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Networks of Centres of Excellence Annual Meeting

Luncheon Keynote

Dr. Barratt shared her insights on strengthening relationships between multiple public and private sector partners, engaging large groups, and putting knowledge into practice to achieve a common goal. As Secretary General of the International Federation on Ageing (IFA), her work focusses on shaping international policy to improve the lives of older people, incorporating diverse social, cultural and physical factors. Her perspective draws on her extensive experience in organizational management, policy development, public health, ageing and disability.

Key points

  • At its core, engagement is about building a relationship. It is also an exercise in marketing. The IFA, for example, is offering (selling) connections to experts and expertise to promote healthy ageing, pointing its stakeholders in the direction of the information they need. The stakeholders, depending on which sector they represent (for example governments, NGOs, industry and others), may be looking for (buying) benefits in terms of social change or a better understanding of the consumer market and demographics.
  • Successful engagement for the IFA would be measured in terms of countries developing and implementing effective policies and practices that support a good quality of life for ageing people.
  • Painting a picture of an overwhelming problem or crisis, e.g. the “demographic tsunami,” will be counterproductive when trying to engage government or industry.
  • Passion, commitment and being immersed are part of getting the message across. It is important to “walk the talk.”
  • Engagement in the international context is highly complex, involving not just multiple public and private sector organizations, but also navigating cultural and demographic differences from country to country. It is necessary to understand how messages are conveyed and decisions made, as well as what influence political considerations have.
  • Organizations need to understand clearly what they have to offer, and communicate its value to the stakeholder, to answer “What’s in it for me?” They need to speak the same language as stakeholders, developing a good understanding of their needs and interests.
  • Engagement strategies need to be tailored to the unique characteristics of various stakeholders. One size does not fit all. Messages should be as focussed and simple as possible.