Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Shape Your Future: ICS Alumni Conference 2014

Shape Your Future:  ICS Alumni Conference 2014

“I alone cannot change the world, but I can cast a stone across the waters to create many ripples” – Mother Teresa

400 ICS alumni, 11 agencies, six countries, four continents.

On 28 November 2015, beyond all of our expectations, by combining of all of these elements we created one global network of ICS alumni, in the form of the ‘Shape Your Future:  ICS Alumni Conference 2014’.

The conference was a fantastic celebration of ICS and the achievements of all ICS volunteers. It brought together a like-minded, passionate group of 170 people, the majority of them ICS alumni, wanting to shape a future not just for themselves but for the wider community.

Above and beyond

Over the past year we – the International Service Alumni Board and International Service – thought of how we could create an active network of alumni in the UK and overseas.

In what was the first ever alumni-led ICS conference, we are delighted to have surpassed our vision, by creating an active global network of ICS alumni across all 11 ICS agencies!

 A global network

Thanks to International Service ICS alumnus Liam Conlan, PwC hosted the event in a conference suite at their Embankment office free of charge. It was a brilliant opportunity and we are very grateful for their support.

Similar ICS alumni events took place around the world in South Africa, Bolivia, Ghana, Zimbabwe and Nepal. By sharing photos and experiences of events on social media in real time we created an inter-connected network bringing everyone together, despite the distance.

Supporting ICS alumni

Our aim for the conference was to celebrate ICS volunteer achievements, to consider how ICS can shape your future and ask ‘What’s next for the role of youth in development?’.

To celebrate the achievements of ICS volunteers, a video produced by International Service ICS alumnus Oliver Brenig Jones, demonstrated how ICS has changed the lives of ICS alumni across the world.

As well as discussing the role of youth in development in broad terms, we wanted to provide professional development opportunities for ICS alumni to help shape their future.

We offered attendees the choice of four different workshops focused on topics relevant to the international development sector: Campaigns – delivered by Tom Baker of Bond and Alasadair Roxburgh from Christian Aid; Programmes – by Philip Godwin of Tree Aid; Policy – by David Bailey from DFID; and Internal Communications – by Cate Dixon from Cancer Research UK

 Inspiring change

We were joined later in the day by networkers from Charity Works graduate scheme, Health Poverty Action, The Foyer Foundation, REDR UK, The Overseas Development Institute, Oxfam and Bond, and more delegates for an evening reception of informal networking.

In an opening speech by Brian Rockliffe, Director of ICS Hub, he thanked everyone for their help in making ICS such a success and challenged everyone to play a role in shaping the post-2015 development agenda.

We were very excited to welcome International Service alumna Anita Cossio, ICS team leader at Up Close Bolivia from Bolivia, as our guest speaker. She delivered an inspiring speech about her experiences of volunteering on the ICS programme in Bolivia and how it gave her an opportunity to shape her future.

Youth in development

In a lively panel discussion, expertly chaired by Lucy Beresford, our four panel members (Erika Lopez Franco of the Institute of Development Studies, Paul Cleal of PwC, David Bailey from DIFD and ICS alumna Felicity Burgess) took questions from the audience and from followers on Twitter. Topics including ‘What is the role of volunteering in solving poverty?’, and ‘Can development ever be sustainable?’, were hotly debated. But all agreed the importance of giving young people – who make up a quarter of the world’s population – a voice to shape the future.

What’s next?

I was impressed and inspired by the work of the conference organising committee who made it all happen, the passion of the speakers and the enthusiasm of all attendees.

It was reassuring to hear from the workshop providers that there isn’t a wrong way in to international development; in most cases you already have the skills – it’s just figuring out how to structure them and apply them to a role.

The event brought together alumni from different cohorts, including some from the organisation I volunteered with in Bolivia (Up Close Bolivia). It was a great opportunity to exchange stories and connect through shared experiences.

As chair of the International Service Alumni Board, I would like to thank everyone who made it possible. Through the conference we helped unite ICS alumni around the world, giving us a collective voice and a channel through which to discuss our experiences and ideas for the future.

Looking forward I hope we can all play a role in shaping the post-2015 development agenda. The question is, what will you do next?

On behalf of the International Service Alumni Board I would like to say a big thank you to: Jo Baker and International Service, the conference organising committee (including all ICS agencies and the ICS Hub), the ICS Hub, PwC, Liam Conlan, Anita Cossio, all workshop providers, networkers and panel members.

Isabel Baker, Chair of the International Service Alumni Board

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