International engagement: new trends and ‘time honored’ patterns

August 12, 2013

In support of a few organizations that are increasing their international engagement, I have been surveying a number of organizations further along the international engagement spectrum  for their experiences.  I started to follow a number of these ‘further along the spectrum’ organizations over a decade ago, and it has been interesting to see some new trends, some accelerated trends, and also to see some patterns that have remained consistent.

New (er)

One area of operating globally that seems to be of increasing interest but not yet well explored is the need to connect offline and online communities so the two don’t become totally segregated within the larger organizational community.    Although there are some online communities that have been functioning for a number of years, models of this, and of how the online and offline learning is shared, can be hard to find.

Accelerating

  • Organizational models are changing, with decision-making becoming less centralized and with more local autonomy expected.  Organizations that understand this, limit how much needs to be ‘core’ and controlled centrally, seem to be most successful in having a local impact.
  • Individual global interactions have accelerated dramatically.  Most organizations now have many of their individual members with their own global connections and it is often a challenge for organizations to identify these interactions and link to what can potentially increase their community and ultimate the impact it may be trying to have.
  • Open data sharing vis a vis using paywalls is a growing internal ‘debate’ in many organizations.  There are those who are more comfortable with open data sharing (towards a ‘greater good’) who often come into conflict (or at least intensive discussion) with those wanting to preserve certain types of information (the organization’s ‘intellectual property’) and potential revenue that can be generated from this information.  Many organizations are temporarily resolving this through portals that have both open and password protected sections.

Consistent over time

  • Relationship building – Although many of us like to try and find short-cuts, there is nothing that has replaced the importance of building relationships.  Organizations that understand the need to take the time to do this have more sustainable local initiatives.
  • Time and commitment – Board understanding of the organizational commitment that is needed and allocating time to plan, build relationships, test initiatives, evaluate, modify, etc… has and continues to be an on-going challenge.  Although this concept has not changed over time, because we are living in a world where technology is an increasingly important factor to consider, and one which can provide the illusion of speed in all areas, the need to sometimes ‘take things slow’ can be a hard ‘reality’ for many to accept.