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A Collective Reflection on 2022

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January 25th, 2023

F Ls 2022 Retreat 228

Any year, month, week, or day at WeRobotics is unique. So to look back on 2022, we decided to take a collective approach and hear from the WeRobotics team members who invest their time and expertise into supporting the Flying Labs Network and individual Flying Labs in myriad ways. To learn from them about their key highlights, learnings, and favorite moments of 2022.

What's your number #1 highlight with Flying Labs in 2022?

Mfon: I have several highlights with Flying Labs from 2022 that I'm struggling to pick. However, one that stood out is how resilient and passionate Flying Labs are about their work within their communities. Flying Labs are mainly based in the Global South, and as such, they are faced with challenges that sometimes are beyond their control­, from civil unrest to natural disasters. Yet, despite the challenges the past year brought and with limited resources, they continuously displayed an unwavering commitment to supporting their communities' development and advancing the SDGs.  

Dan: My highlight of the year was the 'People of Flying Labs' and meeting them in person. They are amazing human beings who are so different yet so similar. When you sit with them, their presence fills you with hope. I loved listening to their stories and their different perspectives. I am lucky to have a front-row seat to their stories and opinions on the interview sets. Sometimes when I listen to them, I don't want to listen to anything else anymore. I want to shut everything off and curl up with those ideas, opinions, and stories, hug them tight and breathe them deeply so they stay with me. And if I never rise again, I want to go with those lovely ideas and powerful stories in my body. 

Gilles: How can I not mention the in-person Flying Labs Retreat of October 2022? Beyond all the productive discussions, networking and workshops, I was impressed by the number of efforts Flying Labs members went through to make it happen, crossing continents, extremely long layovers on awkward itineraries, re-booking flights from across the world on the day of departure where they have seen their flights canceled at the last minute! I am grateful for the passion they bring to the Network. But if I had to choose another highlight, it would be how successfully Flying Labs bounced back from the challenges of the last couple of years in terms of operations. Another example of their sustainability and resilience.

Kaja: I agree with Mfon and Gilles. The Retreat was a very special experience. I also made many great memories supporting the Flying Labs in their "Turning Data into Action" initiatives. We shared good laughs but also overcame challenges. These meetings brought joy to my day-to-day work and kept me motivated throughout the year.

Amrita: My highlight for 2022 would be the multiple opportunities they gave me to learn alongside them. Whether through any activity we organized or any that they found interesting, it was thrilling to come together and learn as a team. In these engagements, I repeatedly saw that the thirst for knowledge and desire to grow continuously is an integral part of the Flying Labs network's identity. In addition, not shying away from sharing their weaknesses and strengths and proactively helping their neighboring Flying Labs also showed a sense of community and pride that transcended geographical boundaries.

Uyangaa: While thinking back to 2022, one single word comes to my mind: PEOPLE. Meeting Flying Labs members in person in Nairobi was a delightful and unforgettable experience, which reminded me that it is all about people. 

Elsa: Having the opportunity to chat with a few of the Flying Labs regarding safety and safety culture in August 2022 was such a highlight! I had just joined WeRobotics part-time, and I immediately had the opportunity to get to know a few of the FLs. I was so impressed by their visions and missions to serve. Another highlight would be the conversations I had while on the Retreat in Nairobi. What a blessing it was to meet so many amazing people from all over the world! 

A unique part of our work with Flying Labs is that every day offers many opportunities to learn and connect with people from different backgrounds. What were your most memorable learnings in 2022?

Mfon: My key learning from 2022 is that alone we go far; together, we go further. Flying Labs inspired this learning through their supportive and collaborative work approach. Their willingness to share insights with the Network from their projects and activities, work jointly on projects and provide advisory and mentorship support to new Flying Labs demonstrated that there's indeed strength in unity.

Dan: My key learning of 2022 is well captured by the quote, "continuous improvement is better than delayed perfection." I learned this from how Flying Labs approach different projects. They walk in there more like students than experts and strive daily to make a difference. Given the drone, space is still young, and no regulations exist. I love how they don't wait for CAA to sort that out but try to see what they can do to help. Now that is a spirit of continuous improvement.

Gilles: While Flying Labs tend to face challenges of similar nature across the Network, my learning is that there can be so many brilliant solutions to the same challenge or issue. Sometimes, we may think the answer is self-evident and that there is only one answer, but working with the Network daily, I keep being impressed by the unique approaches the members put forward, which is very humbling. This is why co-creation and design thinking is at the core of our work and something I had the opportunity to learn further in 2022. 

Kaja: For me, working at WeRobotics is a never-ending learning process. Last year, I learned to appreciate the power of partnerships. We (= WeRobotics and the Flying Labs Network) are lucky to be supported by partners who align with our values. It is my responsibility to take care of many of these partnerships. Through many shared moments and discussions with them, I now see that we build a community of bright and genuine people who strive to transform the world and who continue adding their share of support to noble initiatives.

Amrita: My key learning of 2022 was the importance of being patient, listening, and understanding the multiple perspectives of the Flying Labs network to better work with them. The past few challenging years have created numerous barriers, which the Network overcame resiliently. With this resilience came the awareness of what worked, what didn't work anymore, and how best to adapt to keep moving forward. With this experience, I learned patience and understanding go a long way when working with a network of passionate and hardworking individuals. 

Uyangaa: One of the key learnings from 2022 was realizing the importance of collaboration and inclusion through my work with Flying Labs. In today's fast-changing world, Flying Labs thrive on sharing knowledge and experience while collaborating with international and national actors and engaging local community members in the spirit of leaving no one behind. 

Elsa: One of my key learning experiences from 2022 was that I never stop learning–and the more I know, the more I realize I don't know! I have learned so much from the Flying Labs in the past 6-months, and I am truly excited to keep learning through collaboration and discussion in 2023!

2022 certainly offered a good balance of ups and downs, making it a rich year in many ways. So what was your absolute favorite moment last year?

Mfon: My favorite moment last year was not a moment but an everyday experience. I am fortunate to work with colleagues from different backgrounds and cultures who make my work life a fun experience every day. I was lucky to finally meet them during the Flying Labs Retreat in Nairobi. Vibe check passed 😀.

Dan: My favorite moment occurred during the Flying Labs retreat in Nairobi. The dance with Flying Labs members was a favorite. I was so happy to see all of us dance together to one song despite all our cultural and background differences. 

Gilles: The opportunity to socialize with Flying Labs in person felt like a luxury, given everyone's busy schedules and our ambitious retreat agenda. Having 1:1 coffee chats, sharing meals, going to markets, and wandering around the streets of Nairobi together. 

Kaja: Having an active role in the traffic monitoring experiment led by Kenya Flying Labs. The project took place in May 2022 and fueled me for the months ahead. Seeing how far a local team can push a seemingly impossible task and how many obstacles need to be overcome was truly empowering and eye-opening. I think that's where the true meaning of "the power of local" really hit me.

Amrita: Conducting the youth training in Tanga, Tanzania. This training was already a blessing but receiving multiple groups of youth who showed up on the last day unexpectedly was the cherry on top. The surprise attendance was due to word of mouth in the Tanga community. Teachers wanted their students to be part of the innovative experience. We were unprepared for this overwhelming attendance, but the Tanzanian Team handled the situation brilliantly. This experience pleasantly reminded me of the impact and importance of our work with young minds.

Uyangaa: The cultural session during the Retreat in Nairobi was one of my favorite moments in 2022. Listening to a beautiful Swahilian song while surrounded by my colleagues from all over the world made me feel both the warmth and kindness of everyone. 

Elsa: I was honored to participate in the Retreat in Nairobi. I loved working as a team to build relationships and community within the Flying Labs.

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