A walk by Geneva Lake: Reflections by MAS 22 cohort

by | Sep 23, 2022 | Alumni, International Relations | 1 comment

What brings together a senior advisor in multilateral affairs and governance, a gender sociologist with expertise in diversity, equity, inclusion and the Middle East, a business developer with her own think and do tank to co-create impact, a PR & digital marketing consultant advocating for arts & crafts preservation, and an international development professional working on health and environment linkages?

We all come from different sectors, career paths, and cultures. And yet, we have so much in common. What is it that made us to some point in our trajectory, consider different routes, take career turns, and venture into new horizons? Is it about embracing risks and being open to uncertainties? About being optimistic and confident in what the future holds? About finding and connecting with inspiring peers? About exploring new spaces and challenges?

On a sunny Sunday afternoon, we met by Geneva Lake to learn more about ourselves and engaged in a lively conversation on our individual and collective transformative journey. Here are the main takeaways we would like to share with you.

Take a risk, let the ego go

We are all shaped by our disciplines, sectors, and educational background. New ventures and career moves often start with these new connections and spaces. Finding a common language and adopting a truly multidisciplinary approach to a particular issue takes a journey, to accept uncertainty humbly, empathize and expand our awareness beyond our own concepts and beliefs, in other words, to let the ego go, from ego-systems to eco-systems, and to move from comfort zones to new possibilities. 

Find that bridge you don’t see – because there is always one

We live in an interconnected world with systemic challenges. As we listen to each other’s and contemplate the lake’s horizon, we discover and discuss some of these interconnected issues: 

Bridges grounded in community engagement

Have we fully explored the principle of community engagement for advancing the 2030 Agenda for sustainable development? Governments alone cannot address global challenges such as climate change, geopolitical tensions and the COVID-19 pandemic: a whole-of-society approach with commitments from all sectors is essential. Community engagement can take different shapes, as illustrated by the Geneva Macro Labs, a think and do tank which brings together the public and private sectors, academia and civil society, to advocate for a sustainable future, building on foresight and collective intelligence.

 Environment and health linkages

Are we fully aware of the impact of the planetary crisis and environmental degradation on our health and well-being? Implementing environmental policies, for example, on climate change mitigation and adaptation, air pollution, biodiversity conservation and ecosystem restoration, generates multiple health co-benefits. Taking care of the planet means looking after our health.

Craftsmanship, education and international trade

Have we ever considered the synergies that can take place between craftsmanship, education and international trade? Beside the active preservation of cultural heritage, arts and crafts could contribute to reducing poverty and increasing sustainable trade. The development of robust vocational education and craftspeople empowerment through technical assistance and digital skills has a positive impact on SDGs achievement. 

That bridge we don’t see is often the path to common solutions, new spaces, partnerships and unexpected intersectoral synergies. Foresight can be very helpful in identifying, mapping and analyzing these connections, and finding meaning and bridges between global issues.

Be the change you wish to see in the world” – Mohandas Karamchand Gandhi

Given the complexity of global challenges, it is legitimate to feel overwhelmed and sometimes disarmed to face them. Let us not underestimate the impact of our individual change and its effects on our surrounding environment. What if changing the world started with our families and communities? What if, by making the right decisions and caring for others, we were changing the world every day? Transformation is indeed personal but sometimes all it takes is a little nudge to inspire our family, community and organization. Dare to lead by example: we can be surprised by the power of small changes and the potential snowball effect they could trigger.

Say it – be different, outside the box and the screen

In our interconnected world, means of communication shape our daily lives. The COVID-19 pandemic has catalyzed several transformations – a digital economy, hybrid work models, new forms of social interaction and distancing. For example, several multilateral negotiation processes were challenged and delayed due to the pandemic. This led to venturing into virtual negotiations, which also created additional challenges to reach consensus and agreement. “Nothing is agreed until everything agreed” took other dimensions – chats in the corridors moved to other types of virtual informal communications. Interestingly, the workforce completely shifted in a very short timeframe to teleworking modalities. This clearly shows we always have an opportunity to communicate in different manners and various channels, to take responsibility and ownership for thinking outside the box and the screen. 

And now, what? As we take leave from each other from Geneva Lake and head towards our respective engagements, we ask ourselves questions about our future – individual and collective. What will remain? What are our future directions? Is our future that hard to imagine? We realize that we all already have a few clues about our future selves… Most likely, it will be about venturing into new disciplines and journeys. Building connections. Being on the move. Ready to embrace what the future holds. As we all venture into new spaces, sharing this moment of reunion by Geneva Lake was powerful and inspiring… A sense of community and care to help us all lead by example and fully embrace the future.

The five authors of this article recently completed an Executive Master in International Strategy and Leadership at the Graduate Institut (MAS 22). The views expressed are the authors’ own/personal.

Hani Chaar
Senior advisor in international strategies and UN governance matters, including mediation, lobbying and influencing. Expert in bilateral and multilateral negotiations related to international law including disarmament, human rights, international humanitarian law, labor and migration. 

Michela Cerruti
Social scientist specialised in gender dynamics. For a long time, focused on female movements in Syria and advocating for female participation in peace processes in the Middle East. Recently provided expert advice on the drafting of Diversity Equity and Inclusion policies. 

Renate Guenther
Multilingual Business Development professional with more than a decade of proven track record in the B2B business intelligence sector. Startup experience as a Co-Founder of the think and do Tank Geneva Macro Labs

Julio Pérez Garcia | revenga-geneve.com | labelgeneve.ch
PR & Digital marketing consultant advocating for the preservation of the arts & crafts sector. He co-founded the last artisanal shirtmaking workshop in Geneva and presides over the Genevan Arts & Crafts Association. 

Laetitia Sieffert
International development professional working with the UN system for a decade. Currently based in Montreal, leading the work of the Convention on Biological Diversity on health, gender and biodiversity.

1 Comment

  1. Julián Ginzo

    Congrats to Julio and Renate! Both talented and hard workers.


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