Voices , SE Forum, Vital Voices, Fast FWD Philadelphia, Chevening Gurukul at Oxford and a Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow at NED. Moreover, Elsa is a BMW Responsible Leader, Bosch fellow and is listed as one of BBC Hindi’s 100 Women. She has won the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the SheThePeople’s Digital Woman Award in Social Impact and the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award.

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.

Elsa Marie D’Silva

Elsa Marie D’Silva is the founder of Red Dot Foundation Global (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, Nigeria and Nepal.

She is an advisor to Women 7 (W7) under the German Presidency and part of the working group on Ending Gender based Violence. The W7 is a group of civil society organizations who come together to promote proposals on gender equality and women’s rights to governments within the Group of 7 (G7). At the same time, Elsa is a D&AD Awards Jury member for Impact (2021, 2022) and Future Impact (2021) and an Impact Council member.

Elsa Marie is an alumna of the US State Department’s Fortune Program, Stanford CDDRL as well as the Swedish Institute Management Program. She is a fellow with Gratitude Network, International Women's Forum, Yale World, Rotary Peace, Aspen New Voices , SE Forum, Vital Voices, Fast FWD Philadelphia, Chevening Gurukul at Oxford and a Reagan Fascell Democracy Fellow at NED. Moreover, Elsa is a BMW Responsible Leader, Bosch fellow and is listed as one of BBC Hindi’s 100 Women. She has won the Female Entrepreneur of the Year Award, the SheThePeople’s Digital Woman Award in Social Impact and the Vital Voices Global Leadership Award.

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.

......................................................................................................................................................

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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