Imagine you and a colleague have just started facilitating a pretty complex and challenging learning event.
There are about 50 participants squeezed in to a not quite big enough room and you had to start late due to issues with the conferencing venue requiring people for lots of different events to queue on the street outside. Your participants are from a wide range of organisations: local authorities, clinical commissioning groups, NHS trusts, LINk and Healthwatch organisations, voluntary sector organisations and more. You have given a bit of an introduction which describes the landscape of complex systems they are all working in. A participant right in front of you at the nearest table is busy tapping away at a laptop keyboard as the group around the table start discussing the first scenario you have introduced. Someone quietly raises an issue about that participant sharing the discussion online. You panic as you realise you haven’t said anything in your introduction about maintaining a safe space for learning.
You won’t be surprised to hear that I was the participant on the laptop! (At that point in the session I was working from the document we’d been emailed, highlighting key points in the scenario and making notes on what my fellow group members were raising as issues.)
Unfortunately for those concerned, the concern raised wasn’t dealt with well at the time. But I am very grateful to Laurie for taking the time to apologise and have a very genuine dialogue with me at the end of the day, so that is forgiven.
On to the learning - and a request for your help and ideas...
Laurie and I discussed the fact that the Chatham House Rule doesn’t really work very well. So what guidelines or starting points for negotiating ground rules could a facilitator delivering this sort of learning suggest and send to participants in advance?
I often use the following in relation to confidentiality in event and workshop participant guidelines:
Sometimes when working in smaller groups and workshops people feel they want to draw on their own experience, but may not want people outside the group to know the details they are sharing. We can’t guarantee that people you are working with will keep what you say confidential, so you must take responsibility for what you choose to disclose.
That might not quite cut it at a learning event where the facilitator might want people from public sector organisations to feel free to say things that they wouldn’t in front of the press etc. So what can we do in face-to-face learning environments so that people feel free to speak their mind and offer opinions, without concern that what they say will be attributed to them (or their organisation) outside the room?
And then we come to online sharing. At events I organise I include in the guidelines something like:
Staff from Dudley CVS will be taking pictures, tweeting, and making videos during the event. We’ll ask you when you arrive about whether you are happy for photographs to be taken of you and respect your feelings around that. If you do fancy starring on YouTube or a podcast, please tell us - we’d love to feature you!
|Image credit: kdonovan_gaddy (flickr)|
Assume in this instance that participants are people involve in a paid capacity, or perhaps volunteers at board level of organisations. And remember that the facilitator(s) and some of the participants may not be social media savvy, and perhaps have views of twitter etc. which they’ve formed from reading sensationalist stories in the press.
I suspect that some of you reading this might want to suggest the short and simple social media policy: “don’t be an idiot”. But I think that might not be so helpful to people who don’t know you so don't understand that you’re not an idiot and you’re not going to tweet them verbatim and attribute everything you say.
Has anyone had useful discussions where agreements have been made about individuals tweeting their own reflections, for example? Or not mentioning or making organisations or individuals visible through what is being shared (unless it’s something like: organisation x in somewhereville have an amazing document about y - here’s the link...)?
Your experiences, ideas and suggestions are warmly encouraged, and I’ll pass them on to Laurie too.
Also huge, huge thanks to my twitter followers who helped me get through today by offering support and good advice (when I dramatically said that I felt I’d been gagged by the thought police!): @John_at_HPL @notazengarden @Hypnofix @navcaecm @marciasandel @lil_ster @jumpylegs @paulineroche @JonnyZander @watfordgap and @Donna_M_Roberts.
And thanks to folk who were tweeting from the event more quietly than me! Ooh, and a learning point for me, following a helpfully made comment by a fellow participant - the noise of my keyboard tapping is distracting to people when there is a speaker at an event. I quickly switched to my iPad - all good :)