On Wednesday 18th of January 2023, the different SDLG country teams met for the first time in real life during the SDLG day of the SDLGInternational Staff Conference (ISC) in The Hague. Colleagues from nine countries within the Sustainable Development through improved Local Governance (SDLG) programme were present. The day started with an interesting Ice Breaker. Sometimes a little bit uncomfortable for some, but the group started by visualizing leadership through crafting. See attached a photo collage of results. All the stories behind the results were very inspiring and showed the different aspects of leadership.

After creating results with all the manual work, the colleagues split into four groups and shared experiences and lessons learned using four cases related to the pathways of the Theory of Change. These were: collaboration with LGAs, Inclusive Decision Making, Leadership and Citizen Participation. All of the sessions had interesting and vivid discussions. It enabled people to approach the topic from different perspectives and context. Within the two hours, people had the opportunity to share and exchange the challenges and possible opportunities with each other. For instance, in the Citizens Participation session Paul Crook shared a method to visualize the unpaid labor work of women in South Sudan in relation to women participation. Alphonso García Salaues stated that it should not only about participation, but also about meaningful and active participation, whereas active citizenship is about rights and obligations. Inna Semenenko explained how we are supporting municipalities in Ukraine to quickly recover in a hostile environment while considering the importance of the participatory mechanisms. Emmanuel Yanga in the Inclusive Decision Making session also stressed the importance to think about sustainability from the first day of the project. In reaction, Bashar Juuma confirmed that in Palestine we show through implementation how it works but that should go hand in hand with a guiding tool for other municipalities.  

After a delicious lunch full of networking and further exchange, the colleagues were again divided into three groups related to three of the four SDLG themes: tax, water, fragility and migration. As we do not yet have a SDLG project running within the water theme, we focused on the other three themes. Within these themes, we established the Communities of Practice (CoP) and agreed on the learning questions that will be discussed within these CoPs. During these sessions, great conversations ensued and we eventually created CoP action plans.

This SDLG day during the ISC was a good start for an even more intense cooperation between the countries. Bridges were built and we walked away inspired and motivated as the whole team is looking forward to future collaborations.