Solving social problems is complex, but investing in local expertise and skills development is an excellent starting point. The power of local expertise, fortified through lived experience and local knowledge, allows organizations to innovate and invest in the people and technology to solve local challenges. Flying Labs members echoed this message during the most recent virtual Flying Labs Retreat.
The Flying Labs Retreat is a biannual event facilitated by WeRobotics that brings together a professionally and culturally diverse audience of Flying Labs from more than 30 countries. Led primarily by Flying Labs, the virtual retreat comprised eight-panel sessions, a display of cultures, roundtable discussions by WeRobotics, and break-out sessions (more on the format from a prior Flying Labs Retreat in February 2021). This retreat also included participants from WeRobotics Global, an invite-only forum featuring expert speakers and opportunities for new collaborations. “[The Flying Labs Network can] build bridges between tech and communities, build bridges between cultures and generations to transform the world,” remarked Mitzi from Panama Flying Labs.
We want more women leading Flying Labs around the world; we want the Flying Labs brand to signal professionalism, expertise, and integrity. ~ Tiam, Senegal Flying Labs
WeRobotics Co-Founders Sonja and Patrick opened the Flying Labs Retreat with profound gratitude for the community effort in growing the Flying Labs Network. They also updated the group on their continued efforts to expand the organization’s reach and capacity to empower local experts with the necessary skills to solve social challenges within their communities.
On the first day of the retreat, South Africa, Bolivia, and Bangladesh Flying Labs contributed cultural sessions celebrating their traditions with us, including a traditional Bengali new year song. In addition to the cultural sessions, there were panel discussions led by Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia Flying Labs, India, and Senegal. They led interactive discussions on topics such as ecological restoration and a reflective session on what the Flying Labs Network means to everyone. “[The Flying Labs Network allows us to] see more sustainable solutions use in Jamaica and the Caribbean countries,” said Hosea of Jamaica Flying Labs.
WeRobotics also led several roundtable sessions on various topics, including turning data into action, local drone repairs, and safety culture. These sessions aim to provide Flying Labs with tools and techniques to support positive impact in their projects by improving data literacy, safety cultures on their projects.
On the second day of the retreat, we had an equally full schedule with creative cultural sessions from Japan and Nigeria Flying Labs. Japan Flying Labs demonstrated the synergy between culture and creativity by showing how people use drones to eat marshmallows. We also had highly interactive discussions led by Tanzania Flying Labs on the role of underwater drones in accelerating the impact of social good projects. WeRobotics led a learning session on the Flying Labs Global Model. Chile, Panama, Bolivia, South Africa, Fiji, amongst other Flying Labs, contributed key insights on lessons learned in 2021. “We, Flying Labs, are our best resources. We have a vast network of professionals across so many countries,” said Aboubacar of Côte d’Ivoire Flying Labs.
On the third day of the Retreat, Fiji and Madagascar Flying Labs and WeRobotics shared insights on successful fundraising, drawing on first-hand experience over the years.
The overriding theme for this Flying Labs Retreat was the Power of Local in solving local problems using local leadership, expertise, and knowledge. For example, Nigeria and Haiti Flying Labs shared their experience working with small-holder farmers and local communities engaged in ecological management.
Watch this video summary of the Flying Labs Retreat: