You know how sometimes someone says something to you in passing and much later you realize that this comment rooted itself into your thoughts and over time, grew into something?
Years ago I talked with Gerd Ramm, who works with the German consultancy firm Como Consulting, and does a lot of work to promote organizational development of projects in developing countries. He told me that when he was younger the way he conducted workshops was to always try to make it a round thing, finish things nicely and neatly before everyone left.
Then, one day he realized that he learned much more from those events that weren’t as neat as that. When he went away from a workshop and felt that there were still open ends, un-answered questions, remaining tensions, he would take these issues with him after the workshop and they would continue to bother him, make him think and grow and wonder.
But he also said that it took a lot of courage on the side of the facilitator to conduct open-ended workshops, because you give up some control, you start a process, set things in motion and just allow them to happen after you have left the situation. And you have to be prepared to endure possible tense feelings from some participants who expected that you would send them home with a nicely tied up box of issues, all sorted out for them.
However, the potential benefits are tremendous because you might inspire changes that go far beyond your own scope and imagination. Letting go of some of the control is also about taking your participants seriously and trusting them to take whatever they take away from this workshop and turn it into something good.
When we recorded an interview for a pod-cast about Net-Map (soon to be found here), this thought came back to me and I started realizing that Net-Map might be a very suitable tool for conducting open-ended workshops, as participants don’t tend to agree easily on actors, networks and influence of actors and some of the discussions might linger and follow them home. And there is never enough time and space to discuss each and every issue until it is (or the discussants are) exhausted. I want to further explore this line of thought and will try to find out more from people who have attended Net-Map workshops a while ago…
Filed under: exploring new ideas