How GDL’s innovative approach to encourage out-of-the-box thinking inspired us to upgrade our own concepts.
By Peter Grk
A couple of years back, a friend of mine and a fellow diplomat at the Foreign Ministry of Slovenia, Peter Japelj, who is also a GDL member, told me that there is something unique, fresh and sustainable growing in Berlin: a new concept of discussing foreign relations with a grand title Global Diplomacy Lab (GDL). I said that the name sounds interesting enough and I left it at that.
After we began preparations for the Bled Strategic Forum (BSF) 2016, which was slowly but surely growing to become one of the biggest and most influential political and business gatherings in the Central and South Eastern Europe, we started to look for new partners who would bring some light and emotions into often-repetitive discussions about the state of international affairs and society in general.
For us diplomats it is sometimes very hard to look beyond our well-established ways and beyond “doing business as usual” – simply because we don’t want to do mistakes, since mistakes can be very costly in our world. We organise Forums and Conferences along the same patterns and we feel happy and safe about it.
At the BSF we wanted to change this: we wanted to part ways with our comfort zone and do something different – something which would resonate more with the trends and actual direction that society was taking. We wanted to ask and discuss tough questions; we wanted to understand better the trajectory of the globalised world. We saw that the world is changing faster than we can comprehend, that we are often lost when we want to predict new trends and the impact they will have on society as a whole. With digitalization and globalization affecting also foreign relations, it was impossible to discuss international affairs without taking into account all other aspects of the changing global landscape. In one word, we wanted to understand things better in order to not fall behind.
We found ourselves looking at the concept of the BSF and thinking that it is about time to try something new, although we didn’t have any idea about what and how we would do it.
Enter Global Diplomacy Lab. I found the web page and I discovered my answer on “what and how we would do it”. GDL brought a new approach into the civil society and think tank scene which was much more inclusive and took into account a changing environment where out-of-the-box-thinking was sought after and appreciated. Comprehensiveness and inclusiveness were the words of the day and this was something that we wanted at the BSF. After that, as they say, the rest is history. We are two organisations that understand that cooperation and collaboration, not competitiveness, is the only sustainable way forward and that united we can offer a new perspective and maybe even some unique answers to the most pressing issues of today (the last sentence truly sounds like it was written by a diplomat – sorry, old habits die hard).
Along the way, I became to appreciate GDL more and more. Finally, this year I forwarded my application to become a member and to my great surprise, my application was accepted. I attended the 8th Lab in Berlin as well as the 9th Lab in Chicago and my suspicions about GDL proved to be true – the experience was even better than advertised. In a world, where the divide in society is getting larger and larger (which is a contradiction in itself since we have never been closer thanks to globalization and digitalization), it is refreshing to be a part of the group which values difference in opinion, doesn’t shy away from debate and discussions and is not afraid to open important issues and questions.
The story of GDL and BSF has only just begun…
The article originally appeared as a part of the GDL Blog.