Have just endured another horrific meeting. Two hours was the total time, and the first person to speak who wasn’t the chair or the guest speaker (managed to spend 35 minutes on a 20 minute presentation) opened their mouth fifty minutes in. And this Authentic Voice from the Floor was no improvement (the kind of guy that inspired other participants to forge different badges to avoid being in the same group in the second part of the evening.).
And what was the second part of the evening? In small groups answering questions (imposed from on high and of no direct relevance to the problems the participants were facing), and writing answers on … flipcharts.
Bloody bloody flipcharts. The cheap and easy “fix” for making meetings “participatory.” Except it isn’t.
The analogy is this- we constantly deride technological fixes for climate change (nuclear power, geoengineering, carbon capture and storage) and call for ‘social change’ instead. But with our boring and hierarchical meetings, we throw in a technofix (flipcharts) and pretend that the meeting is now democratic, dynamic and useful. Tosh.
A couple of photos may get taken, for the annual report or the website, to prove to funders that the organisation is gettin’ down wi’ da yoof. It’s like watching your uncle dance.
You can gild a turd, but it is still a turd. Real democracy and dynamism comes from finding out who is in the room, what they know, what they want to discuss/learn and then helping them create the conditions to get on with it.
Open. Space. Technology. Law of Two Feet.