Where Knowledge Meets Collaboration - Learn4dev Chronicles

September 26, 2023 by Ana Frangež Kerševan

And a tail of how we ended up back in Ljubljana

The CEF has been a member of the learn4dev network since 2008. Joining this network has given us valuable insights into how international organizations are working, closer access to know-how of knowledge management and knowledge sharing, and has connected us with like-minded individuals and their organizations to make our partnership even stronger.

So, what is the learn4dev network? It is an international network of development organizations from different backgrounds. Its vision is to work together to provide better learning opportunities for staff and partners. The network connects more than 35 member organizations, including bilateral donor organizations, multilateral organizations, and international training and research centers. It is not a formal entity with its own staff or secretariat. Instead, it thrives on the commitment of each member to improve international cooperation, offering flexibility and informality.

The member institutions take turns organizing the Annual Meeting, the network's flagship event. They meet for a joint learning exchange and sharing of experiences, in search of synergies. It is an opportunity for international organizations, development agencies, training centers and other members to connect, compare best practices, and identify options for collaboration. Many big projects have started from initial discussions on the outskirts of such meetings. Partnerships are formed thanks to people meeting in this collaborative networking surrounding. Even the CEF's transformation from its early 2000s identity to an international organization can be attributed to these connections. Today, the CEF proudly stands among the major development players.

Each year, member institutions gather forces and knowledge to host and organize the Annual Meeting at their premises, showcasing the best practices and providing space for other member organizations to meet. In 2014, Ljubljana hosted the Annual Meeting, co-organized with the Swiss Development Cooperation (SDC). It was a courageous thing to do, for an organization that counted not much more than 25 staff members at the time. It was an important milestone, signaling a new era in our approach to learning, and propelling us toward becoming a knowledge hub for the SEE region.

Years went by, and annual meetings were held in other European cities.

Members take turns chairing or co-chairing the network, with the CEF leading in 2016 when our current director chaired the network. I was later asked to represent the CEF in the network and its Core Group (CG), which, among other responsibilities, supports hosts in preparing for the Annual Meetings.

While preparing for the 2019 Annual Meeting in Bonn, organized by GIZ (Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit) and BMZ (Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development, Germany), I recall a CG meeting in Brussels. Miguel, a long-time Core Group representative from the European Commission, gave me a glimpse into his notepad with a quick overview of locations* (see photo), suggesting a logical pattern for event locations. It hinted that historically, Ljubljana might be the perfect next location.


The next year's location is usually announced at the end of each Annual Meeting. In 2019, as discussions swirled about the next venue, IIEP Unesco revealed that the 2020 Annual Meeting would be held in Paris. I thought to myself, "Maybe we can be next!" :)

And so, we were planning the winter CG meeting that should have happened at the venue of the Annual Meeting in January 2020. I guess it was an early pointer that something would go wrong, as we needed to move the meeting online, due to French transportation workers’ strikes. Little did we expect that only a few months later, the 2020 lockdown would happen, which meant that all preparations were put on hold. To keep the network connected and active, institutions teamed up and held online sessions on various topics, drawing eager participants.

When the world finally started spinning in more normal orbits again, the Paris Annual Meeting was on, scheduled to happen in November 2022. I can't even begin to describe all the happy faces of the members when they finally gathered in person and the Paris meeting took place after almost 2,5 years of delay. By the end of the meeting, it was agreed that the CEF and Ljubljana would be the next location.

As a leader in a people-centered learning and knowledge hub, the CEF aims to share its expertise in transforming public institutions into learning organizations, since this benefits not only the institutions but also the countries they serve. Thus, it made sense to follow this path and wrap the 2023 Annual Meeting topic around that, and an organizing team has been assembled to dive into the preparations.

This year, we have chosen a topic that is valuable for all organizations regardless of their thematic focus or location. The Annual Meeting will concentrate on exploring learning strategies that promote enhanced knowledge management within organizations. We will also engage in discussions to highlight the significance of knowledge management in the framework of a learning organization and explore the values and benefits that the network brings to its members.

We are looking forward to hosting the member organizations in Ljubljana on October 4–6, 2023.

Ana Frangež Kerševan, co-chair of the learn4dev network

Add Your Comment

Comments powered by Disqus