Saturday work is tough. Particularly when the Saturday is the year’s hitherto sunniest. Those are also the Saturdays bad for trade fairs and conferences. People seem to decide, last-minute, to get up just too late and do the garden (i.e. lounge in it). However, this year’s Women and Work Conference in Bonn, Germany, scorned the good weather and saw record numbers arrive (and stay). I was responsible for the Diversity Talks – 7 workshops sponsored by DIS AG (thanks for a great day, Barbara Klunker) and focussing on, well, talking about diversity. We were reminded of the urgency, the huge demographic, digital, global and other trends beating down on a world no longer able to stick to what it knows.
We have to embrace diversity, we were reminded. And also, sometimes, that we already do, but can do so better.
I was impressed by the fact that HR programmes and strategies – according to Catalyst – lack impact on whether a woman can rise to the top. That’s a tough message. Much more depends on networks etc. (I must find that essay I wrote about networking in USA and Germany – a comparison). And I loved the video we saw about women’s invisible barriers (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kT9Zc9D1Big).
The most impressive for me was the final workshop with a wonderfully quirky, authentic, cool and uncomplicatedly optimistic representative of the Bosch Women’s Network – an internal network of ambitious and upwardly mobile female engineers. Just do it. Don’t complain. Don’t whine. Have fun. Network and use that network for your own benefit. Laugh. Wear high heels and aim high. Fantastic!
This is a tagcloud of my website I’m quite pleased with – nothing manipulated and people really are what’s most important!
Quite a few people are asking me that heavily pregnant question – incorporating both how I am and how my business is going (the bane and joy of being self-employed). The answer can be “very well, thank you”, “lots” or a little more detailed. I’m thrilled with what’s up, even though it does tend to leave me breathless! It’s great to have the feeling of doing relevant stuff for good people and organisations and making sure I’m not just working. So in addition to going to dinner with friends, partying till dawn and teaching my daughter to swim, I’m able to work – from this weekend to the end of February (the shortest month) alone, for the following clients:
- BASF – what a team! We’re working at all hours putting together a concept for strengthening the Kulturwandel in a department – due for dialogue with managers in February
- Robert Bosch Stiftung – Future Search Conference for the school-university programm “DENKWERK” with professors, teachers and pupils
- GIZ – Management meeting for a department tackling the world’s most important challenges
- von Rundstedt HR Partners – workshop with management and sales. Wonderful people to work with.
- GIZ – again, creative strategy with the entire staff of a different department
- United Nations international biodiversity workshop
- German Federal State Action Plan “Stopping violence against Women” in North Rhine Westfalia – Meeting #7
- Ashoka Germany – Fellow Meeting in Hamburg with Dialogue in the Dark Mastermind Andreas Heinecke (pro bono)
- German Federal Ministry for Family etc.: Multistakeholder Conference with 200 key players in promoting and disseminating social innovation
- Fraunhofer Gesellschaft – consultation for the strategy process for the Microelectronics group
Leading up to a great chance to work with DIS AG on the Xpert-Programme at the start of March. And then it’s off to South Africa to work with Jonas Schumacher and Masifunde and take some time to relax too!
I’m so glad to be doing what I like to do. To sum it up, the answer to the question “What’s up?” has to be “Thumbs!”
Every now and then I get asked to train budding or experienced practitioners how to facilitate. This involves input and interesting discussions on formats and methods, visualisation and dealing with large groups, small groups, managers and citizens. All of these things are important for making facilitation work, but the crucial thing people need to learn and practice is how to really embody the role.
Here are some musts:
- Ask the right question. The right question is not necessarily the one you prepared. It’s the one that the group needs to find a way to reach the goal of the dialogue/workshop. And it may be a whole string of questions. It might make sense to pose them all at once and have small groups work simultaneously on them. Or it might make sense to build on each and hold people back. Making sense here means facilitating the most inclusive and efficient way to goal.
- How to ask a question and really be interested in the collective answer (i.e. in the process leading to participants finding their own individual and then the group answer). Not interested in relation to the facilitator’s own opinion, but because he/she really cares that the group achieves its goal and creates a joint solution or idea or makes a change or strategy its own.
- How to make sure people are able to understand each other. The facilitator must facilitate the movement of meaning from one person to another. It is his/her responsibility.
- How to appreciate people who talk a lot, who dominate or burst with an almost uncontrollable need to push their opinion forward. And how to appreciate introverted people or people who would prefer to be anywhere else than in your meeting. How to hold back judgement even when you’re “warned” about certain participants. How to support all the individuals in the group to be part of the whole. You don’t want to change anyone, but you enjoy watching them learn and grow. You live that wonderful Harrison Owen rule: “Who’s here’s here.”
- How to manage the energy in the room positively. The facilitator is responsible for upholding and even creating constructive energy in the room. This starts with the logistics such as light, seating, coffee, fruit, includes managing the convener’s/host’s expectations, playing with tempo and stimulation and culminates in engaging the emotions in the group.
