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Global Flipchart #18



April 2020

Chapter India rallies!

Narasimhan V

Can you just tell our readers a little bit about yourself, how did you arrive at facilitation? What brought you to the IAF and where have you been working in the past?

I joined IAF just before the IAF Asia Conference at Mumbai, India in 2015. I was smitten by the Conference experience, the geniality of the Facilitators and generosity of sharing. This inspired me to start an IAF Hub at Chennai, South India where I live. Process facilitation was largely unknown back then in Chennai. I received strong backing from the IAF India Core Committee to start the Hub. In India, we have a Chapter with Hubs in six cities, i.e, in Bangalore, Chennai, Delhi, Hyderabad, Mumbai and Pune.  On 31st March 2020, I demitted my office as the IAF India Chair after a fantastic two-year term, well backed by Jawad Ahmed, Co-Chair and committed Core Committee (CC) Members who are the Leads and Co-Leads of each City Hub. As a CC, our tag line for contributions to the Chapter is ‘ease and joy’!  This helped us to deliver on commitments with high spirits – fun, friendship and facilitation all through. 

To the question where I have been working, I have been working as Head – Learning & Development, Sundaram Learning (a Division of Sundaram Finance Holdings Limited).  This group of companies in the financial services industry has about 12,000 employees.

Narsi, you already told us that this India Chapter's webinar initiative 'was like winking in the dark'. Can you share the whole story, how it all began and who are the makeshift agents besides yourself?

It all started as a strategy to address a problem – member retention. At the India Core Committee offsite meet of 2017, we explored a question “what more would enable  members to renew their membership?” Taking a look at the membership cycle, we realised that on the eve of our Conferences, the membership goes up and drops within a year. We also found that quite a number of our members couldn’t attend our f2f events for different reasons. There wasn’t a way to engage with them and this could be a strong reason for non-renewal.

So, webinars helped us to reach the members at their doorsteps.  It paid off in a major way as members and non-members too were engaged which led to membership retention going up and new members coming in! The entire CC rallied behind this initiative.

Next was the how? I knew Kimberly Bain and wrote to her. She graciously accepted our invite to do our first Webinar in April 2017. We didn’t know about Zoom much. One CC member knew and walked us through. We learnt how to operate zoom six hours before our first India webinar. Over 70 had registered. I had known Tom Schwartz too and he also swiftly accepted for May 2017. Based on this beginner’s luck, the initiative gathered steam and we started booking Facilitators from across the globe six months in advance. Our CC members gave us leads.  CPFs from India, supported in a big way by offering to facilitate sessions.  So, it was not a solo performance but a whole Orchestra performed to reach where we are.

 Why it was a wink in the dark? Only the India Chapter knew about our initiative and the IAF World didn’t.  After two years of experience, last year, under the One Asia umbrella, we promoted our Webinars in Asia too which was well received.  Met Hector at the September 2019 Malaysia Conference, and as we discussed about our Webinars, he mooted the idea of offering this globally. He himself opened the account by facilitating the first India hosted Global webinar in January 2020. Now the wink is in broad day light.

A "Tech hero"- to ward off the tech monkeys with ease, as you mention, is always needed for these kinds of events or can we do them solo? Please expand.

It’s not impossible to do them solo.  However, from our experience, we highly recommend having tech support. It helps the Facilitator to focus on her/his main role. There could be a few tech issues that would need special attention and it can be overwhelming for the Facilitator to handle them while keeping the engagement with the participants also on. The Facilitator can spend that time with the participants who are checking in, engaging with them and answer queries.

Another resource person to read out the queries on the chat would be recommended too though the tech support can wear this hat as well.  Tech monkeys need exclusive attention. Rajkumar, from Chennai, India is a huge support in this and has been there since the first webinar in April 2017. He learnt Zoom from the scratch. He’s consistent, hugely reliable and stands like the Rock of Gibraltar – a great asset for IAF and has supported several Facilitators globally.  Somehow the tech monkeys seem to behave better when he is at the wheels!

Finally, with the COVID19 crisis what are you experiencing differently, can this "dynamic duo" from India help us sustain a more global conversation initiative? What would be your recommendations and proposed next steps to the IAF Board to do in our 3 goals of 'building community, recognising impact and enhancing our professional development"?

  1. Thanks to several webinars going around the world, learning quotient and e-touch enhanced.  Made new friends across the world.  Seeing them in action, inviting some of them to do a webinar for our global community has become easier now than ever.
  2. About the question on next steps, I can see that IAF Global Conference Team is already bringing the members on a single virtual platform to have conversations at this time of COVID 19. Asia Region is also planning webinars for members' professional development. This effectively brings our community together and builds it too.
  3. Global Social Impact Project (GSIP) is one area the IAF Board can look at in a structured manner where IAF can work with other Global bodies like U.N, W.H.O in these tough times and in the future as well. Have heard about the Facilitator community coming together during the Fukushima disaster. Terms of agreement signed up at the IAF Global level can permeate across the 65 country Chapters where IAF is present and volunteers can offer community service.  Legal aspects to be considered though. But just a thought about how much we can do now. For SIP and all initiatives where ‘coming together’ has been successful, we have a slogan in the India Chapter ‘WE ONE, WE WON!’
  4. For Professional Development, IAF can help in enabling Facilitators to shift gears from f2f mode to the new demand of Online Facilitation. The IAF Board can support the Members in this area which is going to be a key skill to stay relevant and updated.  It’s for members’ professional development.
  5. Other initiatives like Endorsed Facilitators, extending the Mentoring Program would go a long way in Members professional development.

Signing off for now with a sincere thanks for sending me the questionnaire and letting me share my / India Chapter’s experience.  I must acknowledge the entire Orchestra called the IAF India Chapter members, the ever ready and highly committed India Core Committees of the past and present, the Social Media Team, the Facweek Volunteers and other Volunteers who would serve in the India SIP which is coming up.  All of them richly deserve a round of applause for their unstinted support.  It’s a long journey of the India Chapter over a decade to be where we are. Under ‘One Asia’, we learn from other Chapters and are able to share our best practices too within the Asia Chapters!