Back from a conference on social innovation and volunteerism – United Nations of Geneva

On 12 and 13 June, ICE had the honour of being a partner and co-organiser of a conference on social innovation and volunteerism (#INFOCUS) at the United Nations of Geneva.

It was a unique experience to enter the “Palais des Nations” (or “Palace of Nations”) every morning – a building from the 1930s for the League of Nations, long before the United Nations even existed, a building enshrined with the history of international collaboration and diplomacy. I met our European business developer, Iwona Fluda, who was the brain behind our collaboration with this conference, and together we managed the participants and experts that we invited as well as several plenary and panel sessions.

From lunches at the UN canteen, to dealing with conference sponsors and speakers, to observing the beautiful semi-wild peacocks roaming around the UN facilities, these days were intense and interesting alike. It was inspiring to hear so many speakers and guests exchange their ideas on volunteering and service learning, cross-sector collaboration and social entrepreneurship, ocassionally running into friends of friends, uncovering surprising connections and realising how small the world of passionate social innovators can be.

What impressed me personally the most was the fact the United Nations Library seems to engage in very similar activities to ones we in ICE conduct, though obviously at a higher level. On 14 June, just before taking a last swim in beautiful Lake Geneva and then heading to the airport, I had to fortunate opportunity to interview the chief of the Cultural Diplomacy and Outreach section of the UN Library, and I learned how even at the highest levels of international institutions, people value cross-cultural learning and exchange, which, at least for me, served as a validation of my personal passion and ICE’s mission.

I return from Geneva with cheese fondue in my stomach and a newly-found love for this quintessentially European and international city, and a refreshed belief in the value of our social enterprise!

This conference would not happen without all the supportive organisers:

UnitedNationsLibrary, National Association for education development «Notebook of Friendship», ANO “Organization “Vector of Friendship” in special consultative status with the UNECOSOC, Perm Centre for Volunteerism Development, Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations Office and other international organizations in Geneva with the support of the Presidential Grants Foundation, Works4U & Team UP (UK) and information assistance of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Rossotrudnichestvo, the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation.

We would love to be thank all the wonderful speakers who participated in the conference:

Davide Castorina from Whitten & Roy Partnership
Tony Cooke from One Planet Education Network, LLC (OPEN)
Dr. Vera Gehlen-Baum from QualityMinds GmbH
Namrata Gurung from Asha for Education
Diana Herrle Palau from women++ (womenplusplus)
Yan Luong from foraus – Swiss Forum on Foreign Policy
Karin MacComascaigh 麻可可 from Unit4
Laia Orozco Joan from Comunicació Fundació Servei Solidari
S. Clark Rubino– Bright Ideas Consulting Co. LTD
Valentina S. Velandia from Capacity Zurich
and to Filippo Buzzini – Sketchy Solutions