Last Friday we completed Integrity Action's first 5-day course in French on the marvellous island of Gorée off the coast of Dakar in Senegal. Gorée is a small island of 900 x 300m that feels like a village with some 1,800 inhabitants. On the island there is the Gorée Institute, whose South African founders were closely associated with OSF, George Soros and Aryeh Neier. Although the Institute isn't formally part of OSF, it's very close in spirit. I give you this background because the setting and the institute staff made our stay here such an incredible experience. But then there was also the course and its participants. This has been one of the most satisfying training courses we have ever offered and a number of innovations contributed to that. From a quick review we did of the feedback last night (which basically uses the same form we use in Budapest), we have received the highest scores for any training on this occasion.
Among the elements that made this French Integrity School such a success was the competitive process of application that involved submitting a project concept note of 2 pages which gave us a very good sense of the strength and approach of the participants; the high level of the participants, which was on average higher than normal; the 5-day format, which at least 1/4 of the participants said was too short but we feel was still right (although 6 days may actually be ideal); the incredible setting; participation from 14 countries, including two from North Africa - and then of course the excellent lecturers and resource people. In the policy lab Claire Schouten (NIR Programme Director) and Fredrik Galtung (CEO) led we had Lorenzo Delesgues (co-founder of IWA), Adrien Somda (an extremely knowledgeable and delightful Burkinabé who is an expert in natural resource governance) and Giorgio Blundo (a leading French anthropologist); and in Patrick's lab there was, among others, Clothilde Medegan Nougbode (a terrific judge of the regional West African (ECOWAS) Human Rights Court and Benoit Joannette of a Belgian NGO working on judicial reform in Rwanda, who was also very solid. The staff of the Institut de Gorée, which included its director Doudou Dia and Mamadou Seck also gave excellent lectures on Democratic Governance and Electoral Integrity.
Among the feedback we received was Jean-Pierre from Rwanda who said "Until I came to this course I thought I was alone struggling for penal reform. Now I realise not only that I'm not alone but that I'm not even the most radical. There are others who are far more radical than I am." A governance advisor at UNDP wrote to us "I am going to be using what I learned on this course every single day." One of Senegal's leading human rights lawyers left his office for a whole week. When I asked him whether it was worth it, he said "Definitely, the course gave me many new ways of looking at old problems".
The biggest thanks for this success goes to Dr Patrick Rafolisy (Head of Integrity Africa), who did the toughest work to pull this all together, as well as the deep conceptual thinking that pulled it together. Many thanks, Patrick! This was a big success and the most auspicious possible note for an expansion and deepening of our work in Africa - including its French-speaking countries.