The Swedish Institute’s activities are largely about creating networks and relationships between people from all over the world. We do this through leadership programmes, alumni meetings, journalist visits, scholarship programmes and cultural activities.

As physical meetings, visits and trips are now canceled or postponed, we – like many others – need to change our way of working. In order to be able to carry out planned activities, we are now taking a big leap in the process of digitalising our leadership programmes. 

– The participants of our various leadership programmes show great understanding when we postpone the meetings, so-called modules, which were to take place in Sweden during the spring and summer, says Adiam Tedros, head of the Development Programme unit. Due to the circumstances we are now focusing on developing our online meetings.

Lucas Grind, digital facilitator at SI.

Lucas Grind is a learning designer and digital facilitator at SI. Right now, the unit is developing innovative, creative and interactive solutions on how participants in leadership programmes from a variety of countries can acquire new knowledge and skills and build relationships digitally.

– SI has already begun this transformation which we now need to scale up because of the pandemic, says Lucas Grind.

He emphasizes that it is not about turning a physical meeting, workshop or training course into a digital version. It is important to acknowledge the potential of the digital meeting, its specific qualities – and not to consider it a worse version of a physical meeting.

– With such a perspective, new opportunities will arise to pursue development and combine physical and digital learning in a way that often creates even greater impact. In times like these, demands for digital transformation are raised. This is ongoing work and we are constantly learning new ways to achieve maximum co-creation both digitally and physically. Together with partners and programme participants, we continue our work on Agenda 2030.

Tips for anyone who wants to develop their digital meetings:

Preparing for a meeting

A digital meeting requires more time and preparation since improvising is not as easy as in a physical meeting. This may have contributed to the fact that SI’s digital meetings nowadays often are more efficient and more focused. We usually publish the purpose, the goal, the agenda, the approach and the documents for co-creation and documentation well in advance.

Avoid long meetings, divide them into several shorter interactions to maintain focus and interest over time. We design the interactions as a process and imagine what happens before, during and after we meet live in a video meeting. When we meet live, we focus on what we do best together and cannot do individually. Before and after the digital meeting, we focus on the work we can do individually.

Howspace digital platform

Howspace is an interactive learning platform that we use in our leadership programmes to share content and communicate with participants before, during and after a live seminar. We upload video lectures, presentations of each other, workshop templates and assignments onto Howspace; we chat and give feedback to each other.

We share material for a maximum of 20 to 30 minutes at a time, in order to keep everyone’s interest up. We plan to host podcasts, video lectures and live stream study visits to exciting organizations. Participants can access the content when it suits them.

Expert Coaching

We will place much focus on the participants’ own projects and development and increase the amount of online coaching they receive from experts. One of the advantages of working digitally is that experts and mentors can closely follow the participants’ projects.

Zoom

At SI we use Zoom for video meetings. Zoom has features that facilitate a variety of interactions, such as polls and separate group dialogues in the same video seminar – so-called “break out sessions”. These enable more intimate conversations among small numers of participants, giving more people the chance to speak.

Slack

We use the Slack platform to communicate and build relationships with each other outside of the video meetings. It reduces the amount of emails, creates more order and increases contact between colleagues and programme participants. We also use Slack to create an area for smaller study groups to build relationships and discuss projects.

Building a digital culture

Building culture and relationships online can be a major challenge and it is important to work consciously with the group culture. One way is to create routines and forums that allow us to interact regularly about work issues as well as socialize online. With Slack, we create different communication channels for different purposes, for example we have channels named “At the coffee machine” and “Exchange of experiences”. With Zoom, we have regular virtual check-ins to compensate the informal talks that normally occur automatically in the office.