Published on July 28, 2016

Reflections on #reframe16

By Simon Burall

Simon Burall is a Senior Associate of Involve. He has extensive experience in the fields of democratic reform, governance, public participation, stakeholder engagement, and accountability and transparency.

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Involve and King’s College London co-hosted a gathering of facilitators last Friday. Involve proposed the gathering to explore whether there was a role for individuals and organisations with facilitation, conflict resolution and engagement skills in supporting communities in the UK to find a way through the challenges posed by the EU-referendum result.

This post is the first in a series of immediate reflections from Involve staff who were present at the event. If you were present and would like to add your own reflections, please do contact Sophie at sophie@involve.org.uk.

 

  1. We framed the event as being about finding ways to bridge the divide in the country that the 52-48% referendum result had exposed. We did this both in the posts that preceded the event and at the event itself. However, at the start of the event, a number of participants helped me to reframe this in my own mind by pointing out that describing the problem in terms of divide is part of the problem. It obscures the terrain on which we can explore similarities, shared concerns and build common ground from now on.
  2. Even in a room of people with the skills, experience and temperament to make sure that everyone gets space to contribute, some people struggle to get themselves heard, make their points or feel included. On one level this is inevitable in any large group which has an agenda; there will always be some people who have such a different perspective that it can’t be included in a short workshop. On another level it is exactly this kind of exclusion of voice from the debate that motivated us to propose the workshop. It highlights the need for facilitators to continually question their practice and to keep on learning.
  3. There were lots of great sessions and connections made. I’m really hopeful that, if nothing else, we and many other participants will have formed productive relationships which leads to interesting new projects and activities.
  4. There were lots of great sessions, lots of ideas and energy, but most found it hard to move to action. In part this is inevitable given that most of us were meeting for the first time, were responding to a deliberately wide question and didn’t have long for discussions. However, when we next gather we’re going to have to make choices and start to nail down actions and plans that will allow us to start working together.
  5. At this event, and a couple of other post-referendum meetings I’ve been to, my most important, and frustrating, sense has been that it isn’t even clear what the problem is that we think we’re trying to solve. I think this lack of clear problem identification is going to be a significant stumbling block to concerted action – because, action for what? To achieve what?
  6. This is not a criticism of the people present on Friday at all, much more a reflection of our own network I think, but I was still in a bubble of like-minded people (as I have been most of my life). The next steps have to include us getting out of our comfort zones and into conversations where we don’t necessarily like what we’re hearing, in part because they will challenge our sense of ourselves as good people. But it is only by doing this that we can even start to get onto the terrain that will allow us to explore common aspirations and identify mutually acceptable ways forward.
  7. There is lots of energy and enthusiasm from people who identify as facilitators. We had well over 270 people responding to our initial proposal and over 60 people gave up their day and paid their own way to attend the event at very short notice. As I note above, the challenge will be in helping those interested to harness their own and others’ energy positively.
  8. This enthusiasm extended to a number of people offering free or very cheap rooms, financial support for us to hold the event or for others to travel, or wanting to hold their own events outside London, as well as other practical forms of support such as writing up the event.
  9. Finally, it was fun and I can’t wait for the next one!

Image credit: Involve

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