In-Person Programs Are Back!
“You're Taller In-Person Than On Zoom!”
The first words out of my mouth when I finally met face to face with Alex Mahadevan of the Poynter Institute were “Wow, you really are much taller in person than on Zoom!” And with that comment the morning of March 22, 2022, World Partnerships brought its first in-person program back through the doors of the Poynter Institute. We were the third group back in the building for Poynter.
It had been 2 years and 9 days (but, who was counting?) since our last IVLP visitor departed for home just as the world began closing down in the face of the global pandemic. [Our organization never shut down, however. During the pause to in-person programs, World Partnerships conducted virtual programs for over 350 IVLP visitors and alumni.]
For Alex, the Senior Multimedia Reporter for the Poynter Institute MediaWise Project, this was his first in-person group of senior journalists from Pakistan (Meridian International Center) and he led a lively discussion on media literacy and combating disinformation. And when the session finished, Alex left for Turkey to introduce a new media literacy program there, his first trip in two years.
And just like that, the IVLP was back live and in-person in the Tampa Bay region! In the span of 4 weeks, World Partnerships hosted four in-person projects, two for journalists, one on government transparency , and one on community policing.
One of the groups was our first “hybrid” group in April, Latvian journalists who we had first met virtually in September 2021. Meeting virtually with them was a good start. There is, however, truly no substitute for the human connection you only make in person. That sentiment was further underscored by a Brazilian police officer, who told me that while his virtual session last October was great, his in-person session with Chief Anthony Holloway and senior leaders of the St. Petersburg Police Department was invaluable to gaining new perspective on innovative techniques for community policing. Of course, his ride-along with a Portuguese-speaking officer helped a lot too.
Our professional resources were delighted to meet in-person again with the IVLP groups. And to be honest, we were overjoyed to actually see our community friends again in person. It was great to be present with so many interpreters we hadn’t seen in so long, and since a couple of the projects closed here, we were able to see long-time State Department colleagues and finally meet some new national program agency colleagues in person.
When we weren’t training or arranging and hosting virtual programs during the pandemic pause, we focused on three primary “readiness” initiatives for our organization: Developing a new strategic plan; developing a new communications platform for our regional audience; and bringing IVLP alumni back together for virtual “reunion” conversations. Each was focused on the return to in-person IVLP programming.
With the return to in-person programming, we find ourselves more often than not present at most of the meetings we arrange for our IVLP visitors. As we learned from doing virtual programs, being present and fully focused in these sessions can connect us even more deeply with our soon-to-be alumni. We have shared yet another type of experience. And, finally, we have all learned to be more flexible and adaptable, and fully aware of Plan B!
Oh, and Poynter’s Alex Mahadevan really is taller in person!