In this day and age, with the advent of globalisation, events attended by international audiences are commonplace. In such situations, organisers may need to hire professionals who will provide translation services. Guest post from Deborah Chobanian advises us on how to get the best from interpreters at an event.
Contemplating ecological apocalypse, and being really really angry with the bozos who are letting it happen, can make us sustainability people pretty dull conversationalists.
In a bid to learn some new ways of delighting people while helping them stare into the abyss, I enrolled in the marvellous Sustainable Stand Up course, run by my old friend and colleague - and all round laughter fairy - Belina Raffy with support from Dr Steve Cross.
Yesterday I was at a family funeral. The rite was one I'm only a little familiar with: enough to follow, but not enough to know what was coming next. It's made me reflect on the rituals - acknowledged and unnoticed - that we perpetuate in groups and professions. So comforting and affirming for those in the know. Provoking anxiety, confusion or ridicule in the newcomer.
There was a written 'order of service', which included the information that no doubt seemed useful to those who wrote it - the things that would be different, or special, about the event. The things that would be the same as they always are, were not included. Which makes sense if you are already part of the group and you know what those things are, and means you are very lost if you are there for the first time.
What do we take the time to explain to people who are new to our way of working? What do we consider so self-evident that we don't think explanation is needed? How do we respond when someone asks or seems lost?
What do we open our minds to when we first join a group? What do we do to show we are interested and curious, yet a bit lost? What do we attack, without having the patience to observe and attempt to understand?
Trust is essential to collaborative work and makes all kinds of stakeholder engagement more fruitful. Clients often have 'increased trust' as an engagement objective. But how do you get someone to trust you?
My first response is to challenge back: should people trust you? Are you entering this collaboration or engagement process in good faith? Do you have some motives or aims which are hidden or being spun? Do some people in your team see consultation and participation as just more sophisticated ways of persuading people to agree with what you've already made up your mind about? Or are you genuinely open to changing things as a result of hearing others' views? Is the team clear about what's up for grabs?
It's an ethical no-brainer: don't ask people to trust you if they shouldn't!
Assuming you do, hand on heart, deserve trust, then the best way to get people to trust you is to be trustworthy.
Do what you say you're going to do. Don't commit to things that you can't deliver.
Don't bad-mouth others - hearing you talk about someone one way in public and another in a more private setting will make people wonder what you say about them when they're not around.
The other side of the coin is to be trusting. Show your vulnerability. Share information instead of keeping it close. Be open about your needs and constraints, the pressures on you and the things that you find hard. If you need to give bad news, do so clearly and with empathy.
Give it time
Long-term relationships require investment of time and effort. Building trust (or losing it) happens over time, as people see how you react and behave in different situations.
Be worthy of people's trust, and trust them.
Here are some fascinating examples of staff behaviour change initatives, particularly about travel, which have been carefully thought through, using creative responses to the elements which might enable and discourage the new desired behaviours. I've analysed them using the six sources of influence framework which still feels very intuitive and helpful to me, a few years after I first came across it. (There's a very useful summary here.) This article was published in the environmentalist on paper and on line, last month. The article didn't have room for the table below, so when you've read it, come back and see this more systematic matching of actions to sources of influence in the case of Akzo-Nobel's sales team car travel.
Using the sales forces’ existing strong competitive instincts and love of gadgets. Not using eco-awareness as a motivator.
Provide targeted training.
Popular simulator game, competing for highest mpg.
Not used for this behaviour change.
One for the future – considering how to incorporate a fuel-efficiency aspect into the reward scheme.
Fuel-efficient choices and real-time mpg displays in cars.
The article was written some weeks ago, before the encounter with a disgruntled staff member which I blogged about here. (Neither of the organisations in the article is the one in that blog.)
Pondering on the approaches take by Lloyds and Akzo-Nobel would have avoided this response, I'm thinking that this is probably less about the specific initiative, and more about the sense of alienation that staff have from the organisation they work for. If you're grumpy generally about your workplace, then an initiative like the low-carbon diet will exacerbate and provide a focus for that anger.
Greenwash or win-win?
Trewin Restorick at eco-behaviour NGO Global Action Plan has also blogged recently about staff travel. A good period of internal engagement prior to setting up systems and initatives - to make sure that incentives and polices are aligned rather than contradicting each other - seems needed, given some of the insights he describes. He makes an interesting point about greenwash - in this case, dressing up a travel reduction initative as an environmental benefit when it is 'really' a cost-saving measure. This is in contrast with Paul Turner's experience, described in my article, of seeing the dual-benefit as a win-win which enables Lloyds' to appeal to different groups of staff.
