Announcing two workshops for September 2016

This year I am very excited to host two workshops focused on the use of visuals in our facilitation practice.

The first is called My Pens, Our Pens and is a brand new offering Sept 16-17. This is being developed with Nancy White (my co-conspirator of the last six years). We are treading into new territory as we explore the role of visuals in design and facilitation.   This is not your traditional workshop. We are looking to push our boundaries (and yours) in terms of the role of visuals in design and facilitation. We will ask hard questions about who captures content and what is its use?  Can visual methods help reporting out be more meaningful? What is the role of metaphor? Constraints? Where are there visual opportunities in process design? When does it make sense to use visuals and where does it detract from the process? What is the process of others capturing and harvesting content? For those joining and wanting an introduction to drawing on walls, there is an optional half-day Sept 15 to teach the basics.

The second is the 7th annual  Rosviz graphic facilitation workshop. This two-day experiential workshop provides the fundamentals needed to get started drawing on walls, use visuals to achieve your goals or hone your existing practice (Sept 19-20). Whether helping communities plan their futures or groups track progress, we will provide the skills and confidence needed to use a range of visuals in your work and engage beyond words.

Workshop details for both offerings are found here!

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From the field: tips for policy engagement

Samoan Circle Discussion on Policy Engagement with ADB, UN-Habitat, ICIMOD and MOUD (Nepal)

I have recently been reflecting on a knowledge sharing and learning session I organized in Nepal in March 2015 on the topic of Policy Engagement. This is part of my capacity building role in the South Asia Urban Knowledge Hub. A highlight of the 2 days was a panel on policy engagement which was held in a circle where those listening could ask questions by joining the speakers in the inner circle. The speakers included Dr Mahendra Subbha, Joint Secretary DUDBC from Nepal’s Ministry of Urban Development, Bhushan Tuladhar from UN-Habitat (South Asia), Mr Nand Kishor Agrawal of ICIMOD and Vivian Castro-Woolridge of the Asian Development Bank.

Some interesting points that came out of the circle discussion included:

  • In academic and applied research, framing of issue needs to be considered
  • Consider who is the best gatekeeper? Who is a good messenger?
  • Get embedded on major committees so you can take advantage of policy windows, opportunities.
  • Sell how your research can contribute to long-term change
  • Materials should be readable, use native language, have colour and a summary
  • Reach out to those that can help – i.e. media
  • Publish science, be credible but also communicate and be relevant to society
  • Its our responsibility as researchers to create demand.
  • Collaborate (public, private and academic)

At the end of the session, each speaker was asked to give one final piece of “Key Advice”. This is what they said:

  • Think design, pre-policy and disseminate
  • Advocacy, Advocacy, Advocacy
  • Never take a top scientist to a meeting – take a communications expert
  • Rephrase and repackage

What are your tips and lessons? Please share in the comments feature!

As the Khub continues on the path of research and engagement in the urban development field I am constantly reminded of this spirited discussion. I hope it has stuck in our researchers’ minds as well:-)

I have posted presentations from the 2 day gathering online:

If interested in the session workbook, email me for a copy (michelle.k.laurie(@)gmail.com).

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Rosviz 2015 – Guest Blog

By Guest Blogger Lisa Thiessen

Guest Blogger and Social Reporter Lisa Thiessen demonstrates tape tricks!

Guest Blogger and Social Reporter Lisa Thiessen demonstrates tape tricks!

You might have heard about graphic facilitation, been in a meeting with visuals as part of the process, or simply wondered what all the fuss is about. Why would we change the way we look at facilitated experience? What’s in it for the people in the room?

Graphic facilitation is growing in acceptance throughout the corporate and social sectors due to the level of engagement it engenders. What do people do when confronted with large scale paper and drawing? Generally, they respond with genuine interest, curiosity, and a sense of play. Having the invisible made visible is so powerful! It allows people to feel heard, and brings greater depth to the expression, “I see what you mean”.

I had the great pleasure of attending the 2015 Rosviz workshop this week, and of watching a group of facilitators grow individually and collectively in their understanding of strategies for incorporating visuals into their work. From visual introductions to visual harvest and everything in between, there were many aha! moments, thoughtful moments, and much intellectual risk taking. See pics on Flickr! Tweets are all tagged #rosviz !

