11 August 2021, Geneva, Switzerland - It is no understatement that the start of this new decade has been tumultuous. Few, if any, can claim not to have been impacted by the events of the past 16 months. On 13 March 2020, our colleagues from the Multilateral Diplomacy Programme Unit (MDPU) were sent home, along with the rest of the Institute, with no clear return date. Thanks to the resilience, drive for innovation, and commitment to the adaptability of its team members, the work of MDPU was profoundly transformed. Yet, colleagues did not only have to adapt their deliverables. Wave after wave, they showed solidarity, cohesion, and resolve to successfully re-invent and strengthen their spirit. Despite the many challenges brought forth in the past months, their team has grown, quasi-doubling its size compared to pre-pandemic times. Currently, virtually all Geneva-based team members have at least received their first jab. As a gradual return to the office sets on the horizon, conditions permitting, it is time to reflect on a year of adaptation, cohesion, and growth.

Keeping the Connection in the Virtual Realm

At the onset of remote working arrangements, the team strived to uphold its spirit by organizing short 15 minutes virtual coffee breaks. Colleagues not only updated each other on their projects but also on their day-to-day lives, recommending activities to keep a positive attitude during lockdowns - all the perks of the coffee break, in the virtual realm. In complement to that, team members organized virtual team-building events on a regular basis. Needing to let loose after a hard week’s work? Gather in a zoom link for an afterwork apéro, or relax on your balcony for a Sunday brunch, interacting not as colleagues, but as friends.

In addition to transitioning their deliverables to the cyber realm, our MDPU colleagues also maintained their long-held traditions online. It would take more than a global pandemic to prevent enthusiastic colleagues from celebrating a birthdaywelcoming a new colleague, or wishing a heartfelt farewell. On any of those days, chances are this last-minute brainstorming session organized by your supervisor will turn out to be a virtual surprise party! On special occasions, team members could muster their friendly competitive sideslearning new fun facts through our 2021 edition of “Who wants to be a Millionaire”or expressing their creativity through an online Pictionary. Here is a challenge for you reader: how do you draw multilateralism?

Grow as an Individual, Grow as a Team

Whenever health conditions allowed, the team endeavoured to connect with each other face-to-face, to catch up, but also to discuss the future growth of the Division. With sunny days re-emerging, MDPU colleagues caught fresh air by the lake or in the park, always including distance-based members to gather insights and set the direction of the Division as a collective. A team can only grow when its members grow. Recognizing this essential tenet, the Director of the Division for Multilateral Diplomacy (DMD), Rabih El-Haddad, multiplied initiatives to provide maximal assistance to DMD’ staff. Notably, Mr. El-Haddad mobilized one of the Division’s key experts, Jérôme L’Host, to organize confidential coaching sessions for all team members.

All these factors contributed to solidifying the bond between driven and resilient team members. A team that connects with one another on a personal level to achieve great results on a professional scale. Colleagues that ensure their respective growth to strengthen the future of their collective. As one departing colleague stated

What I will always remember is the warmth in DMD... a team who faces difficult challenges with both talent and grace.

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