The counterpart global network
By Basil Springer

„A definition of a people network is an extended group of people with similar interests or concerns who interact and remain in informal contact for mutual assistance or support <>

I spent a few days recently in Berlin with the Counterpart "family". I met the family once before when I attended the April 2000 millennium meeting of Counterpart affiliates in Washington D.C. On that occasion, the Future Centre Trust, a Caribbean sustainable development organisation, was contemplating becoming the first Counterpart affiliate in the Caribbean. This first experience was so stimulating that I was motivated to convince my fellow trustees to transition from the Future Centre Trust to Counterpart Caribbean. I was, indeed, successful on the grounds that Counterpart Caribbean would shift from a Barbados to a Caribbean focus and that it would have a link to an international sustainable development organisation, Counterpart International, which was, at the time, 36 years old and operated in 60 countries around the world.

At the millennium meeting, a modest number of country representatives were present, but in Berlin over seventy Board members, advisors, management, staff and country representatives were persuaded attended the magnificent „family reunion‰. Words really cannot explain the type of experience that one gets from an event such as this. If I had to describe it in one word using the modern jargon, I would say it was awesome. A further attempt at describing it would be to say how impressive it was to meet people who were accepting the challenges to deal with real problems at the grass-roots level, while at the same time recognizing the need to preserve planet earth for our children and grand-children.

What is sustainable development, you may ask? Depending on whom you ask, the answer may vary considerably and certainly the focus might be different depending on the project within a given country to which we refer. A generic definition of sustainable development would be the successful collective tackling of issues associated with the physical environment, socio-cultural activity and economic growth.

In Berlin, I met Counterpart personnel from the Americas, United Kingdom, Western Europe, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, Central Asia, South-East Asia, Ukraine, India, Australasia and the Pacific islands. There are also programmes in Africa, Russia and the Far East. As the only person from the Caribbean (my son Bevan was also there but he is numbered among the US Counterpart team), I was certainly moved to return with renewed vigour to mobilise resources to increase the level of activity in Counterpart Caribbean which is based in Barbados.

I guess that the feeling that I experienced in Berlin was a microcosm of what athletes experience at, say, an Olympic Games where you meet many people from many different countries. A truly emotional but stimulating experience.
The purpose of the Berlin meeting, apart from networking and sharing with each other the activities in the respective domains, was to formalize the Counterpart Global Network to ensure that the relationships between Counterpart and its affiliates receive new focus.

The meeting was led by a German Facilitator who engaged in „open space‰ technology to formalize a system which would, no doubt, enhance the interaction between the country nodes of the network to our mutual benefit.
The founders of Counterpart International, Elizabeth Silverstein and Stan Hosie were present in Berlin and by all appearances and unterrances were fully and toatally gratified with the evolution of the seed they planted almost 40 years ago.

At Counterpart Caribbean, the major focus is on The Future Centre, which is an educational and scientific exhibition site of indoor and outdoor exhibits which is a guide as to how to protect the future for posterity. In terms of the socio-cultural environment, wearing another hat, we have just embarked on The Empowerment Centre which is aimed at socio-cultural sustainability. Wearing yet another hat, as Change Engine Consultant with the Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc., we are looking at turning concepts into commercial realities, which addresses economic growth.

When we pull all these three entities together, the Caribbean will be focusing on a model which could very well be replicated throughout the Counterpart global network. Already we have identified Countepart International initiatives such as coral reef re-generation and forest gardens systems which are being shared in the Caribbean from other nodes of the global network.

The collective discussions which I had in Berlin have resulted in a proposed visit by the Counterpart International hierarchy to the Caribbean in the third quarter of the year to see how best we can mobilise global public and private sector resources to address sustainable development issues in many countries of the Caribbean. The planning session will be preceded by a reconnaissance mission by a couple of senior persons who will join me in the Caribbean from Washington DC.

The diversity of expertise in Berlin also presented the opportunity for direct or indirect contact with persons who could contribute to the West Indian Sea Island Cotton project, in particular, and to other development initiatives in the Caribbean, in general.

(Dr. Basil Springer GCM is Change-Engine Consultant, Caribbean Business Enterprise Trust Inc. (CBET) -