"Who do they think they are preaching to?"
A visit to a client's canteen earlier this week brought me face-to-face with one extremely disgruntled staff member. In the queue, my contact pointed out the points-based reward system staff can now choose to join, which incentivises choosing a meat-free or meat-and-dairy-free meal. Like a coffee-shop loyalty card, you accumulate points and get mystery prizes. The explicit motivation is calorie-reduction and carbon-reduction: a vegan meal has, it is explained, a lower carbon footprint and is better for you.
Bottled up discontent
I asked whether there had been any controversy about the scheme, knowing that promoting a lower-impact or reduced-meat diet is considered very hard in this Defra research. Behind us, a member of staff neither of us knew spat out
"Well you're not allowed to disagree around here!"
"Who do they think they're preaching to? What makes them think they're always right? What do they think they're doing interfering with our private lives?"
She was clearly very angry about it.
The organisation in question is one which has a public and explicit commitment to a low-carbon future, and it could be expected that a high proportion of staff are personally committed to reducing their environmental impact. So this reaction was surprising.
Unpacking the outburst
I think it's worth unpacking the points, to see if there's something to be learnt about engaging staff in this kind of impact-reduction activity:
- 'Preaching' is a word often used when the recipient of the message considers themselves to be at least as 'ethical', if not more, than the person transmitting the message. Perhaps this staff member considers herself to already have a strong personal set of ethics and practices, and resents the perceived implication that she needs to be told to do more. Perhaps she is unhappy about the way the organisation approaches its corporate impacts, and resents being asked to make a personal change when she thinks not enough is happening at the bigger level.
- 'What makes them think they are always right?' I wonder if there was an opportunity for knowledgeable people within the organisation to challenge the underlying generalisation that meat-free is healthier or better from a carbon perspective, or to contribute to developing the project. Perhaps this person has specialist knowledge which leads her to be uncomfortable with this simplification?
- 'Interfering with private lives'. This is an interesting one. The setting for this initiative is a staff canteen, possibly (I don't know) subsidised by the employer. People are not obliged to eat there, although it is cheaper and more convenient than going to local cafes. The scheme is voluntary, and around 1/3 of the staff have joined it. the scheme includes small incentives for 'better' choices, but there are no disincentives for 'poor' choices. Previous initiatives include asking people to use the stairs rather than the lift, and switching off equipment when not in use. These have been successful in reducing energy use in the buildings. What is it about eating, which makes it feel part of this person's 'private life'?
- 'You can't disagree around here'. This is a big problem in any organisation. When disagreement is counter-cultural to the point where a member of staff blurts it out to a stranger... There's something unhealthy about a level of top-down orthodoxy which means that it does not feel safe to say no. Every organisation needs mechanisms and culture which enable authentic conversation (this does not mean that every decision needs to be unanimous).
Perhaps it doesn't matter that this one person feels this way. After all, staff take-up of the initiative seems pretty high, and the person I was meeting was an enthusiastic user of the points scheme.
Or this one person could be giving voice to concerns and needs which are shared more widely. If it's really the case that people find it very hard to tell colleagues that they disagree, then it will be hard to know.
Engage with resistance
Peggy Holman maintains that we serve our goals best when we engage with those who disagree and dissent. Seek out difference, listen harder, enquire into the needs and concerns which are being offered as a gift into the conversation, understand the common aims and see where a 'yes, and' response might lead.
Richard Seel similarly champions diversity as a critical condition for emergence of new ways of doing things.
Let's reflect together
What else might have been going on here? What could the scheme designers have done to avoid this? And what can they do now, to respond?
Let me know what you think...
Spurred on by discussions over at the Involve blog, I want to share a really useful framework for those of you who are thinking about engaging stakeholders or (sections of) the public while you decide what to do about something. At the start, discussions within the organisation which is asking for input need to establish clarity about what's alread fixed, what's completely open and what there are some preferences about but where there is room for change.
Pie Chart: Lindsey Colbourne
Not negotiable - At the start of your engagement process it is likely that what's decided (and thus not negotiable) may be at the level of overall objectives, and timescales. For example, a Government department may have a policy objective and a legal deadline to meet. A local council may know that it wants to revamp a local park, and have a potential funding source whose criteria it needs to meet.
