A vision for Global Connect 2021

Limitations

When I began working for Wycliffe UK in 2009, part of my job was to send the monthly staff update to members working around the world. To do this, we took a text document and turned it into a pdf, attached it to an email and pressed “send”. The goal was to keep the file size small to ensure it could be downloaded by people with limited bandwidth.

Talking to Stephen Coertze on Zoom. A distance of 7,800 miles or 12,500 kilometres yet he could be in the room with me.

The world has moved a long way since then. My day frequently includes conversations with team members and friends spread across the globe. Typically, the connection is so good they could be in the room with me.

Technical advances have meant that data capacity is no longer the biggest restriction in running an event. In the last few weeks I have taken part in, the Alliance’s Communications Forum, FOBAI’s annual conference and SIL’s ICON. Each event was structured differently, aimed for different outcomes and had different advantages and disadvantages. Each event used Zoom as a platform for connecting. SIL accompanied this with Whova, a bespoke event app, and Menti to provide real time feedback.

Personally, I am impressed by what Zoom has been able to offer these gatherings, but I’m also aware that I have an advantage over many participants.

My home, from where I work, has a fast broadband connection and a stable electricity supply. I speak English as my first (only!) language, so I don’t need to rely on simultaneous interpretation to follow what is being discussed. And Europe and Africa span time zones that mean global meetings conveniently take place around the middle of my day.

Advances in technology will continue to enable more people to connect well online. Eventually, they may provide effective solutions to the way we communicate between languages. What seems beyond the reach of technology is a solution to the tiredness created by an early start or a late finish required to attend a virtual event hosted outside of your time zone.

Solutions

Bearing all this in mind, I wanted to craft a Global Connect event that would enable all participants to take part as fully as possible. Not just for directors of organisations who are used to being on a global stage and participating in events run in English, but also key team members who may have had less exposure to the rest of the Alliance.

Global Connect web page

The Global Connect web page will be populated with content for the event.

For Global Connect, the majority of the week’s events will have been pre-recorded. This will allow subtitles to be added in advance and transcripts to be provided for those who need further translation. The videos will be downloadable so they can be run from a computer hard drive. This means participants won’t have to rely on a reliable internet connection or power.

The opening ceremony will be broadcast “as live” at three different times. I hope this will enable Alliance organisations in different places to gather at the same time for a shared experience. For this, we will open a Zoom room and encourage participants, whether at home or with colleagues in an office, to turn on their cameras so we can get a glimpse of each other worshipping together.

The opening ceremony and the opportunity for executive directors/presidents of Alliance organisations to talk to Stephen on Friday 17 will be the only two events with a fixed time. So, while there is a suggested schedule for Global Connect on the website, each Alliance organisation can determine what works best for them and minimise the fatigue when meetings take place at anti-social hours.

Advantages

The element of Global Connect that I’m most excited about is that an event delivered virtually gives us an opportunity for participation like never before. Instead of being limited by the number of people who can meet in a specific location, entire Alliance organisations can have access to the whole event.

It would be wonderful if staff who normally work from an office could watch together and discuss what they’ve heard.

This could be extended to inviting staff members based in other locations to join virtual discussion groups hosted by their home organisation.

There may even be occasions when neighbouring organisations will spend time meeting together so they can gain perspectives that are different from their own. Some could even connect with organisations in different parts of the world to pray together and share what God has been saying to them.

Outcomes

We often think of conferences in terms of setting goals and agendas that apply universally. In a complex world, these strategies become increasingly difficult to apply. The idea behind Global Connect is a little different. Alliance organisations will be exposed to similar information but then can take that input and discuss it themselves, with friends and with partners before deciding how it applies to their situation.

We trust that there will be examples of individuals and organisations being inspired and challenged. These can be shared after the event, and the ripples will continue to grow through 2022 and beyond.

Story: Phil Prior, Wycliffe Global Alliance

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