ESCAP-Sida workshop: Regional Asia and Pacific Annual Partner Meeting

International Development
Sep 2023

26-27 September 2023 in Bangkok 


  • Swedish International Development Cooperation Agency (Sida): Sweden’s Government Agency 
  • United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP): Non-Governmental Organization 


In 2022, the Government of Sweden initiated its new international development cooperation strategy for Asia and the Pacific, spanning from 2022 to 2026. The primary aim of this strategy was to bolster sustainable development within the region, striving to enhance the lives of those grappling with poverty and oppression. Rooted in the principles of aid and development effectiveness, this strategy aligned itself with critical frameworks such as the 2030 Agenda, the Addis Ababa Action Agenda, and the Paris Agreement.

Since 2018, ESCAP has been in active collaboration with Sida, pooling their efforts to drive the empowerment and engagement of crucial stakeholders across the Asia-Pacific region. Their united mission was to expedite the achievement of environment-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically SDGs 2, 5, 6, 7, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16. Key strategies encompassed amplifying access to environmental information, public participation, and inclusion in decision-making processes. These efforts aimed to ensure effective access to justice, all contributing to securing the right to a clean, healthy, and sustainable environment

The Challenge

  • The Embassy of Sweden in Bangkok, in collaboration with ESCAP, sought support in orchestrating a 2-day meeting in Bangkok. This event brought together a diverse group of 130 participants from UN agencies, the private sector, and CSOs spanning across Asia and the Pacific. The Partner Meeting aimed at facilitating information exchange, promoting synergies, and sharing best practices. The need for expert facilitation, including leading interactive dynamics, group work, acting as a master of ceremony, conducting icebreakers, creating inclusive and safe space etc., was crucial to ensure active engagement and the successful achievement of desired outcomes. Without effective design and facilitation, the risk of low participant motivation, lack of engagement, and failure to maximize collective capacities for positive impacts loomed large, hindering progress in the region.

The co-hosts sought the following support from the facilitator team 

  • To foster interactive and inclusive information exchange, encourage collaboration, and share best practices in implementing Sweden/Sida’s regional partnerships. The primary goal was to facilitate further collaboration among Sida/Sweden's partner organizations.

  • To gather Data for Enhanced Operational Insight

Sida sought a comprehensive understanding of the collaborative landscape among its partners. The focus was on identifying areas of partnership convergence, discerning overlaps in partner activities, and evaluating the extent to which they provide mutual support. The objective was to generate insights and recommendations to enhance Sida's support mechanisms.

Feedback and recommendations directed towards Sida were integral components of this endeavor. Post-meeting, the envisaged outcome involved leveraging the gathered data for portfolio analysis in grantmaking. The intention was to articulate a nuanced understanding of the diverse activities undertaken by partners, enabling a more informed and effective approach to Sida's support initiatives.

The Approach: Co-Creating and Co-Designing 

  • InsightPact adopted a collaborative approach by co-creating and co-designing with stakeholders. Actively seeking feedback from the working group, the program design for the 2-day workshop was tailored to stakeholders' needs. This involved introducing new initiatives to foster collaborations, integrating unconventional and playful interactions into the agenda, and ensuring systematic and easily accessible resource management for all stakeholders. ESCAP and Sida, known for their openness and innovation, enthusiastically welcomed various suggestions aimed at enhancing the overall 2-day experience.

The Solution

Solution 1: Open Fishbowl Conversation

InsightPact replaced the conventional panel discussion with an open Fishbowl conversation, elevating participant engagement. Departing from traditional formats, this unique arrangement fostered a dynamic and inclusive discussion atmosphere. The Fishbowl setup featured a group of guest speakers seated in a circle, actively participating in the conversation. Notably, a few empty seats were strategically left in the circle, inviting participants in the room to join the conversation at any time, while the majority attentively observed from the outer circle.

The empty seats in the circle were later voluntarily taken, aligning with our intention to encourage spontaneous and active participation. This format successfully created a more engaging and fluid discussion environment.

Solution 2: Revitalizing the Collaboration Marketplace

InsightPact elevated the Collaboration Marketplace Session by converting it into a dynamic and focused platform for precise pitches by each organization. The playful yet time-efficient approach captivated the attention of all participants. Each presenter, limited by a two-minute format with no slides, artfully highlighted areas of their ongoing or planned work, voicing specific needs for support, collaboration or coordination with other Sida partners.

InsightPact prepared a single slide for each organization featuring their organizational name, a 2-minute countdown timer, and a QR code. Attendees could easily scan the QR code to submit their contacts, and collaboration preferences, enhancing the efficiency of connecting organizations with shared interests.

Solution 3: Interactive Data Capture and Real-Time Sentiment Presentation

In all sessions, InsightPact utilized the interactive tool AhaSlide to capture and present data along with real-time sentiments. With 130 participants in the room, this tool served a multi-faceted purpose. Mostly, it facilitated the immediate gathering of insights, enhancing our ability to inform and guide the direction of the conversation. Moreover, it allowed participants to submit questions in real-time, enabling moderators to quickly group and address them.

Importantly, most of these interactions were designed to be anonymous, fostering a safe space for participants to share their thoughts openly. All these valuable data and insights were captured in the report, presented in both text and visual formats, ensuring a comprehensive record of the event's outcomes.

The Results

Result 1:

InsightPact conducted three rounds of the Collaboration Marketplace, with each round featuring 12-15 organizations presenting their pitches. Responses were collected through the QR codes, generating between 3 to 25 responses per pitch for subsequent conversations. This structured approach facilitated a rich exchange of ideas and potential collaborations, contributing to the overall success of the event.

Result 2:

The Partner Meeting highlighted critical themes such as trust as a foundation for collaboration, youth empowerment, and the necessity of meaningful partnerships in climate and environmental efforts. The event underscored the importance of partnership for sustainable development, regional approaches, and effective communication. Participants found value in networking, learning, interactive sessions, and theme-focused discussions, emphasizing the importance of partnerships, insights, and actionable outcomes for their work.

Participant feedback indicated a high level of satisfaction, averaging approximately 4.49 on a scale of 1-5 for the overall workshop and 4.61 for the effectiveness of the workshop facilitation.


Video: Highlights of the 2023 Regional Asia and Pacific Partner Meeting

Photo credit: United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

Photo credit: United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Photo credit: United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)

Photo credit: United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Photo credit: United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)
Photo credit: United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP)