This month’s article is by Osbert Lancaster. Here he shares an invaluable technique for engaging participants in a workshop setting.
‘I’d already sidled out of the previous workshop. If I left this one too, I’d be wasting more of my time and money. So instead of walking out, I decided to step up.
“Unconferences” – where participants offer, and then lead, workshop sessions on topics they choose, are a great concept. But if that person, whatever their other qualities, doesn’t have some basic presentation and facilitation skills…
The speaker talked aimlessly about their chosen topic. Once the participants realised this wasn’t what they’d expected, they became restless and then resigned, checking their phones or staring out of the window.
I’d had enough. “Excuse me James,” I interrupted. Everyone looked up. “I’m not sure we’re all following you. Could we turn this around and ask you some questions about topic X?” A bit brutal, but the best I could come up with. James actually looked a bit relieved.
I turned to the others, “Can I suggest we spend a few moments talking with our neighbour about the things we most want to know about topic X? Does anyone have any objections? It that OK James?”
No one hesitated. The room was soon buzzing. After a short while I invited everyone to tell us all what came up in their paired discussion. A few themes quickly emerged and James was able to share his very real expertise – this time addressing the specific issues the participants wanted to know about.
“Turn and talk” is a really effective and simple activity – not just for workshops, but also for meetings. Used near the start it gets everyone in the room talking, so they are all confident to join in later, preventing a few people dominating discussion. It’s a great way to take the temperature: to hear people’s issues and concerns which can then be addressed or otherwise taken forward. It can also help with difficult decisions as people are more comfortable talking one on one than to the whole group, and more people’s views and ideas are heard.’
Osbert Lancaster is a facilitator of sustainability-related events and a specialist in green behaviour change based in Edinburgh. He believes in the power of conversation. Read his 11 suggestions to make conferences a space for great conversations.
This month’s guest article is from Gerry Farrell of Gerry Farrell Ink who describes his work on using visuals for social change.
‘The day after the Brexit vote, racist, neo-Nazi stickers appeared in Leith, probably the most multi-ethnic and tolerant comunity in Scotland.
We (Leithers Don’t Litter) responded immediately to show that Leithers wouldn’t stand for this.
I wrote an article about it in The Evening News. The next morning about 4am I was threatened by people who claimed to be neo-Nazis and said they knew where I lived.
We called the police who came and installed a direct panic button alarm in our house.
Then we organised a 400-strong anti-Nazi, anti-racist demonstration through Leith, culminating in a rally on Leith Links.
But we didn’t stop there, we also created a very visual toolkit that could be downloaded by any community that suddenly found a racial element causing trouble or making threats in their neighbourhood.
We pinched Benetton’s line and twisted it so it could be adapted for any part of Britain.
We are proud to show our true colours. The United Colours of Leith.’
Gerry Farrell Ink is creative and coaching consultancy for brands and organisations that want to communicate a social purpose. For more information see http://www.gerryfarrellink.com/
I hope you enjoyed this insightful piece from Gerry.
As I’m sure you’re aware by now visuals are an incredibly powerful tool for creating change.
Welcome to the first of our monthly contributors, Fyfe Blair, who today is sharing a fascination insight into the connection between conflict resolution and doodling…
‘John Paul Lederach is a peacebuilder whose insights have informed me in the work of conflict transformation.
In his book The Moral imagination he makes his case that it is neither the rote application of strategies nor techniques alone that enable people to generate constructive responses to the complex issues of a conflict.
Rather, he advocates a place for the (moral) imagination defined as the capacity to imagine something rooted in the challenges of the real world yet capable of giving birth to that which does not yet exist.
In the book he provides a sequence of doodles which he says are drawings he would present in ‘off-the-record meetings with people involved in conflicts’.
I have always enjoyed drawing and doodling/scribbling. I think in images/metaphors most of the time and seek to portray these to help my own understanding.
However, it was on one occasion in peacebuilding work that I truly began to see what Lederach was on about.
In the midst of a session I started to put down some images and words on the flipchart as the person spoke about the complexity of things.
It was not the brilliance of my scribbling, so much as when the person took their chair and placed it in front of the page and began to point and talk it through that I sensed they were beginning to gain some clarity and insight for themselves.
I believe that the visuals touched their imagination, offering a way of seeing what was being spoken. These together enabled them to gain perspective from another vantage point.
This instance provided me with a new perspective upon the work of conflict transformation and the way in which graphics can facilitate beyond the verbiage and that such visuals touch the imagination, bring this into the fray, providing fresh and new capacity to respond differently to the issue(s).
It has encouraged me to begin to learn and explore further how such seeming playfulness can be set alongside other tools, and used appropriately to enable people in conflicted situations to shift their observational position to offer a new line of sight that in turn may help enable them not only to generate constructive responses but indeed by touching their (moral) imagination enable them to change in their conduct.’
Minister/works with Place for Hope
 The Moral Imagination: The art and soul of building peace.
John Paul Lederach. 2005 p29