Fiona Chandler

Fiona Chandler

When Fiona Chandler arrived in Penang, Malaysia, to attend the CGIAR Strategic Communications Workshop, she wasn’t quite sure what to expect. Even after the first dialog session between the Transition Management Team (TMT) and the group of CGIAR communicators had taken place, she felt a clear relationship had yet to be established between the two groups.

The ICT-KM Program caught up with Fiona, the Scientific Liaison Officer for the Alliance Office, shortly after the second dialog session to see if her opinion had changed.

“After that first meeting, it still wasn’t clear how the two parties were going to work with each other,” she said. “But something must have happened overnight, because this morning when they came together for the second session, the communication folks were meaningfully interacting with the TMT. I think people had time to think about the first session overnight and realized the opportunities available to them.

“The group acknowledged that the TMT, which is guiding the CGIAR change initiative, had made time to listen to them, an indication that the group’s input mattered. The communicators also had a choice to make. They could have responded by whining about things that didn’t go well, but instead they took advantage of the opportunity to talk to the TMT in a very strong, purposeful, confident, dynamic way. In return, the TMT gave them good, solid information that they can use. I think it helped that the group had time to reflect on the first dialog session, both as a group and as individuals. We can all benefit from distilled thinking. I was very proud of what I saw today.”

Good stuff
“The TMT was also more than impressed by the communicators,” said Fiona. “When Stephen Hall (DG WorldFish) says ‘that’s good stuff,’ you can guarantee that it is, indeed, ‘good stuff’. When the TMT pushed on certain things, they were rewarded with thoughtful answers, showing that the communicators had really been thinking about their possible role in the change process. This is great for a community who only yesterday said they were lacking leadership, voice, and profile. Suddenly, they’re taking leadership and they’re giving informed, significant comments into the change process. It was a huge switch.”

Getting the job done
Bringing the geographically dispersed communicators together to work on the change process will not be without its challenges, but Fiona thinks the group will rise to the occasion.

“If there’s any group in the CGIAR that can do this work virtually, it’s this one,” she said. “Not only do they really know how to communicate, but they also have the necessary experience and skills to make a difference. Also, with the backing of the TMT, freeing up Center Communicators workloads shouldn’t be a problem.”

One dance doesn’t make a relationship
“Although both parties obviously feel that they are much further ahead than they had been before they met, the dialog still needs to be sustained and good information still needs to come through when it’s needed for the transition process,” said Fiona. “It will be interesting to see how things evolve.”