There’s a big difference between being able to draw well and create something of beauty, and to be able to capably communicate with visuals. Visual facilitation often reflects the messiness, the risk taking, the deeply disorganized thinking that is part of synthesis. The drawing in this context doesn’t have to look pretty – it needs to communicate. Visuals take our ideas and make them spatial, make them tangible. Sometimes they look like a story, sometimes a web, and sometimes, a mess. The goal of graphic facilitation is generally not to make a ‘pretty’ artifact (though sometimes that is part of the process), but to allow the disorganized, difficult business of collaboration move through all of its stages to a state of greater clarity. Visuals allow for the distillation of complex ideas, for the more clear communication of concepts.

One piece that came up over and over again during Rosviz this year – the lesson we learned once, but will practice forever – was about clarity. To use things like thickness of line, white space, colour, and facilitation design in the service of greater clarity: to allow all voices within the room to be heard and considered within the facilitated experience, to break down power imbalances in the space, to better hear the ideas of the group. To share ways of allowing participants to find their own clarity of thought and path, and allow them to find their way to their next steps of their own individual practice. It’s messy. It’s colourful. We end up with marker and chalk on our hands. When learning to draw for the sake of communication, the best question to ask is not, “is it beautiful?” or “can I draw?” but, “does it communicate?” or “does it clarify the ideas generated in the room accurately?”

The Rosviz workshop covered so many aspects of facilitation in a visual context uniquely, by fully embedding the facilitation techniques as the workshop itself. Participants had hands-on experience moving through different processes, learning by doing. They had an opportunity, once the foundations of visual communication were in place, to ask for emphasis on the areas that the group saw as their needs. To create their own experience, with guidance, to taste what it was to host themselves somewhat, to facilitate their own experience, to be engaged in their own experience of learning. This was one of the master strokes of the workshop, in my opinion. They talked a lot about ways that groups work, about the Art of Hosting, and about responding to participants in ways that create a more meaningful experience. This group had the opportunity to make that happen through the design of the workshop itself.

I originally attended Rosviz in 2011. I had been doing graphic recording already at that time, and wanted to see if there was anything fundamental that I didn’t know. I hadn’t fully understood the distinction between graphic recording and graphic facilitation. At the time, I thought that every process had to have a nice looking artifact at the end, something to ‘show’. I hadn’t seen things like some of David Sibbet’s facilitation visuals, with lines and marks all over them – how the visuals can literally be a map of an experience. I’d never considered that process documents need not make sense to anyone but with whom they are made. Being in that group, then, was completely eye opening for me! Even 4 years later, I continue to process things learned or seen at that workshop.

Last year I joined in briefly at the end of one of the days, pitching in to cut paper, meeting up for the alumni dinner. I’d been doing more illustration and graphic recording, working with facilitators to help make interesting, engaging experiences and artifacts. Being in the Rosviz 2014 room was again exciting both because this group was seeing the power of visual facilitation in action, AND because they were having a different experience than I had had 2 years before! True to the style of the workshop, with fundamentals in place, other pieces shifted and changed based on the needs and wants of the group.

This year I had the opportunity to attend as Social Reporter. It was a new angle to look at Rosviz from, lifted out of the experience somewhat, seeing it from the artificial distance created by the viewfinder of a camera. This group? They had their own unique experience. There was, again, a tremendous amount of wisdom in the room. Everyone is a part of this messy business of creating change in their professions and were looking for ways to incorporate visuals. They got to try learn the fundamentals, they got to create their own experiences of harvest. Some of those chunks of harvest have the potential to be ongoing, to enrich the experiences of others. There were beautiful artifacts, there were messy ones. Again, I learned so much.

My harvest? The experience of visual facilitation is as rich as the diversity of the people in the room. Visuals allow for clarity of communication across differences of language and culture. The use of visuals and styles of facilitation are growing and changing all the time. The core of it all is engagement, sense making, clarity. Harvest can look like whatever we want it to. Harvest doesn’t have to end at the end of the facilitated experience. The best experiences inform our next actions, our next paths, creating real change. My harvest is ongoing, growing and changing with my practice.

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Graphic Facilitation 2015 – Skills, Innovation and Fun!

I am very excited to be co-hosting the 6th Annual Graphic Facilitation Workshop in Rossland, BC July 13-14th, 2015.

rosviz2015_poster_master.

Have you noticed how companies and organizations are using visuals more and more in the way they communicate with customers, employees and communities? Learn the tricks of the trade in two days packed with practical skills, confidence building and FUN!

If you are interested in ENGAGING BEYOND WORDS and looking for innovative ways to spice up your practice, this workshop is a fabulous experience.

In the words of 2x participant Fern:

“I wanted to send a quick thank you for hosting such a wonderful workshop. I had a fabulous time and learned a lot, even though I already took the workshop 4 years ago I was thrilled to have the opportunity to take again. The content is rich, the hands on application powerful, the people genuine and the instructors first class. Being immersed in this creative process for two whole days is an amazing experience, I would recommend it to anyone interested in learning more about graphic facilitation and how it can help positively transform group process.” (Fern Sabo, 2x participant, 2010 & 2014)

What is it exactly?

Sometimes our imaginations are sparked by a visual where words fail us.  Many of us are visual thinkers.  Think about when communities plan and imagine their futures, when teams consider the possible outcomes for their projects, when groups create maps to track their progress.  This experiential workshop focuses on engaging people beyond words and text and takes place almost entirely at the drawing surface. You can expect to go away with icons, ideas and approaches for embedding visuals into your work – which you can use immediately, as well as ideas about how to hone your current practice.  No drawing experience needed (leave your inner censor at the door:-)

Dates: July 13-14th; times to be confirmed

Rate: $850 + GST (5%)

HOT DEALS:

  • Bring a friend and you both get $50 off!
  • Three people registering from one organization? Bring the fourth one FREE!

 Full Details HERE!

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What would a family friendly community meeting look like (besides noisy)?

family-support-group

Recently, I attended a public meeting held at the local community hall to share the latest findings from a city budget engagement process. While it would have been easier to go on my own, my husband was out of town and the only way I could attend (and show my support for our new council) was if I brought my children (a 2 year old and a 5 month old baby).

My biggest concern for this meeting was how to get everyone out of the house on time and what snacks to bring that wouldn’t create a mess (the time of the meeting crossed our dinner hour). Having worked in many countries around the world where children are integrated into all aspects of community life, I feel comfortable bringing my kids with me to most meetings. In fact, I just returned from three weeks working in Nepal with my son who was four months at the time. It had not crossed my mind whether we would be welcome (or not) at this meeting in our community hall.

For the most part people were quite helpful and nice. The facilitator had brought his young son, which helped set the tone of inclusiveness. That said there were no other children in the room. The turnout was likely the best ever for a budget meeting though it was demographically homogenous.

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Thankfully no one had to ‘sit silently’ through lengthy presentations. Most of the meeting was spent walking around talking to your neighbours about what was important to everyone for budget priorities. The facilitator was top-notch and everyone was on task.

After about an hour and half, the meeting closed with a sharing circle of fifty people. It was a nice touch however this is exactly when my baby started to get vocal. I wasn’t sure what to do as I had brought my double-wide stroller into the hall and the circle passed directly in front of the exit door. In addition I would have had to figure out how to open the double doors of the venue to get out (I had to seek help when I arrived earlier). Given it wasn’t a very formal meeting and we were in a community hall, I decided to wait. Besides, I wanted to hear what people had to say!

It didn’t take long before someone gave me a scowl and pointed to the door. I used the opportunity to quickly exit however I left feeling rather sad. I had put in a lot of effort to drag myself and these two young kids downtown to a budget meeting and was now being booted out?! At the same time, I didn’t want to ‘ruin’ the meeting for anyone due to my crying baby.

Once I finished feeling sorry for myself, I reflected on two things:

  1. Why is it important to have children (or diversity in general) at community meetings?
  2. What can community organizers do to make meetings more inclusive of families?

These are my thoughts.

  1. Having young people at meetings is important for many reasons:
  • When you walk into the room and see children, it changes the vibe for the better.
    • We speak differently to each other (often kinder)
    • We are more patient
    • The mood is lighter (a child’s smile can brighten even the most boring budget meeting)
  • It is a reminder of community diversity.
    • Different segments of community will have different priorities. For example, an arena or a skatepark might be a budget burden for some people however for children it may be their anchor to the community
  • Children often say things that adults feel uncomfortable saying (usually these things need to be said).
  • Seeing a child in the room is a helpful reminder that the impacts of decisions made today will be felt by young people in the future
  • Instilling a sense of civic engagement in our children is key to a healthy community for the long-term.
  1. Some ways we could make meetings more inclusive of families are:
  • Include family-friendly in the advertising.
    • This lets parents know its okay to bring children
    • This helps everyone attending (including those without kids) understand that it will be a noisy meeting (kids make noise)
    • Facilitators can plan for noise and use microphones to help ensure everyone is heard (for example during a circle discussion)
  • During the meeting introduction, remind people that we are planning for everyone in the community. All voices are respected including those of little people.
  • Use visuals and have opportunities for drawing (as opposed to only speaking and writing)
  • Choose meeting times that don’t interfere with meals and naps (i.e. finish by 5 or 5:30pm latest).
  • Provide healthy snacks for little people that are potentially missing dinner.
  • Provide child care so that parents can participate more effectively and children can easily be removed if the discussion is more serious.
  • If you ask a single parent with two kids to leave, at least help them to open the double doors so the stroller can get through quickly and quietly :-)

Teaching our children to be civically engaged is important to sustaining healthy communities. I hope future community meeting participants embrace the noise!

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Tips for Researchers Drafting a Policy Engagement Strategy

Illustration by ‘Tim Hamons’ downloaded from the FB group: Graphic Facilitation

Illustration by ‘Tim Hamons’ downloaded from the FB group: Graphic Facilitation

As part of the South Asia Urban Knowledge Hub all national centres are required to draft a policy engagement strategy. This is the metaphorical bridge in the illustration above.

Researchers in the project I work with, do a policy engagement strategy for each work plan objective that focuses on making a change in the urban development sector. The purpose is to help researchers, who often are engaging in policy dialogue and change for the first time, think through their ideas more thoroughly. As well, it is a great way to stimulate discussions in the team, bring information forward and detail a plan of action for ensuring engagement of stakeholders throughout the change process (from ideation to implementation ideally). Finally, it’s essential so that the researchers can BRIDGE (see image above) the knowledge generated through their research and the change they want to see in policy and practice.

I drafted a template for this in May 2014 and we held a training. I based it on many works found on the Internet and discussions with practitioners. More information about that process is here. I received several draft strategies this week which has led to me to consider how to re-iterate some of my key points. I updated the strategy and sent some tips to the researchers as a reminder of the main ideas of the engagement strategy.

An updated version of the template is here: K-Hub-Template-PolicyEngagementStrategy_April2015updated

As a refresher, the 6 main steps include:

  • Step 1: Define the issue
  • Step 2: Articulate the goal
  • Step 3: Understand your context
  • Step 4: Identify decision makers, key actors and relationships
  • Step 5: Describe your engagement process
  • Step 6: Monitoring and learning

The tips I provided were the following:

1. Step 1-4 are background information.
  • Going through these steps helps you ensure you have thought about your issue clearly.
    • What is it is? Is it relevant? Who else is working on it? What policies exist? Who supports or doesn’t support your issue? What are the windows of opportunity to create change? What is your objective with respect to engagement? (this may be different than your work plan objective (more specific) however it may be the same as the work plan too), USE THE GUIDING QUESTIONS IN THE TEMPLATE.
  • Be as specific as possible with your identification of stakeholders to influence/engage. People are important (as well as the major groupings). This supports knowledge management – i.e. your entire team should be able to identify the different people they need to talk to (individuals matter a lot in making change). Figure out who has influence and who is keen on your ideas (or not). This helps you design your strategy for engagement. You will need different tactics to bring different people on board.
  • In addition, this document is meant to be shared with others on your team and other stakeholders of interest. Thus it should be detailed enough that people understand the issue, recognize the context/background and opportunities for change and your road map to making change.
2. Step 5. – this should describe HOW you are going to engage and how you are getting knowledge to your different stakeholders.
  • All the aspects of involving stakeholders should be in this section from the outset of your ideas/research to final product (its more than dissemination at the end!). Forming working groups, involving peer reviewers from your network – these are all ways to engage and bring people on board to your ideas.
  • You should think about big picture tasks but also communication tactics – for example, do you need to create data visualizations, work with the media, NGOs or others to make materials more accessible for others.
  • You should include time to work on key messages!
  • This section is the heart of your strategy.
  • Make sure you document your assumptions of why you think your strategy will work. This is how we learn (in case things don’t go as planned). If you recall the recent talk by John Young from ODI ( he spoke to our researchers on monitoring and learning), this section is your Theory of Change.
  • You should have a timeline here as this is a mini work plan specific to your engagement. It will overlap with your work plan. You are not starting from scratch but rather building on what you started and getting into more detail.
3. Step 6. – This is exactly what we worked on during our session on Monitoring and Learning in Kathmandu (with John Young as per above).
  • Use the work sheet from the meeting in March and detail out a few indicators (see step 6 in K-Hub-Template-PolicyEngagementStrategy_April2015updated).
  • Start with ideas from your work plan however adapt as needed. We talked about expect to see, like to see, and love to see indicators.
  • Monitoring is important as how will you know how much you have achieved and why? How will you communicate this later?
  • For long term sustainability of the K-Hub, donors want and need this information.
I really believe these engagement strategies are interesting as they tell the story of how each researcher plans to make change based on evidence. After reading a few, I realize that in effect they are a case study of each project. If we manage to write great stories (whether we succeed or not) and explain our intent, why it worked, why it didn’t work and our suggestions for the future, these could be an interesting piece of work for others in the world also working on trying to make change. Thus, the K-Hub could publish these as a joint Knowledge Product at the end of the first phase. The K-Hub could also use it for marketing purposes for sustainability of the K-Hub for the longer term.
My final message was that despite being new and perhaps daunting, researchers should take time to make these engagement strategies GREAT and continue to update them. This is valuable for the change making process as well as the wider K-Hub journey.
What do you think?

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Sense making, friend making and glaciers

About a year ago, I was asked if I could help make a traditional scientific symposium (International Glaciology Symposium on High Mountain Asia) into something different. A group of glaciologists from ICIMOD, locally organizing the international scientific symposium, and the IGS scientific steering committee, wanted people to leave saying ‘Wow! That was a great conference!”

How could I resist?

Last month, after a lot of co-designing, back and forth, and many changes up until the last moment…we did it.

Here is a bit of our story. You can also see the tweets and some images at #IGSKTM

The main areas we wanted to focus on were:

1. Sense making. 

Scientists are subjected to powerpoint presentations from morning to night, day after day. Typically there is very little time for questions, if at all. There are no discussions. Thus, participants leave a 5 day meeting possibly having seen 100’s of presentations yet having no time to digest them, let alone understand the bigger picture they might contribute to. We wanted to provide a legacy of learning – i.e. sense making of the content – for participants. They should leave remembering the key trends, patterns and emerging issues in their field of work.

After the daily keynote talk, tables took 5 minutes to create a newspaper headline.

After the daily keynote talk, tables took 5 minutes to create a newspaper headline.

Headline after a keynote in Black Carbon.

Headline from a table discussion after a keynote in Black Carbon.

2. Friend making.

Despite spending 5-6 days at a conference, often far from home, participants are rarely given the opportunity to meet and network. People who know each other typically sit together at the group dinners and traditionally the sessions have people sitting in rows (classroom style or theatre style) which doesn’t lend itself to conversation aside from one or two neighbours. We wanted to ensure that people had ample time to meet and also help those who aren’t great at networking interact with their peers. Participants at this conference would hopefully leave having spoken to many new people, have the opportunity to find others working on similar fields of interest and simply increase their contacts and network professionally.

Participants could pin where they work. The online roster was a place to see who these people actually are!

Participants could pin where they work. The online roster was a place to see who these people actually are!

People loved the poster sessions. We had a scavenger hunt at one to encourage people to find each other!

People loved the poster sessions. We had a scavenger hunt at one to encourage people to find each other!