Negotiable - You may have some existing preferences, ideas or initiatives which have been piloted and could be rolled out. There may be some technical information which will inform the decision or be used to assess options. There may be criteria which you are bound to, or want to use, but haven't yet applied to the options.
Open - There will be aspects of the decision which you have no preference about and where the decisions can in effect (even if not in law or within your organisation's own rules) be delegated to others.
Remember that you will also have decided-negotiable-open aspects to your engagement process - the people you talk to, the points at which you engage them, the methods and channels which are used.
The conversation you have internally with your team about what goes in each slice of the pie can often be dramatically useful: flushing out assumptions which have hitherto been hidden, and exposing disagreements within the team in the safety of your planning conversations rather than in the less forgiving gaze of stakeholders.
The pie slices shift over time
At the start of the process, it's likely that the 'decided' slice is slimmer than the other two. As the process unfolds, things usually shift from 'open' to 'negotiable' and from 'negotiable' to 'decided'. Principles and assessment criteria get agreed. Ways of working are negotiated. Working groups or consultation processes are established. Exploratory conversations crystalise into options which get fleshed out and then assessed. Some options get discarded and others emerge as front-runners.
Sometimes, things can move in the other direction: when opposition is so strong that you have to think again, or when new information emerges which shows that ways forward which had seemed marginal are now much more likely to work. In extreme circumstances, this may lead to the initiative being abandoned altogether. The debacle over England's publicly-owned forests is an example of this.
Tell people what's 'up for grabs'
There's no point asking people what you should do about something if you have already made up your mind.
By all means ask for feedback which will help you communicate your decisions more clearly. Understanding people's concerns and aspirations means you can address them directly in your explanations about why you have made a particular decision and how to expect to implement and review it.
Do people the simple courtesy of letting them know which aspects of situation you are most keen to get their feedback and ideas about - which information will most helpful in informing the decision, the dilemmas you'd like to think through with them, the innovative ideas you'd like to test out.
That way, everyone's time is spent where it can make the most difference.
Acknowledgements to Lindsey Colbourne and others at the late lamented Sustainable Development Commission, InterAct Networks, Sciencewise-ERC and the Environment Agency who have been developing and working with this framework over the last few years.
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.
I've met some interesting and challenging facilitators recently who have helped me reframe and explore my facilitation work and my sustainable development aims. Our conversations together have been so refreshing and enriching, we wondered if it might be possible to open them up to a wider group...
So we have created Deep Open.
It's a one-day workshop for people who are interested in groups, conversation, change and sustainable development. We hope to enable conversations which allow us to be aware of our feelings (physical and emotional), alert to difference and conflict, challenging and honest. We're going to experiment with having our feelings rather than letting our feelings have us. We're going to experiement with not distracting ourselves when things feel uncomfortable. We're going to try to resist being task-focussed, whilst staying together with purpose.
If you are intruiged by this - rather than irritated - then you might want to join us on 19th May in London for this workshop.
The latest Sciencewise Bulletin asks whether constructive dialogue is possible online.
"One of the key problems in online deliberation [is] that it can result in a game of who can shout the loudest. We’ve all seen discussion threads which end in name calling, usually around a few contentious issues which had nothing to do with the original topic. It is this tendency which lies behind ‘Godwin's Law' which proposes that as an internet discussion thread grows longer, it also grows angrier and the probability of someone comparing someone else to Hitler approaches."
Colleagues from the field of 'virtual facilitation' have been adding to the debate, including on the Sciencewise-ERC Forum, considering the role of anonymity versus seeing the other contributors as real people (for example by inviting them to add a photo to their profile) and also the usefulness of active moderation.
I am working with some national government clients at the moment, helping them to plan their engagement with stakeholders around a couple of different policy-related decisions coming up later in 2011. I stress how useful it is to be clear what they, as the 'decision makers' want to get from the engagement process. How they can identify the stakeholders they should be in touch with, and phase the conversations so that they get information and opinions at a time when they can influence the decision-making process.
For example, some things will be decided early on, and other things can only be decided later. There's not so much use in asking people about things which have already been decided!
But an open on-line dialogue is less easily controlled or structured by the facilitators. Anyone with internet access can join in, and you may not know if they are who they say they are. This lack of control makes organisers nervous. Should it?
If it is true that "for some people, conflict is simply a source of recreation", then online dialogue could "get out of hand". This is one of the learnings from the list of "What online communities can teach the Public Conversations Project", posted on the Public Conversations blog, by Deborah Elizabeth Finn.
What are the implications for on-line dialogue?
My experience is almost entirely in bounded, organised and above all, face-to-face engagement. I confess to some anxiety myself about open on-line engagement - how do the relevant decision-makers make sense of the inputs? How do they steer conversations back to the issues which are yet to be decided?
Your thoughts are very welcome, here or on the Sciencewise Forum.
There's a part of the UK's business ministry, BIS, which provides expert guidance on public dialogue, as well as promoting and supporting dialogue projects. The Sciencewise Expert Resource Centre has supported dialogues on a wide range of science and technology subjects, including nanotechnology, hybrid embryos and how to make the shift to low-carbon energy sources. There's a set of principles to guide people who are setting up a dialogue, so they can keep it open and multi-directional. Crucially, there needs to be a policy 'owner' in Government who will use the outcomes of the dialogue to help form policy.
Plenty of case studies are available on the Sciencewise-ERC website. Since every project has to be independently evaluated, there are also evaluation reports. And there's a team of Dialogue and Engagement Specialists (I'm part of this team) to advise.
If you're trying to get fashion-crazy teens and young people interested in climate change, it makes sense to start where they are. And that's what Global Cool have done, in their Eighteen Degrees of Inspiration campaign. But isn't it superficial, missing the point, and above all not going to get the scale of change we need at a systemic level?
Well, according to Chris Rose's VBCOP theory, starting where people are and eliciting changed behaviour for non-'green' reasons is the most effective way to build up political space for systemic change.
Want to know more?
Ever been in a meeting where everyone is sure they've tried everything, and nothing works? And nothing will ever work?
And it's everyone else's fault?
Sure you have!
Tempered radicals and other internal change agents face this kind of situation alot. So do external consultants, activists and coach / facilitators.
"The eco-champions meetings I go to are a real groan fest!"
When I was faced with this heartfelt description in a training workshop, we spent a bit of time coming up with ideas. But I was sure there must be some even better approaches than the ones we suggested.
The useful suggestions from fellow facilitators, coaches and OD (organisational development) professionals gave me a lot of chew on, and the result is this article. It was first published in the environmentalist, and has also been reproduced in the IAF Europe newsletter.
Your own experiences and suggestions are very welcome!
Strands of work on stakeholder engagement and behaviour change have been woven together in a couple of different pieces of work I’ve been doing with public sector clients recently. I’ve ended up developing some new frameworks and adapting some existing ones to help people clarify their aims and plan their campaigns. If you want to influence someone to change their behaviour, there are models and approaches which can help. For example, the six sources of influence help you identify the right messages and pay attention to the surrounding context which supports and enables – or discourages and gets in the way of – the desired behaviour.
When you are working for a public body (the NHS, a Government department) and you are trying to influence the behaviour of people who you have at best a distant relationship with (mothers, or people who buys cars) then you will go through a multi-stage process:
- Should we be trying to encourage this behaviour change, which we see as desirable?
- If yes, what role(s) should we be playing (legislator, educator, convenor, funder etc)?
- If yes, what are the most effective ways of influencing the behaviour?
Should we encourage this behaviour change?
Given current discussions about social engineering, this question is important. It might seem entirely obvious and uncontroversial to us that wanting to promote energy efficiency that more efficient light bulbs should be promoted. So obvious that we don’t stop to consider possible unintended consequences or misunderstandings.
So an important early stage is to engage stakeholders in helping to inform the decision about whether to encourage a particular behaviour change at all. For this, classic stakeholder identification and mapping techniques (e.g. see figure 1 in this paper from WWF) will help ensure that you hear from more than the usual suspects.
Stakeholders can share perspectives about the policy goals, identify which behaviours might help to achieve them, and whether action to encourage those behaviours is a good idea.
What role should we be playing?
Some public bodies draft new legislation and regulations, others deliver services. Some enforce regulations and others provide advice and public education. Some bring other organisations together, convening conversations and partnerships. Others commission and fund research. There are lots of roles that public sector organisations could play in a given situation. Which role or roles make the most sense, in meeting the policy aim in question?
Listening to the views of stakeholders in relation to that question is enormously helpful. And those stakeholders may be professionals who work in that field of expertise - but removed from the coal face - or they may be practitioners on the ground whose direct experience can bring a dose of reality to the conversations.
A great example of this is the Low Carbon Communities Challenge, launched on Monday 8th February. It will (amongst other things) draw on the experiences and insights of 22 communities which are being funded to install energy efficiency kit and renewable energy equipment en masse in their areas. They’ll also be encouraging people to adopt low-carbon behaviours. Each community will be doing something different, guided by its particular circumstances and enthusiasms. Excitingly, each community will also be asked to identify the barriers to and enablers of progress, in particular what government could do differently to make this kind of low-carbon push as successful as possible across England, Wales and Northern Ireland. I'm delighted to be a facilitator on this project.
What are the best ways of influencing this behaviour?
A cool analysis of the system of players and pressures which lead to the current patterns of behaviour is a good starting point, and involving a team (including some stakeholders) will help ensure that the picture built up is rich and complete.
In a workshop a few weeks ago, we used the classic ‘pestle’ headings to brainstorm the pressures and players which influence a particular behaviour which my client is interested in changing. Let’s say that the behaviour is keeping one’s car well-maintained, so that it runs as fuel-efficiently as possible. Specific behaviours include keeping the tyre pressure optimum, and removing the roof box when it’s not needed.
In the workshop, people identified players and pressures and wrote them on post-its, sticking them up under the headings of Political, Economic, Social, Technical, Legislative, Environmental and Other. The headings and team-work both help to ensure that no aspect of the system is forgotten.
Once that was done, we stood back and looked at the results, and pictures were taken on a camera phone. Then I invited people to bring the post-its to a big blank sheet of paper, and to begin mapping the relationships between the players and pressures, starting with “the most interesting” element of the system. [The idea of asking for ‘the most interesting’ came from a book about coaching which I’ve been reading.]
One post-it was brought to the empty map, and was soon followed by others. Lines of connection were drawn, and amid the chaos some patterns emerged. Most importantly, the team realised that these behaviours were more like DIY and home maintenance than like ‘eco’ behaviours, so when targeting different audiences they should seek our market research which segments people according to things which are relevant to that kind of behaviour, rather than segmentations which have been developed with an environmental purpose in mind.
Mapping stakeholders for behaviour change
This brought us smoothly to looking at which stakeholders to engage as a priority, to add muscle to the campaign to influence people to adopt (or reinforce) the desired behaviours.
Many of these stakeholders were ‘players’ identified in the earlier exercise. Some were organisations and people who the team thought of as the system was being mapped.
Brainstormed onto post-its, stakeholders are then mapped according to the team’s view about their influence and attitude.
You then overlay the coloured ‘zones’ onto the matrix, and these are linked to typologies of engagement like the ladder of engagement.
The people and organisations which are the highest priority to engage with, are those who are highly influential and have the strongest opinions (for and against) the desired behaviour change. In-depth engagement which involves them directly in designing and implementing the behaviour campaign will be important.
Those in the ‘enhanced’ zones need to be involved and their opinions and information sought.
Those in the ‘standard’ zone can be engaged with a lighter touch – perhaps limited to informing them about the campaign and the desired behaviour.
The workshops helped these clients to identify new stakeholders, reprioritise them, and consider more strategically who to engage and to what purpose.
I'm keen to use more 'e' in meetings. Teleconferences mean live conversation without the travel. Add in some kind of live editing of a shared document (like google docs), and everyone can see the notes being written in real time, just like flip charts in a workshop. Share some video or slides, and everyone is viewing the same input. Include video calling (e.g. using skype), and we can see each other as well.
I can see that there's loads of potential to reduce participants' carbon footprints (probably) and include people whose other commitments mean that adding travelling time onto meeting time would mean that they couldn't attend at all.
Toe in the water
So I'm making a concerted effort to experience e-meetings of all kinds as a participant. I joined a webcast (lecture and panel discussion) a couple of days ago, and I'm attending a webinar on how to design good webinars next week.
I'm also adding in some virtual elements to meetings which I facilitate. Some tips on good teleconferences, built from that experience, are available here.
Trainers sometimes talk about 'blended learning', which includes traditional face to face workshops with virtual elements like a web-based discussion space or a module delivered by email.
In a workshop I ran over the summer, there was a fascinating example of spontaneous blending of methods. The group is a community stakeholder group, set up to represent local interests during the early phases of developing plans for a flood defence. During a half day workshop, the group was looking at maps showing alternative sites for the defences. Timescales for the project are very tight, and this workshop was taking place during a very short window of opportunity for people to feed comments back to the organisation which is developing the plans. So the pressure was on the participants to ensure that they were accurately reflecting the views of the wider constituencies that they were there to represent.
One innovative participant whipped out a camera phone and took pictures of the maps. Within seconds they could be sent to people who weren't at the meeting, and their comments relayed back. I don't know whether this meant that their views made it 'into the room' during the meeting, or whether it simply gave them a head start in discussing the plans after the meeting. In any case, it set me thinking about how much wider groups of people could be involved, if we can come up with ways of using technologies like camera phones and texting, which are ubiquitous.
What if this person had stuck to the ground rule about keeping mobile phones off during the meeting?
I'm enjoying dabbling my toes in this pool. I'm readying myself to dive in!
Well as promised, here are my thoughts having attended the morning of the IEMA Conference 09.
- I'd gladly hear Jonathan Porritt again. He talked about the need to get off the hedonic treadmill, and the challenge of getting marketeers to sell austerity. His slides are here. I'm intrigued that he found Dr Steven Chu's speech to the Nobel Laureate's symposium inspiring - because JP says the speech was about energy efficiency. And in the words of Theodore Roszack,
...prudence is such a lacklustre virtue.
I couldn't find a way to read, hear or watch Secretary Chu's speech (please let me know if you know of one) but the symposium site is here. The other insight which caused me to stop short is that, apparently, family planning is the single best intervention in reducing emissions of greenhouse gases, from a cost benefit point of view.
I didn't really understand what Lord Jenkin was trying to tell us. Insufficiently relevant, at least to this member of the audience. Sorry.
Peter Jones is always interesting, although his acrobatic mind can leave me behind sometimes.
Skills for Change
The workshop I ran was an hour's worth on skills for change. I chose to focus on inter-personal influencing, through mirroring body language, asking facilitative questions, and sharing the six sources of influence that I learnt about through the 'all washed up' video which I've blogged about here.
The handouts from the session are here.
It was a lot of fun - it's amazing how quickly you can find three things that you have in common with a total stranger - and I hope stretched some people to think beyond 'awareness raising' as a way of influencing others.
I hope that it also helped people to be braver about networking later in the day, because making connections and building trust within a group such as this one, composed of IEMA members and fellow-travellers, will - in the long run - have far more impact than speechifying.
I love World Cafe as a 'technique' to use in meetings. And I was privileged to go to one where Peter Senge was one of the facilitators. This article - a longer version of one I wrote for the environmentalist - explains more about the technique, and the results that emerged from this meeting of a mixture of climate change professionals and activists.
...the North Wind and the Sun? In Aesop's fable, these two characters argue over who is the strongest, and decide to settle the matter by seeing who can get a traveller's cloak off his back.
For those of you unfamiliar with Greek tales, the denouement can be found here. And while you read it, you might reflect on our behaviour change strategies - and which are most effective.
Too often, I meet with people who see stakeholder engagement as a more sophisticated way of selling their messages to potential critics. That's not the game I'm in!
Don't bother asking people what they think if you're not willing to change your plans as a result.
This article explains why you need to act in good faith when you're listening to your stakeholders.
Update: November 2010
- transmit - "straight comms" - one way, putting out a message about something which has already been decided or already happened.
- collaborate - work together to co-create an understanding of the situation, problem, possible solutions, implementation plans and so on.
- receive - "extractive research" of the kind perfected by social researchers, market researchers etc.
There is absolutely a role for all three, and many processes or even single events will include ways of doing all three.
But if you want buy-in, and want those implementing the outcomes to want to do so, collaboration is the way. And more fun, IMHO.
Facilitator and blogger Myriam Laberge has explored this a bit too.
When we write a blog post, draft a leaflet, design a poster or click 'publish', it's important to think about who we're trying to reach, and what will get through to them. This isn't just about the mechanisms, it's also about the tone of voice, the words we choose and the messages we decide to present. Sometimes we get it right, by chance or intuition. Sometimes - especially when we're trying to reach out beyond people like us - we fall flat on our faces.
Here's some ways that you can segment your audiences, to make sure your talking gets heard. The article was first published in the environmentalist.