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Fast-Tracking NREN Engagement with Multilateral Organisations: Takeaways from a TNC24 BOF Session

TNC24 session - Fast-Tracking NREN Engagement with Multilateral Organisations
TNC24 session "Fast-Tracking Community Engagement with Multilateral Organisations"

Words: Léonie Schäfer (DFN), Annabel Grant (GÉANT)

A Birds-of-a-Feather (BOF) session held at the recent TNC24 conference in Rennes, France, addressed how GÉANT and National Research and Education Networks (NRENs) engage with multilateral organisations (MLOs).

Held on the morning of 11 June before the official conference opening, the session gathered around 70 participants and NREN representatives in the spacious and bright “Le Refectoire” room at the Couvent des Jacobins, for a dynamic exchange of ideas on collaboration strategies and future directions.

Mapping the Landscape of NREN-MLO Collaboration

Annabel Grant (GÉANT) kicked off the session by engaging the audience with an interactive activity. Using whiteboards, attendees were asked to indicate the MLOs they currently collaborate with. This revealed a surprisingly diverse landscape: many NRENs are already engaging with various MLOs, as the World Bank, UNESCO, the International Telecommunication Union (ITU), to name a few.

Panel Discussion: Challenges and Opportunities

The mapping exercise was followed by a panel discussion chaired by Leonie Schäfer (DFN), with the participation of Boubakar Barry (WACREN CEO), Hrachya Astsatryan (ASNET-AM CEO) and Cezary Mazurek (PSNC CEO).

From left to right: Cezary Mazurek (PSNC CEO), Hrachya Astsatryan (ASNET-AM CEO), Boubakar Barry (WACREN CEO)
From left to right: Cezary Mazurek (PSNC CEO), Hrachya Astsatryan (ASNET-AM CEO), Boubakar Barry (WACREN CEO)

Discussions centred around three main topics:

  • Experience Sharing: Panellists provided a specific example of their NREN’s successful collaboration with an MLO, highlighting the tangible benefits gained from such partnerships.
  • Reaping the Rewards: The discussion emphasized the advantages that NRENs enjoy through active collaboration with MLOs. These ranged from increased visibility to access to funding and resources.
  • Challenges along the way: Panellists openly addressed some of the hurdles that NRENs might face when working with MLOs. Building trust and navigating the often-complex bureaucratic structures of these organisations emerged as prominent challenges.

Key Learnings: The Human Touch and national coordination

A recurring theme throughout the session was the importance of personal relationships in fostering successful collaboration. Panellists emphasised the time investment required to build trust and establish rapport with MLO representatives. Moreover, it was highlighted that it’s crucial for NRENs to coordinate with country representatives, as these often lead national engagement with MLOs. Finally, it was remarked that GÉANT could also play a key role in raising awareness about the NREN community with MLOs.

The session concluded with a Mentimeter survey, revealing interest from the audience in keeping abreast of any future work in this area by GÉANT on further exploration of best practices and strategies for NREN engagement with MLOs.

The Road Ahead: Strategic Collaboration and Building Networks

The TNC24 BOF session provided a valuable platform for NREN representatives to share experiences, challenges, and opportunities in collaborating with MLOs. Going forward, the focus will be on strategic engagement, building strong relationships and leveraging the collective strength of the NREN community and GÉANT to maximise the impact of NRENs within the MLO landscape. As made evident by this session, promising avenues lie ahead to explore these opportunities further and develop a roadmap for more effective NREN-MLO collaboration.

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