- How to have enough knowledge and experience in the area under discussion to keep things on the right level and not slow the discussion down by lack of fundamental or relevant know how. It’s about encouraging the host/client to provide a sufficient briefing and by hard preparation work reading up about what’s going to matter for the group. The facilitator isn’t the expert, but he/she knows the client, understands the core business/issue and has got to grips with the important opportunities, problems, uncertainties and questions the group is concerned with. The facilitator has also learned not to take one person’s views for the only view and remains open to what comes.
- How to sum up efficiently and create a coherent logic from start to finish. This includes summing up individual statements and increasing the common understanding in the room (see above) and also synthesising the diversity of a discussion to show areas of agreement and disagreement and suggest which questions still need to be addressed. It’s about presenting where we are, where we’ve come from and asking what that means for where we want to go. The facilitator effectively de-clutters the discussion for more focus and inclusion.
These are just some and I’m so grateful to be able to share my understanding of facilitation. I’ve trained about 1500 people in facilitation since 1999. Each training gave me a much clearer picture of what I do and generated plenty of new ideas for how to keep on getting better.
Informatics (i.e. IT) is an area I’ve been intensely involved in over the past 5 days. Using innovative and simply plain-sailing ways of collecting, storing, managing, prioritising and communicating data. But not just any old data: data which could provide scientists and policy makers with the information they need to make important decisions to reduce the loss of biodiversity and support ecosystem services. Biodiversity informaticians are committed to understanding how ecosystems, species, genomes are affected by climate change, infrastructure projects and any other change and how biodiversity can impact on our resilience to deal with that change. They are an interesting (and delightfully brainy, if sometimes scatty) group of academics, researchers, museum managers and people close to policy who understand better than anyone else how to measure whether we’re getting closer to any of our global efforts to reduce environmental and biodiversity loss.
And they want people to listen to them!
- (c) 2012 – Yannick LEGRE
The GBIC 2012 was a milestone conference to get the community together and come to a common understanding of the next steps for this fascinating discipline. 2 colleagues, Niels Ferdinand and Bart Slob, supported me in facilitating the conference and providing a (somewhat bossy) structure, orientation and tempo to the dialogue. What an exciting and exhausting task – the field is broad, the thinking deep and the responsibility for working with people intent on “saving the world” daunting – as always. It is also a field populated by caring people and there was lots of listening and collaborating and letting go during the conference and workshops.
Twitter brought the conference way beyond the confines of the Copenhagen location – great to see how much interest was generated and voiced from all over the globe.
There should be a good Global Biodiversity Informatics Outlook on the table for the CBD’s COP11 in Hyderabad this October. Let’s hope the bridges will continue to be raised to get the important questions scientists and policy makers have on biodiversity answered using the most innovative informatics capabilities.
Thanks to the excellent, sometimes mind-boggling and exceedingly friendly group of co-chairs and participants!
I’ve just had the pleasure to facilitate a three-day workshop for 80 country delegates from all over the world on how to revise their national strategies on biodiversity. It was a pleasure not just because of the excellent hosts (UK and Brazilian governments), the friendly and intelligent participants and being in Brazil for the first time. It was a particular pleasure because I believe the workshop achieved the level of dialogue and learning which makes for real value: analysis, self-critical reflection and joint innovation. Because I believe that all participants were able to take back not only knowledge and ideas, but the will, confidence and motivation to change important things about the way they will strategically and tactically approach saving biodiversity.
How did this happen? I think there are 4 main reasons (and a lot of other smaller ones):
- Adequate time, space and knowledge to reflect on established views and explore new ideas in small groups and plenary
- Participant diversity: being jogged out of your comfort zone forces you to question and learn
- Logical build-up of the workshop: taking participants to increasing levels of complexity step by step and providing them with
- constant, bite-sized syntheses to use as the basis for the next level
- clear and challenging questions to steer their thoughts and dialogues to focus on results
- The element of surprise: it’s not only fun, but also a real eye-opener to look at “old” issues and challenges from a different and unusual angle, i.e.:
- a TV talk show including 4 participants from the year 2020, where they report back on the most important decisions they took, how they managed to overcome barriers and what they are most proud of having achieved
- 3 participants take on roles of secretariat staff of the Convention on Biological Diversity and discuss what they’re going to do, how they’re going to do it and what they’ll need in order for countries to speed up their efforts to meet the stategic goals
It’s great how much you can achieve with a diverse group of professionals. Thank you to all who helped to make this a milestone in getting to implementation of the strategic plan, particularly the UK team from DEFRA and the Davids from the CBD and also thanks to Roberto Cavalcanti, the Brazilian Co-Chair, for showing us the amazing city of Brazilia by night and for reminding us of the wealth of biodiversity on our earth. It was also great that Braulio Ferreira De Souza Dias, who’s just become Executive Secretary of the CBD spent so much time at the workshop!