I was hosting a networking and learning meet up of facilitators yesterday. We were running behind time - mostly because there was so much people wanted to say when debriefing previous exercises. So my challenge was to find a way to debrief it that didn't take too much time.
I've been reading "Involving communities in deliberation: A study of 3 citizens’ juries on onshore wind farms in Scotland" by Dr. Jennifer Roberts (University of Strathclyde) and Dr. Oliver Escobar (University of Edinburgh), published in May 2015.
This is a long, detailed report with lots of great facilitation and public participation geekery in it. I've picked out some things that stood out for me and that I'm able to contrast or build on from my own (limited) experience of facilitating a Citizens' Jury. But there are plenty more insights so do read it for yourself.
I've stuck to points about the Citizen Jury process - if you're looking for insights into onshore wind in Scotland, you won't find them in this blog post!
What are Citizens' Juries for?
This report takes as an underlying assumption that its focus - and a key purpose of deliberation - is learning and opinion change, which will then influence the policies and decisions of others. The jury is not seen as "an actual decision making process" p 19
"Then ... the organisers feed the outputs into the relevant policy and/or decision making processes." p4
In the test of a Citizens’ Jury that I helped run for NHS Citizen, there was quite a different mandate being piloted. The idea is that when the Citizens’ Jury is run ‘for real’ in NHS Citizen, it will decide the agenda items for a forthcoming Board Meeting of NHS England.
This is a critical distinction, and anyone commissioning a Citizens’ Jury needs to be very clear what the Jury is empowered to decide (if anything) and what it is being asked for its views, opinions or preferences on. In the latter case, the Citizens’ Jury becomes essentially a sophisticated form of consultation.
This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it needs to be very clear from the start which type of involvement is being sought.
Having confidence in the Citizens’ Jury process
To be a useful consultant mechanism, stakeholders and decision-makers need to have confidence in the Citizens’ Jury process. This applies even more strongly when the Jury has decision-making powers.
The organisers and commissioners need to consider how to ensure confidence in a range of things:
- the selection of jurors and witnesses,
- the design of the process (including the questions jurors are invited to consider and the scope of the conversations),
- the facilitation of conversations,
- the record made of conversations and in particular decisions or recommendation,
The juries under consideration in this report benefited from a Stewarding Board. This type of group is sometimes called a steering group or oversight group. It’s job is to ensure the actual and perceived independence of the process, by ensuring that it is acceptable to parties with quite difference agendas and perspectives. If they can agree that it’s fair, then it probably is. Chapter 3 of the report looks at this importance of the Stewarding Board, its composition and the challenging disagreements it needed to resolve in this process.
In our NHS Citizen test of the Citizens’ Jury concept, we didn’t have an equivalent structure, although we did seek advice and feedback from the wider NHS Citizen community (for example see this blog post and the comment thread) as well as from our witnesses, evaluators with experience of Citizens’ Juries. We also drew on our own insights and judgements as independent convenors and facilitators. My recommendation is that there be a steering group of some kind for future Citizens’ Juries within NHS Citizen.
What role for campaigners and activists?
The report contains some interesting reflections on the relationship between deliberative conversations in ‘mini publics’ and citizens who have chosen to become better informed and more active on an issue to the extent of becoming activists or campaigners. (Mini public is an umbrella term for any kind of “forum composed of citizens who have been randomly selected to reflect the range of demographic and attitudinal characteristics from the broader population – e.g. age, gender, income, opinion, etc.” pp3-4)
The report talks about a key feature of Citizens’ Juries being that they
“...use random selection to ensure diversity and thus “reduce the influence of elites, interest advocates and the ‘incensed and articulate’”
(The embedded quote is from Carolyn Hendriks’ 2011. The politics of public deliberation: citizen engagement and interest advocacy, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.)
So what is the role of the incensed and the articulate in a Citizens’ Jury? The detail of this would be decided by the steering group or equivalent, but broadly there are two roles outlined in the report: being a member of the steering group and thus helping to ensure confidence in the process; and being a witness, helping the jurors to see multiple aspects of the problem they are considering. See pp 239-240 for more on this.
Depending on the scope of the questions the Citizens’ Jury is being asked to deliberate, this could mean a very large steering group or set of witnesses. The latter would increase the length of the jury process considerably, which makes scoping the questions a pragmatic as well as a principled decision.
The project ran from April 2013 to May 2015. You can read the full report here.
Thanks very much to Clive Mitchell of Involve who tipped me off about this report.
See also my reflections on the use of webcasting for the NHS Citizen Citizens' Jury test.
Organisational culture. Where to begin? Like behaviour change and values, it's one of those phenomena of human experience that promises to unlock sustainability if you can only work out how to harness it, but tantalises by just not being reducible to simple rules or mechanistic predictions.