3. Wow!

Leaving meetings tired and burnt out is not unique to science meetings. This is typical for most meeting goers and we wanted to make this one different. Rather than being tired at the end of the day, we wanted people to feel energized and excited. We strove to include sufficient content, discussion and fun to keep people going over 6 days talking about glaciers.

Here are some of the things we did to help shift a traditional scientific symposium into something people will remember:

  • Less formality
    • TV Talk show format to set the scene for the symposium (as opposed to traditional panel)
    • Seating at round tables to encourage conversing with colleagues and meeting new people (see their faces, as opposed to traditional seating in rows) [people were really shocked when they entered the room]
    • Large scale imagery in the venue to give a sense of the region despite meeting in Kathmandu (we were discussing the highest mountains in the world and we showed them!)
    • Outputs and visuals from discussions posted in coffee break areas so people could congregate around something.
  • Discussion and sense-making by participants for a greater synthesis of information
    • Tables created news headlines after key note talks [they had 5 minutes to discuss the talk, create a headline and this was followed by 10 mins of Q&A]
    • Tables worked on key questions throughout the day (after a set of science talks) that were later compiled and synthesized by session chairs and presented back to participants the following morning. [they had 10 mins after a set of talks to work on their synthesis questions as a table. Chairs created a daily summary to present in 5 minutes the following morning. They were very diligent.]
    • A full synthesis is envisaged as part of a long editorial for the Annals of Glaciology and for further communication purposes. The start was put into a press release distributed by ICIMOD following the event.
    • *Note we had to reduce the number of talks to have time for discussion (this took a lot of convincing) however we still managed to have 46 scientific talks plus 16 open space sessions (mentioned below) and the opening panel.
  • Time for conversations that matter
    • One morning was dedicated to open space, a technique where the participants create an agenda on the spot.
    • Over 100 participants proposed 16 topics which became one hour sessions (eight per parallel session).
    • Important conversations and connections were made. People’s interests and ideas were valued and appreciated.
    • Time taken at the opening session and closing session to personally reflect on what you hope to get out of the symposium and what you learned. Participants were given time to share this with a friend, the table and the room. We used a technique called 1-2-4-all.
    • Field trip midway (this is typical for and IGS and they like it…so we kept it!)
  • Networking onsite and for the future
    • A glaciologist scavenger hunt took place during the first poster session as a way to get people to learn about each other and connect with people they don’t normally talk to.
    • A map was posted where people added where they work so they could see others working in their region.
    • A roster was created where people added their name, contact email and research interests plus a photo. This will be sent out via email to help enable ongoing networking between the scientists.
    • Each day participants were encouraged to sit at new tables with new people to help change their conversations for the synthesis as well as meet new colleagues.

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Half a day was dedicated to  participants creating their own agenda on topics that mattered to them. Small break out sessions ensued.

Half a day was dedicated to participants creating their own agenda on topics that mattered to them. Small break out sessions of engaged people ensued.

IMG_2681 IMG_2680 IMG_2677

Some areas to consider in the future:

  • Longer poster sessions (in our case to accommodate the larger number of posters received). Perhaps timing the sessions at the end of the day would also make it easier to extend it for those who are interested. We had one at the end of the day however two were after lunch to help reduce the food coma issue. Though in retrospect people really loved the poster sessions and likely would have stayed late to continue their conversations had they all been at the end of the day.
  • Questions from science talks could be re-organized. For example rather than giving 5 mins for questions directly after speakers, let tables speak for 3 minutes after a talk to gather specific questions as a table. Then after a set of talks take 10 minutes of questions. This idea was proposed by a participant who felt the questions were not as well thought out as the synthesis which allowed for discussion before hand.
  • Include options for workshops on science communications. This is an idea being explored for future symposiums. How to make a great poster, give a presentation, get published, interact with the media and policy makers were all topics that emerged in our open space session.
  • Add a few fields to the online registration so a roster can be given out at the start of the symposium to participants to help facilitate networking immediately.

It was a very rewarding experience to work with these scientists. They have so much knowledge and energy. It was nice to be able to set the container to help great conversations happen, to make sense of the immense information presented and to suggest ways for colleagues to continue their contact after the symposium ended. Wow! That was fun!

p.s. an ICIMOD photographer was taking gorgeous photos. I will update the blog if I can get a few his.

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