So the day of the summit started by meeting my fellow guest speakers in the hotel. They had already had 24 hours together so I was the new-comer to the group but they were all very welcoming and helpful in filling me in on the meetings I had missed. They were, Astrid Coates from Belgium, Berta Groisman and Yarin Kimor from Israel and Sampati Guha from Mumbai, India.
The summit was being held at the impressive local government buildings and from the moment we arrived it was clear just how much care and planning had gone into bringing us to Omsk. The Minister of Economy, Sergey Vysotsky and the Chief of Social Programmes, Irina Pavlova greeted us and stressed how pleased they were to host us in Omsk. It is their vision that Omsk becomes the center for social innovation across the whole Russian Federation and so they are extremely keen and receptive to hear of examples of best practice from around the world.
With very little feedback prior to arriving on the proposed contents of my presentation I was concerned that my workshop would not be of interest, but the reality was that it was a subject very new to the delegates and one about which, they had great enthusiasm to learn.
There were 340 delegates attending and after the opening press conference and some TV and radio interviews, we began with the opening plenary. After formal welcomes from the government ministers, each international speaker gave an overview of his/her workshop to encourage delegates to attend. It was no surprise that Yarin had a record number of attendees to his session with his charismatic persona and renowned reputation for encouraging creative thinking combined with astonishing magic! Frankly, if I had had a choice, I would have chosen his session too! If only we could bring him to Huddersfield; I will work on that! As it was, I was more than happy with my 60 delegates who selected my session. I must also thank my wonderful translator Irena who coped so well with my ‘off piste’ approach to presenting and the way her fluency made it possible to have such an interactive session.
Food is very important in Russia and so with the most demanding part of the day completed we had lunch with the local and regional government ministers in a private room, leaving our session delegates to feedback on whether we had been helpful. It was a great relief to learn that my session was well received and that many delegates wished to confirm that I would return in October.
We then had 1.5 hours of discussion and further questions relating to our presentations before regrouping for the closing ceremony. The generosity of our hosts continued with sincere thanks to us all and some unexpected gifts from the minister. Framed photographs, certificates and a set of giant Russian dolls which I know will be hard to wrestle from my 10 year old daughter.
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