GFAR blog

Behind the scenes: The ones who stay in the shadows


“Most of the successful people I’ve known are the ones who do more listening than talking.”

-Bernard Baruch

There has always been an accepted assumption that in national, regional and international events, the primary focus should be on the speakers and not on those who listen.

The thing is, it should be taken into account. Attendees should be able to share their views and even stories, which should be considered as interesting and exciting as those of the speakers on stage. Each person is unique, meaning that his/her opinion is valuable and worth publicly sharing.

Once this occurred to me, I committed to find out what people – that is, listeners – have on their minds as they participated in the #GCARD3 Regional Consultation for Central Asia and the Caucasus which focused on issues of food security and nutrition.

“Oh my Gosh, I guess that man/woman doesn’t like me.”

“I think they don’t feel comfortable”

“Suspicious look…. hmmm…. What is that supposed to mean?”

These were my thoughts before the face-to-face conversations with some of the listeners. All of them appeared pretty much tense and were sitting completely focused on the event. Quite a challenging beginning, isn’t it? But after I spoke to them, I realized that they were very nice and intelligent people.

From this first experience of doing interviews with participants, I can personally assure that it is a truly informative and entertaining process. It is not as challenging and boring as many people initially might think.


The first thing I noticed was the way the people physically responded. Actively gesturing, maintaining continuous eye contact, speaking in a lively and friendly manner – that is what makes an inspiring exchange.

And these traits could be attributed to all the responsive, highly-involved professionals regardless of their specialties. It was a pleasure to experience this interaction live, on site 🙂

Two-way communication: changing the roles

While interviewing listeners, not only did I receive priceless information, but I was also drawn to provide my own views. It was a great feeling that people also asked ‘And what do you think?’ To be honest, I did not expect that. Nevertheless, it was interesting to experience this change of roles. And you know what? It is very interactive and, I must say quite productive.


Before doing these interviews , I used to mainly consider  listeners in events as the ‘carriers of booklets’. However, such a misconception was quickly set aside and I became 100% fascinated by how listeners touched on a variety of seemingly unrelated issues.

For instance, one of the listeners proposed to address the issue of food security by drawing on cultural norms. This could indeed be considered really controversial, but it does make for quite an interesting and original statement.

Another person presented a very valid point stating that: “People watch a movie about the Second World War which showed how rare good nutrition was at the time. This, in turn, makes the audience remember that we should value food, secure food. It is evidence that this type of dreadful eventuality could be repeated in the future. We really should be thankful to farmers for providing us with food, every day.”

No more “donors”

In one instance, I started to mention investment in agriculture and how it could be improved, and I have received the following thought-provoking response:

“The future will no longer be about external funding of national research systems, but rather the focus will be switched to internal funding. External funding should really just be considered as an additional source of financing. Here is a good analogy: A little boy wants to get money for school expenses. Who do you think he needs to ask for these expenses? Of course, his parents (internal funding)! The boy would definitely not ask for the money from his neighbors (external funding) especially on a continuous basis.”

From this moment on, I thought I would leave the word “donors” behind as it seems to be already an issue of the past 🙂

To sum it up, I am pretty sure that if we had more days in the conference, I could have received more impressions and of course drawn more informative knowledge. That being said, I did get quite a strong realization from this experience – I realized once again how deceptive appearances can be. Those in the shadows are definitely worth listening to…


Blogpost by Rustam Ibragimov, #GCARD3 Social Reporter – ra.ibragimov(at)

Picture courtesy of Rustam Ibragimov (CACAARI)

This post is part of the live coverage during the #GCARD3 Regional Consultation for Central Asia and the Caucasus. This post is written by one of our social reporters, and represents the author’s views only.

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