IBN Switzerland Presidents’ Report 2019/2020 AGM
Good evening everyone and welcome. We hope all our members are keeping well and taking advantage of the sunshine during these most challenging times.
The IBN is a growing Swiss-wide community of more than 900 professionals – Irish, Swiss and friends of Ireland – living and/or working in Switzerland. Our network offers the opportunity to enhance the professional interests of our members and support Irish businesses operating in or entering into Switzerland, while our social events ensure there’s also a fun factor. Our members represent a diverse range of backgrounds, skills and experience in finance, life sciences, technology, food, sustainability, education, construction and consultancy. The IBN is a registered non-profit association (Verein), managed by its members on a voluntary basis. We are actively supported by Enterprise Ireland, the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs and Eamon Hickey, Ambassador of Ireland to Switzerland.
Last July the existing committee was re-elected for 2019-2020 with two new members. Angela Kienle joined us to co-lead the Basel Chapter and Tanya Hogan to lead communications succeeding Trisha Corrigan and Bridget Mullahy who returned to Ireland and Australia respectively.
Our focus in 2019-2020 was to revitalize our events schedule in all chapters and grow both our membership and our interaction.
Our first event after the summer was Spotlight on Education in Switzerland held in Steinhausen Library, Zug on October 3.
A group of approx. 30 IBN members enjoyed a highly informative event on the Swiss educational system organized by Claudia Schilling in association with Sinergia Êspanol. Similar events took place in Lausanne and Zurich earlier in the year. Our guest speakers included Robin Hull, Principal at Hull’s School Zurich and Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin, University Guidance Counsellor, College Champittet, Pully also the IBN chapter head for the SR. Both speakers explained the Swiss educational system from kindergarten through secondary school and advised on third level options. An engaging Q&A session took place after the presentations, allowing a forum for parents to exchange their own experiences and seek Robin and Mary’s practical tips.
November was a busy month:
We were delighted to team up with the Zurich James Joyce Foundation on Saturday November 2 to offer our members a guided tour of Joyce’s Zurich. The tour included where the Joyce family lived, where James Joyce worked, the bars and restaurants he frequented and sometimes wrote in, while our guide also read certain passages aloud and discussed the aspects of Swiss life and places he referenced in his works. Finally, the tour ended with a visit to Joyce’s grave in Fluntern Cemetery, Zurich followed by an informal gathering at the James Joyce bar on Zurich’s Pelikanstrasse. The tour was very popular with our members and due to the high demand we will aim to repeat it later in 2020.
The following Saturday, the committee annual f2f meeting was graciously hosted by Eamon Hickey, our new Ambassador of Ireland to Switzerland at his residence in Bern. At this meeting, the committee developed plans for the coming year, with an intention to continue to grow the network and connect Irish professionals living in Switzerland. Nov 9
And finally, the IBN was pleased to organise an evening on the topical 2020 Corporate Tax Reform Bill which is very relevant for many of our members. The event was hosted at Bianchi Schwald law firm in Zurich on 27 November. We were delighted to have Maire Walsh, Managing Partner at PwC, Zug and Sebastian Maury, corporate lawyer and partner at Bianchi Schwald, as our speakers. The event focused on the key measures of reform and what that meant for Swiss companies as well as a comparative view of Cantonal implementation processes and the approaches taken by neighbouring countries. Weinbau Trutmann, Stein am Rhein kindly sponsored the refreshments for the networking part of the evening.
We were delighted to start off the new year and new decade with a workshop hosted jointly with the IEEE Power & Energy Society to help our members better understand how each of us can contribute to reaching the 2030 Sustainable Development Goals. More than 30 of us came together in Geneva to play a facilitated, card-based game that simulated what the world could look like in 2030. I’m pleased to say that we created a pretty balanced world and had very interesting and reflective conversations during the subsequent discussion and apero. As a result of the evening we also provided lifetime access to clean drinking water for 1-2 persons in a remote village in El Salvador. The IBN is very grateful for the sponsorship of SCB Group, McCarthy’s and McGonigle Watches.
We also published our new Network brochure which summarises the purpose and value of the IBN with highlights from a variety of events we have hosted. It is available digitally on our web site and in printed form to be distributed at relevant locations and events.
We are extremely grateful to the ESP organization for their support of our proposal to bring value to Irish people living here in Switzerland. Unfortunately, the planned events had to be cancelled due to Covid19 and we had to quickly regroup. Thankfully our proposal for an alternative, very topical, online educational and networking event was accepted and 2 weeks ago we had almost 70 members registered for our Virtual Inclusion Escape Room and Networking event. We were honoured that Eamon Hickey, Ambassador of Ireland to Switzerland opened the online event. Participants then played an innovative game where they had to immerse themselves in the topic of inclusive behaviours in order to ‘escape’ from a virtual room. The game was played in small groups so members had a chance to discuss and learn through this experience together. After the game we regrouped for networking- always a cherished part of IBN events- this time through virtual zoom breakouts.
Following our 2019-2020 ESP application, we received guidance that we should become more independent of this funding source. Nonetheless, we were encouraged to again apply for 2020-2021 support for Enhanced Networking around topics of intergenerational collaboration, inclusion and sustainability. We expect a response after the summer.
We have created a new ‘business directory’ section on our irishbusinessnetwork.ch website, which lists members and friends of the network, with a view to increasing connectivity and business linkages. We have offered free listings during this Covid time.
The opportunity to network with other Irish professionals remains the key motivation for our members to join IBN events. Going forward we plan to add more virtual events to our in-person programme to continue to adapt to the post Covid reality. Feedback indicates that members relish networking with members throughout Switzerland and those who have moved back to Ireland without having to travel so we will add more on-line networking opportunities to our mix.
We are delighted to add a new Geneva Chapter headed by Joanne Goetz. Joanne and all the chapter heads – Joanna Long & Therese Langan in Zurich, Mary Mayenfisch-Tobin and Nikki Symmons in the Suisse Romande and Angela Kienle and Petra Dolan in Basel have many ideas for those so important in-person networking events, also complemented with virtual networking where appropriate. They will share some of their plans very shortly. Some of you have already noticed that our website is being updated and we look forward to launching a revamped site in the coming months.
We are keen to continue growing and strengthening our network and the benefits we offer our members. So please actively participate in events and the on-line groups and pass on the information to other like-minded professionals. We particularly encourage suggestions and volunteers for speakers, hosts, sponsors, venues and high interest topics for the coming year. And finally, we’d like to thank the committee and all those whose commitment, effort and personal networks have been fundamental to the success of the IBN to date.
Brigid O’Donovan & Geraldine O’Grady, Co-Presidents IBN Switzerland, July 2020