Supporting network members to be agents of social change
Although there is an abundance of learning opportunities with new approaches and methodologies to create positive social change, people often experience unexpected challenges, resistance, or even hostility towards their plans once they’re back at work. A diverse network can provide the necessary know-how, perspectives, and support mechanisms to overcome these obstacles—if a strategic and coherent format can be designed that can tap into these resources. The Bosch Alumni Network’s “Governance Academy” is a showcase on how this can be achieved.
The Governance Cluster of the Bosch Alumni Network brings together more than 1,100 members from across the globe who are working on global governance and public policy issues. Members include lawyers, journalists, civil society actors, scientists, artists, public officials, and creative bureaucrats. They are united by their common ambition to achieve positive change in their respective societies, their interest in cross-sectoral and transnational collaboration, and their desire to learn about alternative governance models.
Still, even members in senior positions often face challenges and resistance when introducing new ideas into their organization or field of work. Although these challenges can be as diverse as the individuals experiencing them, they can be grouped into three principal levels:
- Personal level: How can we remain resilient, healthy, and balanced when facing the demands of highly complex, long-term challenges, or resistance to our ideas for innovative interventions?
- Organizational level: Many organizations are stuck in a state of rigidity which prevents them from reacting with agility to an increasingly fast-changing world. How can we overcome this rigid state?
- Systemic level: Sustainable social change can only be achieved on a systemic level. How can we enable change not only on a personal or organizational level, but on a systemic level as well—especially in highly volatile times?
Tapping into the strength of a diverse network
The Governance Cluster took on the task of channeling the experience and wisdom of its diverse group to address members’ shared challenges as agents of social change. The inaugural edition of the Governance Academy brought together about 40 mid- to senior-level professionals from the Bosch Alumni Network in the summer of 2022. They gathered at an inspiring location in northern Italy that not only created a safe space for workshops and exchange, but also provided an ideal setting to encourage openness and a chance to breathe.
The five-day event was organized through a cooperation of the Robert Bosch Stiftung, the Kreisau-Initiative e. V., the Freya von Moltke Foundation for New Kreisau, and the International Alumni Center as the host of the Bosch Alumni Network. It featured keynotes, workshop sessions, and ample opportunities for discussion on topics such as:
- “Personal Transformation & Resilience” by Silvena Garelova, Psychologist & Systemic Coach at the School of Mindful Facilitation. Silvena reminded participants that all humans have needs—for protection, support, limitations, and space. Participants gained insights on how to recognize their own needs as well as ways we overcompensate for unsatisfied ones, and from there, how to improve self-care. This session addressed needs on the personal level.
- “Public Sector Innovation & the Future of Cities” by Charles Landry, President of the Creative Bureaucracy Festival. Real-life case studies of creative bureaucracy helped participants to understand how to bring together seemingly adverse spheres like ‘creativity’ and ‘bureaucracy.’ This session addressed needs on the organizational level.
- “International Relations & Future Foresight” by Dr. Monika Sus, Work Package Leader at ENGAGE. Dr. Sus introduced participants to the strategic foresight method to envision future scenarios based on identified drivers of change. This provided participants with the sense of still having some degree of control over an assumedly unpredictable future. This session addressed needs on the systemic level.
These individual sessions came together to provide participants with skills, methods, knowledge, and reassurance on how to personally embrace change, translate adaptions for change in rigid organizational environments, and how to keep a sense of control in a complex and volatile world. The sessions were organized, hosted, and moderated by members of the Bosch Alumni Network, thus proving the initial assumption that a diverse network has the potential and strength to support agents of change by addressing their common needs.
Scaling-up the format
Building on this success, the academy format and its central approaches will be adapted for other urgent topics. Starting off in 2023, a diverse group of Bosch Alumni Network members will gather to learn and support each other around the topic of “Democracy.” Additional socially relevant topics will follow in the coming years—all sharing the goal of supporting people who are aspiring to act as agents of social change.
Samples from the anonymous evaluation after the event
“ I learned which skills and strategies can help people to adjust to ‘change’ in rigid environments.”
“I learned that despite feeling alone in many situations, you are not alone in the change-making journey. Peers can be found, whether in your vicinity or physically far away, but who feel very close to you in terms of passion and experience.”
“I kept on talking about [the Governance Academy] to anyone who would listen and received plenty of ‘envious’ responses.”
“So happy to hear that there are still conferences and meetings that make sense and inspire, rather than just drain energy.”
“Thanks to this event, I have started a new partnership with another participant’s organization.”
This article was orginally published in the iac Berlin Activity Report 2022. The entire report is available as free download:
If you want to know more about the Governance Academy, the Bosch Alumni Network, or the iac Berlin's role as coordinator of these, do not hesitate to get in touch with: