Whenever I travel for work, I try to fit in as many meetings with people or organizations I don’t know in that place, of course focusing on CSR, sustainability and/or business in Asia. This may vary a little with related topics: so in Shanghai I also spoke about social entrepreneurship or when I was in Tokyo I spoke about sustainable urban planning.
It’s a way to find out quickly what topics are relevant in that location or market: after just a few coffee’s the same things start popping up, the same names. Or when they don’t: clearly it’s a broad and diverse topic that I’m exploring.
But one question that comes up when I’m back home is always:
“But, who do you talk to?”
Since another trip is close – even if it’s only two days to London – let me take you along in how I do this.
The reason for next week’s trip is the Global Supply Chains Summit for which I happily received a delegate’s place. The summit focuses especially on how business can deal with trafficking and forced labour in their supply chain. Topics which are complicated, but also tie in nicely to some other things I’ve been doing over the last few weeks such as the SER conference on due diligence and a training on the UN Guiding Principles on Human Rights and Business.
London is also a city where there seem to be more things happening when it comes to CSR and sustainability in Asia, so I’m taking the opportunity to spend a little bit longer and fit in a few meetings on these topics.
But how do I find people to talk to, with a limited local network?
The recipe for putting together an interesting work trip consists of various ingredients, such as:
- social media
I let people know I’m there via Twitter or LinkedIn:
i’ll be in London next month and would love to have a coffee with anyone there working on Asia/sustainability/CSR. who should I meet?
— Mathilde Teuben (@mthld) March 27, 2014
Sometimes this works, this time I didn’t really. But social media can be very powerful so I always use it.
- sensitivity to related news
Once I know a trip like this is coming up, I automatically become more aware of any news or things that pop that connect to it. So, when a China-related post pops up on the CSR Chicks mailinglist that I’m on (which is very UK-centric and I don’t keep track closely) it gets bookmarked to follow up on when I have time.
Of course, I use my existing network: so I contact the agency I met with in Guangzhou that also has a London office, I check with people I know whether they may have suggestions.
- local events
I have a look at events that are organized worldwide: Green Drinks, CSR MeetUp – chances are there’s something going on, or this gives leads into further contacts. Turns out: there’s a CSR MeetUp London the night I arrive. Unfortunately, I arrive too late to attend but next time this will definitely be part of my itinerary!
- coincidence & luck
Some things are just luck: remember the above UN Guiding Principles training? Two of the participants were from the UK and are based in London.
And really, whether I go to London or somewhere more exotic such as Bangkok, Shanghai or Tokyo: the recipe of pulling together an interesting schedule is always the same.
Added benefit in almost all of these places: being able to mix business and pleasure. I’m looking forward to dinner with a Japanese friend next week as well, of course!