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December 2016
| Issue #6

Chair's corner: Looking sideways

Greetings!

By all accounts 2016 has been an eventful year. Internationally, Brexit and the US Presidential elections that was recently concluded, come to mind for their seismic implications about how global co-operation, trade, and free exchange of people and ideas across borders will be affected. While these implications are yet to be fully made manifest, it is clear that there is a rising trend of turning inwards and a preference to make ‘us and them’ distinctions, rather than to look outwards and to choose understanding in order to see a more holistic ‘we’.

Equally obvious is that there are people and groups who, legitimately or otherwise, feel that their voices have not been heard and there are people and groups who would seek to use that sentiment for their self-serving agendas. In all this, I believe that the IAF can be a force for good in our countries, societies, and local communities simply because we stand for respect, diversity, dialogue, and collaboration.

How can an association of about 1700 persons make impact on a complex world of 6 billion people? I suggest 3 ways in which we can be more effective in doing so, by looking sideways from my experience as an avid long-distance cyclist:

1. Pacing matters

When I cycle two abreast with my friends, one of the things that can make or break the larger group’s cycling experience is when one of the leading pair starts to ‘half-wheel’. This is when the rider starts to push forward ‘half-a-wheel’ more than his partner. This doesn’t seem like an issue, except that it sets up a competitive momentum which not only pulls the partner rider forward, but every rider behind who tries to keep up, inevitably leaving the slower riders behind. Furthermore, half-wheeling on a turn could result in a nasty crash for the pair because of the possibility of overlapping wheels touching.

The object lesson here for us in the IAF is to keep aware of our pace in growing and progressing across regions and chapters, consciously building trust and capacity to do more together. This is not to say that regions, chapters and new initiatives that are breaking new ground should be held back. Rather, it is really about being in good connection together. One idea might be to have a twinning programme for established chapters to connect with new ones would be useful to put in place in the coming year.

2. Partners matter

When we look sideways, we can also chance on fellow ‘travellers’ - individuals and groups, who are on a parallel journey of their own. The value of these fellow travellers would be their respective lessons that we can learn vicariously from.

As an association, we are constantly on the lookout for valuable strategic partnerships and we have already embarked on a few this year with the Institute for Cultural Affairs, IMEX Exhibitions, and we will be announcing another one soon. We are also continuing our dialogue with the National Coalition for Dialogue and Deliberation after our sponsorship of their 2016 Conference in October to establish new areas of collaboration to do more together.

3. Pause for understanding

Any road-user will tell you that collisions are likelier to happen at traffic junctions. As a cyclist riding on busy Singapore streets and roads, I always approach junctions with greater care, making sure that cars come to a complete stop before I cycle across. At the same time, I make sure that the driver in the car next to me is aware that I am there before he heads off too.

A momentary, complete stop is sometimes essential for sense-making about our changing environment to take place. This pause is not just useful for its own sake. Rather, the resultant understanding helps in collective decision-making about what is around us and how we should be as a profession and as an association to be in synchronicity with what the world needs us to be.

In the January 2017 Chair’s Corner, I will focus on ‘Looking Forward’. On behalf of the 2016 Board, I bid you and yours Season’s Greetings and a bountiful 2017 ahead!

Noel E K Tan, CPF
IAF Board Chair, 2016-2017