No matter how many international events I help organize, I always face the same challenge. How do I best capture and present the priorities, aspirations and dreams of the many thousands, hundreds of thousands, or in the case of the Commonwealth, the 2.4 billion people the event is about?
In designing and delivering the biennial Commonwealth People’s Forum (CPF), the Commonwealth Foundation takes an effective approach to this challenge. Using a series of well-conceptualised internal and external processes, it formulates and validates the themes, focus areas, and aims of the event in active consultation with civic voices from around the Commonwealth.
The core conceptual framework for CPF 2018 has emerged from the Foundation’s extensive experience with and understanding of civil society priorities across the Commonwealth. CPF 2018 will focus on Sustainable Development Goal 16, and examine how inclusive governance can engender just, peaceful and inclusive societies.
This framework is being sharpened in consultation with a 7-member external Content Design Committee (CDC), which is made up of civil society actors from Bangladesh, Ghana, Jamaica, Malaysia, Malta, Samoa, and the United Kingdom.
‘Content Design Committee Members members have been at the forefront of civil society in their countries’
CDC members have been at the forefront of civil society in their countries and regions for a long time, and have an impressive breadth thematic expertise between them. The range of interests and focus of the CDC includes: human rights, access to justice, gender equality, community organising, environmental justice and advocacy, education, digital activism, LGBTI+ policy and creative expression. They bring diverse lenses with which to interrogate the purpose, content and methods of CPF 2018. Their clear vision and robust questioning helps ensure that the programme for the 3-day event is coherent in its content and flow, relevant to current civic debates, and most importantly, useful to delegates in the important work they do.
During the design process, the CDC asked challenging questions about the CPF 2018 programme. What are the difficult questions the Forum needs to ask? What are the important sessions to have, what innovative methods can we use to discuss complex themes, and who might be suitable speakers and panellists? How can we maximise delegate participation? How can we make sure the outcome document will have positive social benefits?
The process so far points to an exciting and inspiring CPF 2018. I feel certain it will be grounded in people’s everyday realities, it will challenge the status quo where necessary, and it will dare to dream about creating a genuinely inclusive, just, and accountable Commonwealth for all.