Friday, August 31, 2007

Talking About Tagging: Finding Our Event

We are in Day 2 of our New Learning for Sustainable Development in the Arab Region conference at the Library of Alexandria, Egypt. Vance Stevens spoke in our morning session titled, "Motivating Change: New Learning in Formal Education for Sustainable Development."

During his very interesting presentation (which I will blog more about later), he introduced a tag for our meeting IUCNALEX, which we will be using together to aggregate our comments and reflections.

In the presentation this morning by the Taking IT Global team they introduced the idea of "curiosity-based" learning. I think we have a rich mixture of participants here with us, some who are active bloggers and Web 2.0 enthusiasts, and some for whom many of these tools are new. So we can use our curiosity to experiment with some of these, use the resources and knowledge of our colleagues to promote further learning on these tools and the opportunities that they provide, and the tagging system will help people keep it all organized. I hear that Buthaina al Othman, who is one of our speakers this afternoon, talked another participant through how to set up a blog already, so we might have some new bloggers coming out of our meeting!

Thursday, August 30, 2007

An ISO Standard for Plenary Speakers?

We have been talking about standards for social impact analysis today in a small discussion group. Has anyone thought of an ISO like this yet? That would be really helpful to those who are organizing workshops and for speakers as well.

You Can't Fight Furniture

No matter how hard you try to have a dynamic, interactive feeling to a workshop, if you are in a room where the furniture is all facing forward and bolted to the floor, people's assumptions are that they are there to sit still and listen, and not to look at each other and talk.

We have just launched our New Learning workshop, our room is a banked auditorium - very nice, very wired, not too big and very quiet at the moment. Of course, we are at the introduction and context setting part filled with short presentations. And we will get to work hard to change the dynamic once we move past this part to participants' introductions, which I will facilitate next. Needless to say, I was delighted to notice that the chairs do swivel.

Are Formal Networks Pre-Internet Artifacts?

This strikes me as a rather explosive question, and it would be interesting to hear different viewpoints. Several years ago I think I would not have considered it as plausible as I do today. Formal networks now are competing with personal networks that people set up for themselves, both social and professional. Why join a structured professional network, when you can use a ning or Facebook to bring into your orbit the people who are important for informal learning and exchange on your preferred practice, and use google or any other search engine to find all the relevant new information for your field. What can formal networks now provide as a compelling value proposition for their members?

I guess they can be filters and aggregators, but there are lots of organization providing clearinghouses and tailored information collections. There might be a few specialised niches left to populate here, but fewer and fewer every day. Maybe they can provide quality control? But voting and ranking functions can do that to, as well as checking the popular tags on or the public bloglines accounts of reputable experts. What is the most compelling offer for formal networks today?

Maybe they need to go back to F2F formats, that is something that many of these new tools don't provide. When they are virtual, then they are increasingly in a crowded space.

We are just about to kick off a meeting organized in conjunction with our international network of communication and education/learning experts on New Learning, no doubt this will be an interesting question for reflection...

Friday, August 17, 2007

What Can a Trader Learn from a Tribesman?

This is the new corporate ad that our organization has developed - I was so excited to see that out of the 8 words chosen so carefully to profile our organization, "Learning" was one! The tagline at the bottom is also interesting: "Bringing experts together to help solve our most pressing sustainable development challenges".

Earlier this week we had a programme planning session in which we explored our theory of change, visioned our unit in 5 years, and discussed the needs that we saw for learning and leadership within our organization, the greater union of partners and members, and externally. At the end of the day, we worked very hard to try to draw together the many strands of thoughts, ideas and goals, and we came up with the simple (in words if not in action) phrase that will help give our work direction: "Learning - Leading - Convening" (perhaps drawn as a feedback loop diagram). And that was before we saw the corporate ad...

What do you think? Too simple? Too narrow? How do you think learning and leadership go together? We would love to have your feedback!

Monday, August 13, 2007

When Do Facilitators Need Facilitating?

For professional facilitators practised in the art of designing and running effective group processes, skill in reading the underlying dynamics in a group ('The Orchestrator') and maintaining objectivity ('Under the Neutral Flag') are two of fourteen key competencies described in the June 2007 issue of The Global Flipchart.

I have marvelled at facilitators displaying these competencies par excellence and have no doubt about how hugely this has helped the group to progress and succeed with the task at hand, whilst also enabling some to find a little insight into their 'Johari's window'.

My question, however, is: 'In what contexts do even the best facilitators need facilitating?' What happens at meetings of the International Association of Facilitators? When doing their strategic planning, who facilitates? When do facilitators need facilitating?