My Development Zone in Corfu: Reflections

As the British public are rediscovering 1930’s Corfu through the recently aired and beautifully captured series, The Durrells, I took to the sky to be there in the present day attending the 3rd Annual Corfu Symposium 2016 – Managing and Marketing Places.

The event acknowledged the past, presented the present and fermented ideas for the future in a four-day program examining the multiple positive and negative dimensions to the success of a ‘Place’. 

Place making is not just about urban planning and design, it also involves capitalising on a local community’s assets, inspiration, and potential. The Institute of Place Management (accreditors of the event) explain that “the concept of place management is now firmly established around the world. From the market place through main streets, town centres, downtowns, and city centres to whole cities, regions and countries, there is a growing understanding that there are real benefits from place-led rather than discipline-led management approaches”.

We certainly learned about all of the above and more. From the calm Canals of Tewkesbury, to the punchy progressiveness of Chicago and to the socially sensitive managing of multi faith tours in Israel, the week was as fascinating as it was affirming to me, as a practitioner, that one of the key contributors to success is education (of those visiting and of those dwelling).

The themes of harnessing talent and technology alongside enablement through skills (in various fields) were common during this comprehensive insight from leading academics from around the world.

My paper (a copy of which can be found underneath this report) centred on the research by Massachusetts Institute of Technology (M.I.T.) that looked at the fundamental human motivations that drive acceptance of change, managing developments to the usual practices and bolstering the mission at hand. Autonomy, Mastery and Purpose, are all essential elements in creative places.

RWA e-Learning’s Development Zone was introduced throughout each element discussed.

The focus of my presentation on day 2 of the symposium was how Development Zone practically marries with initiative to create the perfect package in both place making (using the custom content tools to bespoke local learning) and skills enhancement, to enable those managing the change and those part of it, to be confident in their ability to achieve.

Immediately preceding my presentation was an inspiring tale of change from the Islands most famous and internationally renowned Olive Oil producers ‘Olive Fabrica’. The son of the family business Spyros Dafnis retold the story of how he and his brother took on the task of challenging tradition and without forsaking it completely turned around the company, creating a product that has won awards in Los Angeles and Tokyo and goes from strength to strength. All this through a fantastic exercise of self belief, freeze and unfreeze change management, transformational leadership and all of the three criteria as presented in my paper.  

Incidentally, the Chair of the event was Dr Heather Skinner, formerly of Glamorgan University and what she doesn’t know about effective planning of theme and linking presentations is not worth knowing!     

With the Symposium being held in such a remarkable location as Corfu, naturally attentions of the delegation were drawn to the local aspects of Place Management and as the week went on there was the galvanisation of collective desire to be of service to the Corfiot people, as a team.

It was incredible to see academics and practitioners be so at one and welcoming of each and every contribution. Having lived in Corfu myself, I have to say it’s definitely the 'Place' that does this to you.  

We were afforded an audience with the Mayor of Corfu in his central office where he informally and honestly described the current situation facing his island and the need to focus and innovate in the face of economic crisis. There was again the acknowledgement of skills development to manage changes or better still enhance traditional ways of working.  

It has to be said that Corfu does remarkably well considering the effects seen in Athens and Eastern Greece, it is revered as an Island; a dead cert for tour operators and airlines alike. In April 2016, Ryanair announce 11 new routes to Corfu and has set up base at the main airport. A second airport is due to be built in the south of the island, too.

Corfu is seen as somewhat of a flagship and if initiatives can work here, they are a great template for the wider country. Business is in no way ‘booming’ but the exciting potential for more is there. It needs the strength of resources to make it happen.

Our round table meeting on the last day included leaders of the Chamber of Commerce of which there are 17,500 businesses registered across all sectors and there was an extremely positive exchange around how the Symposium team can and will consult and assist going forward.

My latest interactions with the Corfu Chamber were last week and Development Zone has now been shared separately with social media groups across the island reaching 11,500 persons. It is now to be discussed and presented to the wider Chamber later in May.

There are literally a myriad opportunities to provide Development Zone as a low cost yet highly effective service to the Corfiot people and their business. The visit was insightful and enlightening.

For RWA e-Learning it was an education in how we can effectively and more importantly, respectfully, make Development Zone relevant internationally and a great step forward, beyond borders, regarding our dedication to provide enabling solutions wherever and whenever we can for the benefit of our clients.

To download and read a copy of my paper, please click the following image:

About the author

Stu has over 20 years of experience in overseas operations, local authority and financial services. He specialises in sales, service and learning and development.

At RWA, Stu is responsible for e-Learning solutions. He works closely with clients of the Aviva Development Zone, onboarding them and providing on-going support, making sure our clients are maximising their own opportunities with our learning systems and their internal training and competence. Stu works closely with the RWA development team in designing and innovating new L&D products.

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