All Systems Connect 2023 - what did you think?

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Re: All Systems Connect 2023 - what did you think?

Thank you Sean for initaiting this thread and to others for contributing. 

Alexandra said

Firstly, I was very impressed with the level of professionalism with which this event was organised. It was like clockwork! Despite the complexity of the programme, everything ran so smoothly. The organisers have found the perfect formula for a conference: an appropriate balance between entertaining moderation, inspiring speakers, interesting facts and figures, interactive sessions and networking opportunities.

I'd like to add that a lot of content from the conference is also already shared here . To do it so quickly is another point the organisers have got done well, especially for people like me who could not attend in person. I look forward to learning more about the deliberations in the coming weeks. Perhaps they could also share the content in textual format in the future. 

Thank you, Alexandra for also pointing out the confusion around the term 'system'. I think IRC has done a good job in describing what they mean by WASH system in this working paper  (see image below).  The authors also point out that the term 'enabling environment' is a nebulous term. However, in practice, probably the term system is also being used similarly; every professional may have a different connotation of the term (much like enabling environment). Perhaps the organisers could also hammer what they mean by the WASH system and systems thinking in future events. One way could be to include the figure in their conference and promotional material and display it on boards at the venue.

regards
paresh
 
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Re: All Systems Connect 2023 - what did you think?

Thank you for starting this post, I think it is crucial as a result of such a conference to find the time and space to reflect on all the information we take in in such a short period of time. And that is why I would like to make a pledge to the conference organisers to avoid back-to-back conferences, as was the case in the first half of this year! Coming back to All System Connect 2023, it was definitely as you described, a dense and complex agenda, and I was only able to attend the first day of the conference, so I may not have the full picture, but here are some of my impressions and takeaways:
 
Firstly, I was very impressed with the level of professionalism with which this event was organised. It was like clockwork! Despite the complexity of the programme, everything ran so smoothly. The organisers have found the perfect formula for a conference: an appropriate balance between entertaining moderation, inspiring speakers, interesting facts and figures, interactive sessions and networking opportunities.
 
Secondly, and here comes a bit of criticism, I would have liked to see a bit less of "systems thinking", "systems leaders" and "connecting systems". I agree that "repetition is the mother of mastery", but the hammering was sometimes a bit much and I ended up a bit confused about what systems we were talking about. Linkages between sectors? between projects? between disciplines? between frameworks? between stakeholders? All of the above? I would have liked the speakers to be a bit more specific when throwing around the magic word 'systems'. However, I liked that many panellists insisted on the fact that we can all be considered leaders (or rather system leaders), which forces us to look at our field of action to find solutions, rather than shifting responsibilities.
 
Thirdly, I found itparticularly refreshing that so much emphasis was placed on youth and their contribution to the sector, and that young speakers were invited to speak alongside their senior counterparts on the main stage, rather than in separate sessions. I was also very grateful for the series of sessions on decolonising the WASH narrative, which kept me thinking about why this discussion is happening and how exactly we can achieve this. I am very grateful to Sareen Malik, Chaiwe Sanderse and Rohini Pradeep for enlightening me in this regard. The SuSanA secretariat will try to capture the key messages and takeaways from these discussions in a blog post.
 
It would be great to hear from other participants and to start such a thread after each conference. 






Alexandra Dubois

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Re: All Systems Connect 2023 - what did you think?

Thanks, Remi. I've been working my way through the SSIR archive, but I hadn't come across that article so thanks for flagging it.

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Re: All Systems Connect 2023 - what did you think?

I like what you're saying Sean!
The choices you are proposing also apply to private actors. I like how it's been framed in " What's your endgame " (full text attached) with six possible destinations, and corresponding systemic changes you can aim for.

In terms of the conference itself, not sure I'm happy with what came out of the Finance stream, the "big actions" seem quite conservative to me and toeing the World Bank line on what works or not.
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All Systems Connect 2023 - what did you think?

Hello everyone
It was great to meet many of you at the IRC+Water for People+Water for Good "All Systems Connect" symposium last week in The Hague. Sorry for those who weren't able to attend - it was a dense and complex agenda that wouldn't have worked as hybrid event, but you can get a flavour from some of the recordings posted by IRC here: www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLbK8slkI4...UAt1RHC8GheMD3L2fnMn

If you were there, what did you think? What were your main takeaways?

I think there is still work to do to explain how to apply "systems thinking" to WASH at practical level, but this was a step forward. In a session I was managing on climate resilience there were some great case studies at different scales and discussion about climate resilience can only come from tackling systemic issues in a coordinated way with other partners: one off projects just don't cut it.

That led me to reflect on the comfortable NGO/Aid narrative of "our aim is to work ourselves out of a job" - 70 years of post WWII international development doesn't seem to show much of that. International development cooperation and humanitarian assistance are needed as much as ever. So perhaps local and international NGOs should accept that they are part of the permanent fabric of societies around the work and actively choose to be one or both of the following:
  1. Service providers
  2. Advocates and facilitators of systemic strengthening of governance, accountability, capacities and resources that supports WASH services
For NGO (and the private sector, maybe?) to do this, funders need to really shift away from the short-term project funding mentality, because the timescales we are looking at for meaningful improvement is measured in decades not 3-4 years. Of course this is difficult for funding organisations who have their own institutional and political challenges and structures that limit what and how they can fund.

What do you think? Am I completely off-track on this? What else came out of the conference?
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