"Next fall, when you see geese heading south for the winter (yes this story is written from a Northern Hemisphere perspective, I.B.), flying along in a "V" formation, you might consider what science has discovered about why they fly that way. As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an up-lift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a "V" formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent more flying range than possible if each bird flew on its own.

When a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone...and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird in front. When the head goose gets tired, it rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. Geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed.

Finally, and this is important, when a goose gets sick or is wounded by gunshot or falls out of formation, two other geese fall out with that goose and follow it down to lend help and protection. They stay with the fallen goose until it is able to fly or until it dies. Only then do they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with their group."

Why we want to fly like the Geese
The goose story resonates with who we are and how we do what we do in a number of ways. The metaphor both captures and exemplifies the strength of giving precedence to one's shared purpose rather than to the particular formation we may find ourselves in at different points in the GRACE journey.

In GRACE our shared purpose is to evolve into a sustainable research network that will continue to engage research into women, information and communication technologies (ICTs), and gender issues beyond the limited time frame of this project, and will expand its base of participating researchers and countries beyond the current ones. Inspired by this vision, GRACE embraces a strong emphasis on research capacity building in all the phases of the research process. Furthermore, creating a nurturing research environment for junior researchers is a priority for all involved: for the GRACE coordinating team as well as for the site projects' senior researchers.

Pursuing this vision means:

  • Defining ourselves and the interests we represent in relation to the shared purpose.
  • Understanding our relationships with other participants primarily in relation to the shared purpose.
  • Being able to fly on our own
  • Experiencing and receiving each other's support
  • Supporting each other's position in relationship to the shared purpose even when this seems to threaten our own short-term interests.

The role of leadership among the geese also resonates. For the geese, leadership seems a service to the shared purpose and at the same time a service to the individuals striving towards that purpose. Leadership is also a function of the purpose: the most suitable one as defined in relation to the purpose leads.

To lead successfully in "geese" terms would require of human facilitators to:

  • Stay focused on the shared purpose
  • Lead by exemplary action
  • Give of oneself totally and be open to participants' support
  • Not be attached to one's leadership position: the moment a better leader appears make joyfully place for the new input.
  • Realise that every participant is aligned to the purpose. This means that the leader does not know better than others where to fly. Leadership means that one is the best to lead this particular group in cooperation with each other towards the purpose.
  • Be able to handle the openness of the process and the fact that the outcomes may as yet be unknown.

Geese have been flying this way for a very long time, and their method is sustainable, as we seek ours to be.






Grace is an initiative envisioned and funded by
the International Development Research Centre (IDRC), developed by Research For the Future (RFF) and managed by The GRACE Project Voluntary Association
Grace est une initiative initiée et financée parle Centre de recherches pour le développement international (CRDI), développée par Research For the Future,
et gérée par l'Association Volontaire Projet de GRACE .