Wednesday, July 07, 2010

811 Years of Experience!

We just completed a very interesting workshop where 110 stakeholders were involved in giving feedback to 15 speakers (project proponents and authors of 11 Chapters of an ambitious global Reporting project) in 1.5 days. How we did that is a completely different blog post! (We did use Pecha Kuchas to give the Chapter overviews, which overall worked well - participants appreciated them very much for their economy of words and time, and some speakers were rather challenged to get all their information, diagrams and graphs into the 20 slide x 20 second format.)

Our very large participant group was made up of experts, advocates, authors, and partners, all with a valuable perspective to share, both on the process and the content areas addressed in the Report. With so many speakers and items on the agenda we needed to design in as many opportunities to hear from the participants as possible, as getting their feedback on the Report was one of the main goals of the workshop.

With so many amazing people, we needed to optimise their inputs and flatten out any potential power hierarchies that might be inadvertently created by a speaker/participant, teacher/learner lecture format (e.g. someone speaking and many people listening and then asking questions). We used many different ways of capturing inputs and ideas from people after our Pecha Kuchas, many starting with table-level work so that many people could speak simultaneously.

But back to the very beginning... After our workshop opening on Day 1, we took the first 10 minutes at the tables for people seated together to introduce themselves. They shared their names, organizations and insight on their involvement in the Reporting process so far. That provided a good sense of the resources available in close proximity.

Then we used a group mapping technique that would help demonstrate and visualise, for all of us, the collective knowledge and expertise in the room. First we asked people to stand up when I called their sector - I asked people working for government to stand up, for those from NGOs, business, the UN, etc. to stand - this gave us the sector balance in the room. Then I asked for people to stand who had already worked on the Report as an author or writer - that gave us the people who have been most intimately involved - our process experts. I asked who had read one or more Chapters - that gave us the people who had been involved in any kind of review (formal or informal). We noticed that for each of those categories called, the experts were in fact seated at all the different tables in the room - no longer were all the "experts" at the front of the room.

Finally, we asked for people at their tables to add up quickly all the months that individuals had been involved in the Report process, and all the years of content expertise they had. They wrote this up on a prepared flip chart near their tables, and then we had them quickly report their numbers table-by-table in plenary.

When we added this up we had 625 months (or 52 years) of process involvement in working on this Report (which had officially started in 2008), and 811 years of content expertise! With all this experience in the room, we were ready to go!