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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.

Further Articles

How This Woman Is Making Cities Safe
Thanks to the hard work and dedication of GDL Member Elsa Marie D’Silva, SafeCities has become an important and influential organisation, working to make cities safer for women.
Why Stopping Violence in Chicago Is A Collective Effort
Chicago is experiencing some of the most severe problems with gang violence worldwide. GDL Member Julia Jaroschewski, reporter and founder of the BuzzingCities Labs, sums up the results of the GDL Impact Lab in Chicago which took place in November 2018.
The Great Threat to Women’s Rights Online: Reflections from World Press Freedom Day
The GDL participated at the World Press Freedom Day 2019. GDL Members Elizabeth Maloba and Patrick Mpedzisi discussed the persistent digital gender gap that impacts the online harassment of women journalists.
Global Changemakers: Cities as Future Labs
At the Latin America-Caribbean Conference GDL Members Julia Jaroschewski and Sonja Peteranderl hosted and facilitated an interactive session on the topic of cities as global changemakers. Read about their three takeaways.
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.
"We're not fixed, we're fluent"
GDL by definition is without definition. It’s a laboratory. Therefore, we are constantly experimenting with new things and engaging in self-reflection on what worked and what could be improved. I think this is our big advantage. We’re not fixed, we’re fluent

Elsa Marie D’Silva

Elsa Marie D’Silva is the founder and Managing Director 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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