On the 16th– 18th September, many members of the BABSEACLE team from throughout the region (including Australia) came together for the Strategic Planning Weekend in Chiang Mai, Thailand. During the weekend there were numerous team-building sessions that required collaboration and discussion about BABSEACLE’s future and expanding role within the Asia region. The sessions also created an environment conducive to strengthening bonds and relationships within the organization. It was extremely fortunate to have the participation of Helen Yandell, one of BABSEACLE’s board directors, and other team members from the Laos, Vietnam and Myanmar offices, who travelled to Thailand to attend the event.
From a regional perspective, “the BABSEACLE Strategic Team Planning Weekend” was an excellent opportunity for our regional team to come together, plan and prepare for the future and spend time together. According to Lauren Donnison, the Pro Bono Initiatives and Externship Coordinator, “It is not very often that such a diverse team is able to come together physically and discuss future plans.”
Spending time with the team was a really important part of the event. Ultimately, team building was the weekend’s core focus and some activities included bowling, yoga, a river cruise and a trip to Huay Tung Tao Park. In true BABSEACLE fashion, even when fun activities were occurring, they included substantive strategic planning lessons. any participants, including Lauren, agree that team building is of significant value to our organisation. “This is because if our team is strong, then our initiatives will be stronger,” explains Lauren. Furthermore, she adds, “we all got to spend time together face to face, whilst often we only get the chance to communicate via email because we are all spread across the region.”
In addition, the organization’s leadership appreciated the union of many, including Helen, who enjoyed “getting to know the BABSEACLE team members from a personal perspective and spend some fun time with them rather than always having a work focus.” The weekend’s social activities also ignited the BABSEACLE Co-Founder/Director Bruce Lasky’s “overwhelming amount of pride in our team, as individuals and as a family.”
Therefore, one of the most important lessons from the Weekend was that a collaborative and unified team is crucial in order for BABSEACLE’s future growth plans to become reality.
The first day began with some innovative and educational role-plays which were based on the various BABSEACLE initiatives, including the Asia Access to Justice week, CLE Externship Clinic, Asia Pro Bono Conference and the CLE Summer School. By evaluating the various BABSEACLE initiatives, the role-plays provided clear outcomes of projected future support and resources. Subsequently, the cooking class encouraged cultural appreciation by having each team member prepare a meal from their home country. It was also a ‘tasty’ way of building rapport with the diverse team. After the flavorsome lunch, it was time for a popular foot massage activity in which the team practiced their interviewing skills whilst reflecting on program growth and development.
A major take-away from the weekend for Helen was “how strong our organization is. We have strong processes, direction and vision for the future thanks to an amazing team of people,” she believes. Bruce also supported this belief of a “a unified team, sharing common vision, values and goals” and acknowledged “how far we have come” upon reflection following the various sessions. With regards to the Board of Directors, the BABSEACLE team feels extremely grateful for their leadership and efforts, which made the weekend so successful. As Lan Anh quite rightly stated, “our Board members are really intelligent and understand the psychology of the members.” Along with other team members, she mentioned how “surprised” she was when she learnt of the unique activities which were scheduled for the weekend. However, this surprise soon turned into the realization that there were hidden truths and purposes for each session. The discussions which developed from the sessions were “interesting” and powerful in revealing where BABSEACLE’s resources and efforts need to be sustained and refocused.
The BABSEACLE Thai Team, Bee and Tony were, “really glad to have met all of the team members and thank them for sharing all of their challenges.” Upon reflection, the members of the Thai team came to realize that they “are a part of the team and believe that we can touch all of the stars.” Touching the stars, whilst staying grounded, was a powerful activity that sparked inspiration and hope for BABSEACLE for the next five years. Kyaw Htin said that it reminded the team of, “the how, what, why and when,” and perhaps most importantly, “our BABSEACLE spirit.” Now that the team share the same values, the stars will be reached and great progress will not only be envisioned, but also achieved.
All in all, the Weekend dedicated to Strategic Planning successfully achieved its goals of team-building, discussing and developing future plans for BABSEACLE and determining the methods in which these plans would become reality with greater resources. Consequently, it is clear that whilst much has been achieved in the development of BABSEACLE and its initiatives across Asia, there is still great potential for progress in our organization. The Weekend was another stepping stone towards achieving these goals for the future. Wendy used a vivid metaphor, “BABSEACLE now strives to be the deaf frog that made it to the top of the tree and refused to stop when others yelled to do so because they felt the frog couldn’t make it. The deaf frog didn’t stop but instead believed all below were shouting cheers to continue onward and the frog kept going until the top of the tree was reached.”
By Georgia Moody, intern for BABSEACLE