The canny editorial team over at The Environmentalist invited me to write a two-part feature to introduce IEMA members to this scotch mist, and I love a challenge like that. Even though I know the result will be partial and full of holes, I'd love to help people begin to navigate this treacherous territory with a few useful landmarks.
The research and planning process for the article was fun too, once I'd decided to focus right down on something manageable. (After all, this was for a 1,400 word feature, not a thesis.)
I chose to re-read Edgar Schein's classic Organizational Culture and Leadership. The resulting mind map of notes is two A4 sheets of close tiny handwriting. I also finally got round to properly reading William Bridges' Character of Organisations, which I was introduced to by Lindsey Colbourne (I still have your copy Lindsey!) when she was helping Sciencewise think about designing approaches to public dialogue which match the organisational cultures found in Whitehall Departments and government agencies. Her insightful background research report on the "Departmental Dialogue Index" is here and the summary paper containing the diagnostic tool is here.
Schein's book is wonderful for its stories. I enjoyed being alongside him as a reader, as he gradually realises how little he understands the organisations he is exploring. He opens himself up to not knowing, thereby allowing himself to hear the new (more accurate) interpretations of the behaviours and artefacts. There's something of the anthropologist about him, understanding organisations by being present in them as a participant observer.
Bridges' approach starts from a framework more commonly used to understand the individual - the MBTI's contrasting pairs of judging / perceiving; sensing / intuition; extraversion / introversion; thinking / feeling. He takes this and looks at how it might manifest in organisations.
This is arguably a less intellectually rigorous approach than Schein's. I definitely find myself drawn to the open-endedness and ambiguity of the anthropologist. But there is also something attractively pragmatic in Bridges' work. And the book contains a questionnaire that readers can use to assess an organisation - good for people (and organisations) which like applied theory.
Sharing TUI Travel's journey
Many thanks to Rosie Bristow and Sarah Holloway who took the time to talk to me about how understanding organisational culture within TUI Travel helped them to tailor their sustainability work to be more effective. As well as reading about this in my article, you can see the enthusiastic buy-in they've generated here.
Holding out for a hero
We’re in a hole and we’re not making headway on the huge challenges that face us as a species and as a society. Our so-called leaders shy away from action which isn’t incremental and easy. We’re caught in a web of interlocking dependencies shoring up the status quo. And meanwhile environmental limits are being breached every way we turn. Why doesn’t somebody DO SOMETHING?
But hang on, what if we are the people we’ve been waiting for?
We, too, can be tempered radicals, positive deviants or social intrapreneurs – different labels for essentially the same ambiguous role: change makers on the inside of our organisation or community, wherever this may be.
This antidote to ‘great man’ leadership is explored in two books: The Positive Deviant (Parkin) helps you prepare and plan, Leadership for Sustainability (Marshall et al) is an edited collection of tales from fellow travellers, shared with a degree of honesty and openness which is unexpected outside the safety of a coaching conversation.
Who will show leadership?
Both books rightly assert that leadership can come from anywhere. The leader may be the boss, but leadership is something any of us can practice. And that’s lucky, because we need whole systems to change, not just individual organisations. And systems don’t have a boss. Leadership is necessarily distributed throughout the system, even if some people have more power than others.
Parkin’s positive deviant is someone who does the right thing
“despite being surrounded by the wrong institutions, the wrong processes and stubbornly uncooperative people”.
They work to change the rules of the game. Rather than waiting for stepping stones to appear they chuck in rocks, building a path for others as they go.
Effective leadership comes from surprising places within hierarchical structures, and can arise in situations where there isn’t any formal organisation at all. This makes the positive deviant quite close to the tempered radical, yet Meyerson's work is a surprising omission from Parkin's index and bibliography.
Marshall et al see leadership
“as much [in] the vigilante consumer demanding to know where products have come from as [in] the chief executive promoting environmentally aware corporate practices.”
So none of us is off the hook.
What kind of leaders do we need?
If we are all in a position to show leadership, which qualities do we need to hone, to help us be really good at it?
Parkin is clear that we need to be ethical and effective.
As Cooper points out in one of the chapters of Leadership for Sustainability, the scale of the transformation implied by how bad things are now means that doing things right is not enough: we need to do the right things.
It is not enough to show leadership merely in the service of your own organisation or community. With sustainability leadership the canvas is all humanity and the whole planet (All Life On Earth including Us, as Parkin puts it). Regular readers of this blog, and participants on the Post-graduate Certificate in Sustainable Business will know that this is one of the distinctions I make between 'any old organisational change' and 'organisational change for sustainable development'. See the slide 22 in the slide show here for more on this and other tensions for sustainability change makers.
To do this, the Positive Deviant has a ‘good enough’ understanding of a range of core sustainability information and concepts, and Parkin summarises a familiar set of priority subjects. Less familiar are the snippets of sustainability literacy from classical antiquity which liven things up a bit: Cleopatra’s use of orange peel as a contraceptive and Plato’s observations of local climatic changes caused by overenthusiastic logging.
If you already know this big picture sustainability stuff, you may feel you can safely skip Parkin’s first, third and fourth section. Not so fast. I read these on the day DCLG published its risible presumption in favour of sustainable development. DCLG’s failure to mention environmental limits and the equating of sustainable development with sustainable building is a caution: perhaps people who might be expected to have a good understanding of sustainability should read this section, whether they think they need it or not!
We need to understand the kinds of problems we’re facing. Parkin offers use Grint’s useful sense-making triad to understand different kinds of problems which need different approaches:
- tame (familiar, solvable, limited uncertainty),
- wicked (more intractable, complex, lots of uncertainty, no clear solutions without downsides) and
- critical (emergency, urgent, very large) problems.
The problems of unsustainability are very largely wicked (e.g. breaking environmental limits), and some are critical (e.g. extreme weather events).
Complex, uncertain and intractable situations require experimentation and agility, according to Marshall et al. Parkin echoes this:
“By definition, we’ve not done sustainable development before ... so we are all learning as we go.”
Marshall et al go further:
“we doubt if change for sustainability can often be brought about by directed, intentional action, deliberately followed through.”
Superficial change may result, but not systemic transformation. So leadership demands that we embrace uncertainty and release control. This is pretty much what I'm trying to articulate here, so you'd expect me to agree. I do.
Parkin is dismissive of understandings of leadership in the context of chaos or distributed systems. She may be right that it is a perverse choice to lead in this way if you are within an organisation which functions well in a predictable external context. But as we have seen, leadership is most urgently required in situations which are much less simple than this, where there isn’t an obvious person with a mandate to be 'the leader'. Dispersed leadership is a more accurate description of reality and a more practical theory in these situations. There are some well-thought of organisational consultants and theorists worth reading on this. For example Chris Rodgers and Richard Seel have both influenced my thinking. AMED's Organisations&People journal regularly carries great articles if you want to explore this side of things.
From the installation of secret water-saving hippos in Cabinet Office (Goulden in Leadership for Sustainability) to John Bird setting up the Big Issue or Wangari Maathai founding of the "deliciously subversive" Green Belt Movement (some of Parkin’s choices as Positive Deviant role models), the reader can’t help but be personally challenged: how do I compare, in my leadership? Am I ethical? Am I effective?
How will we get them?
How can we make ourselves more effective as leaders, where-ever we find ourselves? How can we help others to show leadership?
These questions bring us to the educational and personal development aspect of these books.
Education and training
Leadership for Sustainability is a collection of personal stories gleaned from people who have been through the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice at the University of Bath’s School of Management (succeeded by Ashridge Business School’s MSc in Sustainability and Responsibility and the MA in Leadership for Sustainability at Lancaster University School of Management). Parkin designed Forum for the Future’s Masters in Leadership for Sustainable Development. So you can expect that both books have something to say about how we educate our future leaders.
Parkin dissects the ways business schools have betrayed their students and the organisations they go on to lead. Unquestioningly sticking to a narrow focus of value, not understanding the finite nature of the world we live in, and avoiding a critique of the purpose of business and economy, by and large they continue to produce future leaders with little or no appreciation of the crash they are contributing to.
Marshall and her colleagues have shown leadership in this field, using a Trojan horse approach by setting up their MSc in the heart of a traditional business school, and seeding other courses. Positive deviance in practice!
Formal training aside, we can all improve our sustainability leadership skills.
Parkin argues that as well as having a ‘good enough’ level of sustainability literacy, Positive Deviants need to practice four habits of thought. These are:
- Resilience – an understanding of ecosystems, environmental limits and their resilience, rather than the personal robustness of the change maker.
- Relationships – understanding and strengthening the relationships between people, and between us and the ecosystems which support us.
- Reflection – noticing the impact of our actions and changing what we do to be more effective, as a reflective practitioner.
- Reverence – an awe for the universe of which we are a part
Of those four habits of thought, reflection is the one closest to the heart of Marshall’s Leadership for Sustainability approach.
Marshall, Coleman and Reason are committed to an action research approach, seeing it as
“an orientation towards research and practice in which engagement, curiosity and questioning are brought to bear on significant issues in the service of a better world.”
In her chapter, Downey reminds us of the ‘simple instruction at the heart’ of action research
“take action about something you care about, and learn from it.”
Marshall et al tell us that action research was central to the structure and tutoring on their MSc. I have to confess to being unclear about the distinctions between action inquiry, action research and action learning. Answers in the comments section, please!
Marshall et al’s action learning chapters are useful to anyone involved in helping develop others as managers, coaches, consultants, teachers, trainers and so on – required reading, in fact, for those wrong-headed business schools which Parkin criticises so vehemently.
The power of the action research approach shines through in the collection of twenty-nine stories, which made this book – despite the somewhat heavy going of the theoretical chapters – the most compelling sustainability book I’ve read in a long time. People have taken action about things they care about, and they have learnt from it.
Their stories demonstrate that we encourage people to show leadership in part by allowing them to be humble and to experiment, not by pretending that only the perfect can show leadership. The stories do not trumpet an approach or sell us a technique. They are travellers’ tales for people who’ll see themselves in the narrative, and be inspired and comforted by it.
What does it feel like, to be this kind of leader?
Does this kind of leader sound like you yet? It could be – anyone can show leadership. But perhaps you’re sceptical or looking for a reason why it can’t be you? It sounds like a lot of hard work and there’s no guarantee of success.
Marshall and her colleagues on the MSc course have evidently created a safe space for people to reflect about their doubts and uncertainties as well as their hopes and insights. Chapters including this kind of personal testimony from people like Gater, Bent and Karp are intriguing, dramatic and engaging.
Karp’s story about food procurement shows difference between action learning approach and leader as hero – she’s as open about the set-backs as the successes.
I instantly recognised Bent’s description of holding professional optimism with personal pessimism, and many people I know have had that same conversation: wondering where their bolt-hole will be, to escape the impacts of runaway climate change.
Gater’s story in a brilliantly honest account of his work within a mainstream financial institution, moving a certain distance and then coming up against a seemingly insurmountable systemic challenge. In a model of authentic story-telling, he describes tensions I have heard so many organisational change agents express. He talks about visiting his colleagues ‘in their world’ and inviting them to visit him in his. At the end of his story, the two worlds remain unreconciled,
“but it was okay – I had done what I could do as well as I believe I could have done it, and that had to be enough.”
Both books start from the premise that we can’t wait for others to show leadership – we need to show leadership from where we are.
But we know that’s hard: Downey reminds us that
“…those who protect the status quo get rewarded for the inaction that slows down change, while disturbers-of-the-peace who send warning signals are disparaged, demoted or dismissed.”
But for her that’s not an excuse to hang back:
“we are not too small, and there is no small act. Either way we shape what happens.”
Transparency alert: Penny Walker is an Associate of Forum for Future, of which Sara Parkin is a Founder Director. Penny has also been a visiting speaker on the MSc in Responsibility and Business Practice run by Judi Marshall, Gill Coleman and Peter Reason, as well as being a tutor on what might be seen as a competitor course, the Postgraduate Certificate in Sustainable Business run by the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership in conjunction with Forum for the Future.
A shorter version of this review was first published in Defra's SDScene, here.
I was lucky enough to be sent a copy of Peggy Holman's new book, Engaging Emergence. Many readers will know Peggy as one of the authors of The Change Handbook, along with Tom Devane and Steven Cady. I read it in bursts, and every chapter has something comforting and challenging in it. Peggy asks
"What if tensions inspired curiosity? What if we knew how to express our anger, fear, or grief so that it contributed to something better?"
There's so much anger, fear and grief in conversations about ecosystem collapse. I'd love it if that negative emotion could be composted into the fertile soil where new things grow. There are positive reframings of disturbance and disruption.
I relished the permission she gives to let go of the things which bore or scare us, but which we do out of a misplaced sense of duty, and to embrace the aspects of the system which we are really interested in:
"Take responsibility for what you love as an act of service."
I am developing some training on collaboration at the moment, and this exhortation to hold what's important to you, whilst also deeply hearing what's important to other people will become a theme, I'm sure.
An interesting footnote on why I was sent a copy: Peggy wrote the book as a blog, and invited anyone who wanted to post comments. Because I interacted with this, I was offered a copy. Fascinating peer review process and marketing wheeze rolled up together. The blog (now inactive) is here and the list of all those who helped out is here.
My client drove me to the station from our rather remote venue this afternoon. She said:
"Do you think about a workshop after it's over, or..."
I mentally completed her sentence as "or don't you manage to?" After a small pause, she finished
"...or are you able to let it go?".
I was reminded of the usefulness of not assuming you know what someone else is going to say.
And I realised I'd filled the pause with my own self-criticism: because I'm intellectually committed to action/reflection, and thinking about a workshop after it's over is a powerful reflection stage.
But sometimes I'm just too tired to concentrate on reflecting 'properly'. And I might beat myself up about all the scintilating learning I'm missing by not journalling or even blogging as much as I might.
Instead, my mind wanders or I retreat into the self-indulgence of a journey home where I can read the paper, mess up the Kakuro or stare out of the window.
But this particular journey home has been longer than expected, and I've got my second wind. So I will 'reflect properly', drawing on what we talked about and thought about on the way to the station.
You're working too hard
One of the things my assessors said after my CPF earlier this year was that I was working too hard. The group should be doing the work, I need to get out of their way. Perhaps I can take the same advice about reflection on my facilitation: let my mind do the work and get out of its way.
The drive to the station was quite long, so I did let my mind wander, sparked by my client's question. We had one of those leisurely conversations which are interspersed with gentle silences. And our conversation touched on spaces, client comfort and workshop plans.
Owning the space
My mind wandered to what we had done to own the space. This workshop was the third in a series of three and all the venues we used had their challenges. Two of the three lacked good smooth walls to stick flips on and write on. Today's was crowded and we had to prop up boards on tables and stacked chairs to be able to see the flips.
In every venue, we quickly assessed the room, decided which furniture to move around or move out of the room altogether, and worked out where we would display the flips we needed for various metaplanning-type exercises and for participants to be able to see the running record.
Over the years, I have had to learn about the importance of layout, gain the confidence to take responsibility for making spaces as good as they can be for the conversation we want to have, pick up some tips and tricks for improvising the space and equipment needed, and get more decisive about making changes rapidly. That experience has paid off today.
Over-identifying with the client: whose comfort?
I have been more conscious recently of my own tendency to over-identify with my client, when facilitating stakeholder workshops. I feel uncomfortable when I think the client team may be feeling uncomfortable. I feel relieved when I think they may be feeling relieved.
I'm confident that this is not having a significant effect on my facilitation, but I'm conscious that this is a danger and that I need to check my inner motivation when choosing to intervene (or not) in situations where I believe that I know what my client would like to hear. Holding the space in periods of discomfort, doubt, uncertainty, conflict, anger, disappointment - this is one of the special gifts which a facilitator can bring to a group, and I'd like to strengthen my ability to do this with ease, without being overly concerned about the client's level of comfort.
As it happens, today I was impressed with how well the client team responded to some of the things stakeholders said, which were probably hard for them to hear. Defensiveness was mostly absent. When the team thanked people for sharing their experiences, perspectives, frustrations and aspirations, I think they meant it.
If I had, even unconsciously, sheilded the client from this difficult conversation, then I might have avoided some temporary discomfort (largely my own?) but I would have prevented some important truth-telling and mutual understanding from emerging. And the elephants in the room would have remained hidden in plain view.
Let go of the plan
In two of the three workshops, we radically redesigned the agenda part way through the day. A wise facilitator once said to me that any fool can design a workshop, it's being able to redesign on the hoof that is the mark of greatness. I wouldn't claim to greatness, but my redesigns were good calls!
Today's was helped enormously by the intervention during lunch of a process-savvy participant who observed that what the organising team wanted to talk about was not what the participants wanted to talk about. We negotiated a 'deal' to split the afternoon's work so that some time was spent on the more pedestrian but urgent client concerns (and the group threw themselves into this) but a larger chunk of time was allocated to some open space. This was agreed by the rest of the group.
As my client and I discussed this on the way to the station, I was reminded of some insights about planning.
- At this AMED event last Friday, we talked in passing about Eisenhower's claim that "plans are useless but planning is indispensible."
- A few days before, at an ODiN workshop organised by Chris Rodgers, someone talked about their frustration at hearing people use 'opportunistic' as a way of disparaging those charities which apply for funding without a nailed down strategic plan.
- And my reading of this new sustainability leadership book containing experiences written through an action research lens has helped me understand how intention, values and an understanding of what you feel drawn to do can be coupled with being alert to opportunity resulting in emergent strategy. (There's an explanation of emergent strategy here, but you may know of a better one - stick it in the comments.)
I think there's a parallel here with workshop (re)design:
- some values underpinning your work as a facilitator,
- some shared aims (intentions) agreed with participants,
- an understanding of the expertise and resources (e.g. time, space, numbers of different kinds of people, access to information) available for the conversation.
- being alert to 'what's trying to happen here' and getting out of its way.
If you have those things - as a result of doing some planning (having a conversation about planning) - then a strategy is able to emerge if you get out of its way.
Update: This today (1st October 2011) from Dave Pollard would call this resilience planning, rather than strategic planning. An interesting post.
The conversation goes where it goes - who knows what might have happened if...
What I didn't follow up on was the confession which may have been present in my client's question: does she find herself unable to let go after a workshop, dwelling on what might have been in a way which doesn't help her learn but perhaps keeps her in that unconfident phase of believing that she hasn't done well enough?
I don't know. That conversation may have been equally rich. The coach in me would have gone down that route, but the coach in me was taking some time out.
But by not trying too hard, and offering my own meandering observations, I reflected properly on what I'd learnt from the day.
This blog entry is written for a very specific reason: I've just advised a group of people to look at my blog for initial sources on multi-stakeholder collaboration... but reviewing the blog I realise that it'll be quite hard to find the things I mean, and some of them I haven't even written about yet! So, especially for them - and for you, dear other readers - here's a quick brain dump of key sources and ideas which I think form a good set of starting points, mostly from my own experience. Which means that if you have other great resources to tell people about, please do post them in the comments box.
There are some really interesting examples from the UK of the Environment Agency spending quite a lot of time and resources thoughtfully engaging in conversations with communities and other stakeholders when considering flood defences and coastal erosion risk. For example, Shaldon and Medmerry [transparency alert - I worked on the Medmerry project] where engagement with stakeholders was carefully planned so that people could influence the decisions which the project team was making as the plans developed. Both schemes are ongoing. See for example this report from the UK's Sustainable Development Commission which includes Shaldon as an example, and this short case study from the Environment Agency on Shaldon. A search using 'environment agency', shaldon, stakeholder and 'liaison group' will bring up other interesting views on the engagement approach and its success.There's a bit more about the EA's ground-breaking work in this area in this article on DAD/EDD.
Another place-specific collaborative approach is described in this article "Human Systems Intervention And The Natural Step" by Jenny Sardone & Magdalena Szpala, first published in AMED's Organisations and People journal. I believe that it's not available electronically, but I'm trying to chase down an e-version so I can link to it.
Much better known are the FSC and the MSC - now well-established multi-stakeholder organisations which tried to 'get the whole system in the room' to work out credible consensus-based criteria for what might be considered sustainable management of forest and marine resources. They have had varying degrees of success over the years in getting buy-in from all the different interests (environmental, social, economic). I wrote about the MSC a few years ago, an article called plenty more fish in the sea. Current examples include WWF-UK's Tasting the Future, Forum for the Future's work on tourism, and CPSL's work on both climate and insurance. Some of these have crystalised into organisations, others are more fluid than that: fellow travellers collaborating with intention.
Theories, techniques and patterns
Fascinating to ponder on what the circumstances are which bring about authentic whole-system engagement, and what you have to do to get the right people in the room in the first place, and then to keep up the momentum. The best resource I know of at the moment on this is Peggy Holman's Engaging Emergence. But I'm sure there are lots of others: please help me collect them by posting your favourites in the comments box.
Favourite techniques which can help include World Cafe, Open Space Technology and Future Search. I've blogged about the first big Tasting the Future meeting here, which combined a number of techniques.
SDC resources on collaboration, dialogue, engagement
Since its demise, it's really hard to find the engagement resources on the SDC's website. So here are some direct links to some of them:
- SDC's response to National Framework for Greater Citizen Engagement (2008)
- Final report on the SDC's Supplier Obligation stakeholder and public engagement process "Household Energy from 2011", with a description of process and findings. There are links to other documents about this process here. [Transparency alert - I worked on the Supplier Obligation project.]
- An independent evaluation report about the SDC's Engagement in Tidal Power process, which brought together stakeholders and the public to think about criteria and issues in harnessing power from the tides.
- The groundbreaking and really rather wonderful (for process geeks) guidance on designing engagement, published by the SDC but drawing on pioneering work done by InterAct Networks (Lindsey Colbourne, Lynn Wetenhall, Jeff Bishop, Richard Harris and others) and developed through practitioners at the Environment Agency among others. This work continues, for example through work Sciencewise-ERC has done with DECC.
- Some specific gems from this guidance include 'engagement and the policy making cycle' and a 'typology of engagement' and some definitions of different kinds of engagement. [More transparency - I work regularly with Sciencewise-ERC and as of 2011 am a Director of InterAct Networks]
Add your wisdom
This has been a very rapid post, and most of the examples and ideas are those which I'm personally familiar with. There must be lots of others, including some great compilation resources. Please use the comments space to link to your favourites and to critique what I've posted here.
8.01 Left home just after the pips. 476 and then the Northern Line from Angel. Man with lacrosse stick on the bus makes room for woman with toddler and pram. Everyone trying to be accommodating. 08.40 Cup of tea. Plenty of time.
9.10 We set off from Euston, on a Pendolino. We don’t have seat reservations but since this isn’t the usual train which does this journey, I’m not sure anyone else does either. We will have to change at Crewe. Slightly nervous. New apartment blocks near Euston have solar panels on the roofs, each at a slightly different angle.
09.45 Lots of people get off at Milton Keynes, so we swap seats so we have a table and sockets for our laptops. Now we can work! Misty. We pass sopping allotments and horses dripping slightly in the fields.
09.50 Announcement reassures us that Crewe know we’re coming, and we will be helped to make our connection. Those who need assistance, those with lots of luggage, those with small children and pushchairs – it sounds like she knows us all individually. Reassuring.
10.27 Going through the Shugborough Tunnel, 777 yards according to the sign. Signal down, of course.
Sycamore, willow, birch, oak. Freight train. Convolvulus. Canal boat being manoeuvred through a small arched bridge.
10.31 passing through Stafford station. Vertical axis wind turbines on building by the station are not turning. Design flaw? Or grid problems leading to automatic shut-down? Or just not enough wind?
10.41 Mobile broadband connection on this laptop is SO SLOW. Everything takes much longer to do than I’d like.
10.58 Successfully changed at Crewe onto the new train. Which apparently divides at Chester. We think we’re in the right carriage. Table and sockets all present and correct. Weather slightly brighter. Beginning to think about the ferry – will it be rough? Wish I’d remembered to bring wrist bands.
11.07 More canal boats. They manage to look so much more attractive than caravans. Very small wind turbine whizzing round, powering who-knows-what on one boat.
Getting hillier. Red soil peeps through. Dramatic ruins on rocky hill which juts out of flat landscape.
11.17 Chester. Dapper gent sharing our table gets off here. Cheeringly large number of bikes at the station bike racks. Race course looks very well cared for, protected by the curve of the river. Surprisingly busy looking airport – runway lights look very bright as it’s still a bit overcast.
11.31 Judging by the length of the sign at the station we have just passed through, we must be in Wales. I was hoping for an announcement.
11.33 Tidal stream alongside us – tide’s out, lots of shiny mud with a very thin channel snaking through it. Lots of people in this carriage have bought crisps from the shop and there’s a crackling crunchy noise in front and behind me. Hungry.
11.36 Gleeful lady just popped her crisp packet! Unbelievable. They wouldn’t allow that in the quiet zone.
11.37 I can see the sea! This line is right by the water’s edge, with just a narrow stone wall on the seaward side. Sea level rise, anyone? One for the Climate Change Risk Assessment , I think.
11.41 Three grey herons in meadow – but no water for them to fish in. I wonder what they are doing there. Mountains stretch out ahead and to the left, silver in the haze. Blue sky on the seaward side – perhaps we’ll have a smooth crossing.
11.46 Rhyl. Sun breaks out! People hunching over their screens so they can read despite the light.
11.52 Fortifications line the forested hillside, but this must be a folly – there’s no room for anything behind them!
11.53 Wind farm out to sea, gleaming white in the sunshine, but none turning. Bad news for electricity generation, good news for calm crossing?
12.03 Llandudno Junction. Gateway to Snowdonia National Park. Ah, to be in the hills.
12.07 Or in the river, like a dozen kayakers and four boatloads of canoeists.
12.16 Clouding over a bit.
12.22 Arriving at Bangor. Suddenly much noisier. Jolene being played on a very poor machine – perhaps a phone. Hope they get off.
12.28 Spectacular bridge crossing, and some kind of monument: not quite Nelson’s Column. Apparently we’re now on Anglesey. Lush and green; boggy fields; wind-twisted, low trees; sheep and cattle; glossy crows in low hawthorns.
12.38 RAF training flight zooms past and I wait for the sonic boom which doesn’t arrive.
12.44 Could that be a little egret in that pond? Black bill, otherwise snowy white.
12.45 White water rafters in channel between railway line and road. Annoying music is back.
14.01 On ferry. Luggage had to be checked in, which we hadn’t anticipated. Quick swapping over of essential items before we consign our cases to the conveyor belt. Once through security, we wait for a while on the little bus, regretting checking in so promptly. Cheery man from National Statistics Office of Ireland invites us to take part in travel survey, but fails to lift the mood, which is grey.
Once on board, the veggie dish of day is chick pea curry. Surprisingly good, although the naan bread is best avoided. Very glad, as I didn’t think we’d get decent veg-laden food on this rather convoluted journey. Wi-Fi working (faster than mobile broadband on train), spacious table by the window, weather good. 14.29 Fully at sea, though hills still visible if I crane my neck. Water steely grey, sky pearly grey, water a little choppy but boat still moving smoothly.
14.42 My phone tells me that making and receiving calls will cost me £1.30 a minute. Should have brought continental adapter as electrical socket need round-pin plug.
15.15 WiFi means I can follow Ed Miliband’s first speech as Labour leader on twitter. No mention of environment yet. Hmm.
15.16 There it is! Needs a new politics. I’ll say.
15.48 Google thinks I’m in Norway. Shame that the only Norwegian I know is the finger counting rhyme: “Tommeltott, Slikkepott, Langemann, Gullebrand, og Lille Petter Spillemann”.
Transfer from ferry port to Connolly station is free, quick and easy.
Connolly station is small, tidy and shiny but eating options very limited.
19.14 Our Belfast-bound train crosses a lot of water on a narrow causeway. CCRA again!
20.01 Dundalk. Station architecture familiar from so many English Victorian stations: decoration iron columns and canopies, decorative brickwork with stripes and arches picked out in cream, green and terracotta.
20.14 Glad I brought a book (Peggy Holman’s Engaging Emergence – lovely) as well as my laptop, as I’m now out of juice and there’s no sockets on the train.
20.20 Passing Newry. Strings of orange streetlights netting over a bowl of hillsides.
Walked from Belfast Central station to hotel – about 10 mins – refreshing after the long journey.
In room by 10.00.
Feel fresh and ready for workshop.
During workshop, people who knew about our travel choices swapped their own stories and perspectives: ferry journeys disrupted by bad weather, the iniquity of untaxed air fuel, questions around the relative carbon intensity of a very full flight versus a mostly empty ferry.
18.09 On train waiting to leave for Dublin. Glorious blue skies and sunshine.
18.35 Golden skies and long shadows.
19.09 Sky pinkish and grey, mountains on the skyline. Newry by daylight this time!
19.21 My phone tells me I’m in Ireland.
20.32 About 20 minutes late into Connolly station, but we get a cab straight away and there’s no trouble checking in. Very few foot passengers. Will there be any veggie hot meal at this time of night.
Yes! Chick pea curry again, no mini poppadums this time, but mango chutney. Naan bread still inedible.
23.30 My phone tells me I’m in the Isle of Man.
Stupid O’clock. Walk from ferry terminal to hotel in Holyhead marred by lack of signposting. We can see the hotel, but it takes a couple of goes to cross the main road and actually get to it. We spot a footbridge from the station which we’ll use tomorrow. Hotel cheap and cheerless.
08.15 Meet for the walk back to the station. Marred this time by discovery that entrance to footbridge is firmly locked. Weather good.
09.23 Train to Birmingham, we change at Chester. Lovely morning, with pale sun illuminating semi-wild countryside. Green fields edged with thick hedges and grey stone, with occasional peat bog breaking through.
09.55 Back across the bridge to mainland Wales. Statue looks wistfully out across the short stretch of sea.
10.04 This stretch of track lined with nut trees.
10.14 Penmaenmawr The sea on our left gleams and shimmers, calm and sunlit. To the right, rocky hills and screen slopes. The road and the railway line protect (separate?) the hills from the sea.
10.49 Prestatyn. Warm hubbub of chat on this friendly train, as Sarah types up worksheets from yesterday's meeting and I catch up with emails.
11.32 On new train at Chester, waiting for the off. Table and sockets mean we can work all the way back to London. Hurray.
12.05 Speeding through gentler landscape, though rougher sedges still break through the grass in the sheep fields.
12.21 Passing large power station, not sure which one. Modest clouds of steam emerging from cooling towers.
12.53 Getting hungry, but we’ll be back at Euston in less than an hour. Should I wait to eat proper food?
12.59 Milton Keynes. Signal much worse as we approach London. Very frustrating.
13.22 Shop closed, so food decision is out of my hands.
13.48 Leek and potato soup at Prêt outside the station. Feeling revived.
Verdict: doable, cost relatively low, requires free day for travel on either side of assignment. Preferable to have more than one thing to do to make full use of the time (and carbon) of travelling. We had first draft of workshop record ready pretty much by the time we left the train. Take continental plug adapter for ferry. Investigate staying overnight in Dublin rather than Holyhead on return leg of journey.
I'm not a great one for 'top' lists. ('To do' lists are an entirely different matter.) Perhap it's a girl/boy thing: my life partner loves nothing better than to update his bird list, flick through the cricket statistician's bible Wisden, or relive his youth by combing down indexes of obscure Clash gigs.
As for me, when my kids ask me what my top three favourite songs are, I'm really stumped. I don't think I'd even be able to narrow it down to the eight specified by Desert Island Discs.
So I wasn't that interested when the Cambridge Programme for Sustainability Leadership and Greenleaf published The Top 50 Sustainability Books. In fact, it wasn't until I actually had a copy to take home from a workshop that I realised its great value.
Because of course it's so much more than a list. Each book in the top fifty is summarised, and its ideas put into a wider context. The author(s) are profiled, there are some choice extracts and reflections from the authors about the impact of the book.
Wayne Visser and Oliver van Heel have done a great job, creating a pass notes summary and bluffers guide to some absolute classics. The book helps the busy reader understand key ideas in the sustainability field, reminds them about what they've already read - sometimes years ago - and introduces them to some new thought leaders.
So I'm happy to discover that my initial reaction was wrong.
Off to begin my list of books I should have paid attention to first time around...
Update: May 2011
Wayne has been blogging about an updated list, noticing trends towards more practical titles and an increase from a low base of women authors. See here.
One of the things we do at the one-day Change Management training workshop is to look through a decision tree (aka flow chart) to see which approach to change might be most effective, given the starting point of each person on the course. Questions to ask yourself include:
- what's my mandate?
- what is the stated position of my senior team / Board, and do they know what they've signed up to?
- how much of an appetite is there amongst my colleagues?
The next workshop is on 20th July in Leeds - why not book to join us?