Together with a team from the Codex Secretariat (based in the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations in Rome) I recently organized a residential workshop for committee chairs at the Chateâuform La Borghesiana.
Why were there only three things on the agenda?
Every training or event of this kind, bringing together champions and experts from a global community, requires a rational and an experiential objective. The error is often to expect too much and cram the programme full of activities, sessions, meetings and presentations thinking “this is the only time I will have all these people together, I must try and do everything”.
The rational aim this weekend was to explore ways to improve how meetings are chaired as well as look to the future of this international standard setting organisation. The third element was simply a review of the work from Saturday and the seeds of a plan for the way ahead.
The experiential aim was for people to simply do what people do well when given the right opportunity in the ideal environment: talk to each other without the confines and liturgy of formal sessions. Food too is a great leveller and dining together is such a rewarding way to socialise.
Space is important and the Chateâuform concept where you are welcomed “home” by a host couple has been carefully designed to cater to the spirit as much as to the mind. Indoors, outdoors, sport, music, chess, karaoke – whatever it takes. Our European friends were even permitted to follow the Eurovision song contest!
The “work” was kept to a reasonable period; 3 sessions of 3 hours over two days. We changed room often and moved nearly 40 people from plenary sessions to small groups, always requiring them to report back, to discuss, to create and allowing ideas and solutions to germinate from the bottom upwards.
The functional results will become clear over time as we now follow up on the way ahead. What is already certain is that the memories, the sights, sounds, tastes and smells of the occasion will remain far longer.