Designing and facilitating MSDI Sparks Day

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Before the COVID years, MSDI all-staff off site retreats were scheduled 1-2 times per annum since 2016. Despite the constraints of the pandemic the Institute and its business units have continued to grow exponentially. In the last 12-18 months business unit/ teams have had the opportunity to come together for small staff events and team strategic meetings but a whole-of-Institute (250 pax) event has not been held since 2020. Relative Creative was tasked with designing an event that provided the opportunity for everyone from the Institute to connect over the course of a day .

Opportunity for Futures

MSDI teams work across numerous future-oriented projects and the intention for this event was to provide opportunity for team to connect, share stories and be inspired in different ways, providing opportunity to break out of the silos that often form within larger organisations.


We designed the event with three key tenets:

  • Supporting and developing MSDI’s excellent people – which underpins every activity of the Institute, to ensure it is a supportive and inclusive place to work, and to nurture its strong and positive workplace culture.
  • Compelling communications – recognising MSDI’s deep commitment and empowerment of storytelling, sharing our approach(s) and impact with their partners.
  • Cross-Institute collaboration – MSDI’s capacity to collaborate and effectively combine the diverse skills and capabilities needed to understand, influence, and transform systems for sustainable development.

These helped to guide the various sessions and the structure of the program. Building time for togetherness as well as a variety of sessions to accommodate the 250 participants was an important feature of the program. We balanced MSDI led sessions such as My Field Story, where team members shared information about current projects and, Illuminous Learning, where team members led workshop style sessions with activities such as Pilates, Traditional Indigenous Games and Deep Tomorrow Walks, which encouraged deep listening and thinking about the future. Also included in the program was Discover Drawing Diagrams, led by Tristan and Future Zines. Future Zines were designed by adapting a series of design tools to help participants uncover connections and relations previously unseen as well as realities previously unimagined. The process asks participants to map current concerns, where they come from in the past, where they are going if nothing changes and how this might clash with futures arriving. In the process of identifying a clash participants were asked to create new visions for the future.

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