#Throwback: Talk It Over Ep 6 RJ Annapoorna in conversation with Vanesa Weyrauch

Talk it Over, is a special series hosted by RJ Annapoorna Ravichander, Public Affairs Foundation. This series brings together a pool of experts who share their opinions and ideas on varied topics. In this throwback episode, RJ Annapoorna speaks to Vanesa Weyrauch, the co-founder of Politics & Ideas and Associate researcher of the Center for the Implementation of Public Policies Promoting Equity and Growth (CIPPEC) in Argentina. She has worked in the field of policy and research for the last 12 years, especially with Latin American think tanks and policymakers, through knowledge
generation, capacity building and mentorship

In this interview, Vanesa shared her experience on how she/her organisation is tackling COVID-19. Introducing Politics & Ideas (P&I) she said that they are now called Purpose & Ideas to reflect the large organisational changes they are undergoing. P&I was established in 2012 to improve the interaction between knowledge and policy with a special focus on Southern generated ideas and working as a dynamic network of researchers and practitioners rather than a fixed and structured organisation. 

It was a year ago that they began the process of re-thinking about what they did and why.  They had worked with many think tanks and public agencies across the continents, and learned a lot but felt that in some way they came to dead ends that limited their impact. She added that their enthusiasm was decreasing and questioning increasing. So in December 2019 they decided to halt and rethink their purpose. After a long process they arrived at a new vision to include that they – “they wanted to help identify and activate the potential that exists in people and in groups to address the challenges they face and better serve their purpose. Everyone can have one or more than one purpose: people, teams, projects, organisations. Because of the lack of it, more than 2/3 of the employees do not feel engaged in their work.  One thinks about the amount of money spent in leadership capacity building but no visible changes were seen, hence they decided to rename our network and become Purpose & Ideas”. She added that they would create spaces and facilitate processes that awaken collective intelligence. By collaborating with their partners, and based on systemic approaches, they would co-create ideas and actions to address complex and wicked problems.

How has COVID-19 affected the organisation?

The process of Purpose & Ideas was synchronous with COVID-19. The volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous (VUCA) scenario and requires a very similar process to the one they in December. This meant the need to stop, look and then go. Many questions like We cannot continue to live as we were used to, how are we going to live? What type of work are we going to create and promote? How are we going to produce our food and take care of our planet? Came to the forefront.

They decided not to jump to answers but instead look deeply as to what is the best future that can emerge from collective intelligence…this is completely different from the way we and our partners (think tanks, universities, public agencies, etc.) are used to working. Generally, projects were always designed, planned and initiatives with an established desired impact and the rest would have to change according to the plans and intentions. However, COVID-19 has changed this and ensured that one should acknowledge interdependence and find ways to better listen and understand each other. She also added that one needs to listen from their hearts, and also listen using their bodies and mind. too…our minds have a too large and predominant role in these past centuries. She quoted the famous economist Thomas Friedman, “We began working with our hands, then with our minds and finally we do it with our hearts. In the industrial era we worked hard with our hands; in the information era we work with our minds. In the future, machines will do the work of our hands and brains. The working challenge is to connect people with people. Something that machines cannot do.”

Challenges Faced

To my question on challenges faced she added that one has to learn to work with uncertainties, it may involve approaches and ideas which may not fit into the system. Doubts like Who is going to need us? Who is going to support us? Will linger in everyone’s mind. One may not know this but must develop trust in the process of change and transformation, this does not rule out having fear and doubts. She concluded with a quote from as Brene Brown who has wisely pointed out, “we believe vulnerability can be a door opener to new types of genuine relationships: we can show genuinely and frequently what so many of us are craving for: to be real, to be seen and heard and respected just the way we are”.

Key Takeaways

  • Encourage each other to be brave
  • Be united in thoughts
  • Learn to co-create new ways to live and work together
  • Allow best potentials to emerge and intertwine.

Listen in!

Dr. Annapoorna Ravichander

Executive Director

Public Affairs Foundation

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