The first three years of the Global Staff Exchange Program... what have we learned?

Tres años del Programa Global de Intercambio… ¿qué hemos aprendido?

The Global Exchange Program for CIAT staff takes place every year with the purpose of promoting integration in every research and administrative area, within the geographical areas where CIAT operates. It consists on temporarily moving a selected group of CIAT staff members to a location that is different from their usual place of work for a period of one to three months.

By: Simone Staiger-Rivas and José Antonio Arana.

After the Program’s first three years of implementation, it is time to get feedback from the participants and the leaders who have sent and hosted the staff involved. This is why a survey of participants was conducted, in the following proportion:

  • Global Exchange Program participants (research and administration) 44.44%
  • Team leaders who acted as hosts / Peers working with visiting staff 28.89%
  • Team leaders who sent staff to the Global Exchange Program 26.67%

More closely linked with peers and partners

From 2015 to 2018, the Global Exchange Program has involved the participation of 30 CIAT staff members from different research and administrative areas from the offices in Palmira, Hanoi, and Nairobi. When asked about the results of their visit, 100% of participants expressed that now they have stronger linkages with their peers and host teams.

Similarly, a group of participants (43%) acknowledged that due to this exchange they were able expand their contact network with partners and donors and, in some specific cases, lead or contribute to the development of methods or tools (71%).

“I learned a lot through teamwork building tools to support the user. Getting acquainted to the local culture helped me in the exchange last year.”

“It broadened my vision and raised awareness within our team about the impact of our research work and the importance of engaging local entities.”

“Based on the program guidelines, I understood that this experience was more focused on learning and interacting with the regional team to find synergies and opportunities for collaboration within the region, as well as learning about the region and connect with partners and donors.”

Areas of Program participants (who replied to the survey):

  • DAPA 35.71%
  • Agbio 7.14%
  • Soils 7.14%
  • Program Management 7.14%
  • Partnerships and Communications 7.14%
  • Finance and Administration 21.43%
  • Human Resources Management 14.29%

There is an improved capacity and innovation

Team leaders who acted as hosts under this Program expressed in the survey that participants, in addition to strengthening the relationship with their peers from the regions, gained new abilities in the use of tools and methods, but they also trained other staff members in the application of instruments and protocols. In other words, the Global Exchange Program has fostered the exchange of knowledge between teams located in different regions.

“There was a broad exchange of knowledge and expertise, a common understanding of the processes and techniques. After each exchange, major improvements have been observed.”

“The visit under the exchange Program helped us strengthening the linkage between HQ and the Asian region. We had a better understanding of the global operation and we worked on pending matters in a direct and more effective way.”

“We had the chance to know each other better, not only as Human Resources Management professionals, but as individuals. This allows a better communication and understanding, which strengthens the relationship.”

Offices where the participants work

  • HQ Palmira 51.14%
  • Nairobi, Kenia 28.57%
  • Hanoi, Vietnam 14.29%

The Team leaders who sent staff to the Program agreed that the working relations between the groups were strengthened and they added that, after the exchange, their staff took part in the development of proposals and some of them even led new research projects or formed new partnerships.

“The exchange motivated staff members and raised their confidence to pursue a greater degree of dedication in the performance of their duties.”

“This exchange enabled a new partnership that led to the expansion of research activities and a joint proposal.”

“The exchange Program expanded our horizons; it opened possibilities for collaborations and brought the institution closer together.”

Offices visited by participants

  • HQ Palmira 42.86%
  • Nairobi, Kenia 21.43%
  • Hanoi, Vietnam 35.71%

Necessary adjustments for the future

Although the Program has an overall positive perception, the group of respondents also pointed out improvement opportunities, including the need to use exchange to promote strategic issues, not just to complement projects and offices. They also mentioned that the exchange could be extended to CIAT partnering organizations. Several of them commented that there is a need for an increased sharing and follow‑up of results.

  • Further planning and consultation is required to develop the exchange agenda.
  • More funds are required to increase the number of participants.
  • Intra-regional exchanges should be considered.
  • It is crucial to define the sustainability of the exchange in the long term, beyond increasing the candidate’s abilities.
  • Sharing the results of the Program should be mandatory.
  • Participants should include members of staff who have a direct impact on processes.
  • We could try to align visits with the advancement of new CIAT strategic initiatives.
  • We could open the exchange Program to other institutions rather than just exchanging internally within CIAT.
  • Implementing instruments to follow up the process.
  • Improve the linkage among regional offices in terms of administrative proceedings (living expenses, cash advances, legalization, etc.)
  • A review of each participant’s achievements should be mandatory.
  • There is a long delay between submitting an application and its approval. CIAT needs to move faster.

Seventeen participants have been selected for 2018. Surely they will seize this opportunity for personal and professional growth.