Reading this week's comments of my colleagues in the KS2 workshop I know this is a shared frustration. So I would like to share one concept for addressing this problem and would be very interested in learning more about the experience of others. The idea itself is not our own, but it seems to be novel in the settings we are working in (given the feedback I've gotten). While it's focused on face-to-face events, the particular example I will give also has virtual elements.
Charlotte Masiello, the dynamo behind the e-Agriculture initiative, and I started working with a new strategy in preparation for last year's e-Agricutlure panel "Continuing Dialogue to Action" at GK3 that we call the "talk show format". The key elements are as follows:
- There is a panel of distinguished experts (4 or 5 seems ideal, more is unwieldy, less is not as dynamic).
- No presentations are allowed! this is made very clear to the panel in advance (and it does take some convincing with some individuals).
- There is a host/facilitator who has the personality to keep the event lively and can be pleasant but firm in keeping the conversation on track, which may involve dealing with an expert panelist who wants to monologue through the whole event (think Oprah here).
- Before the event the panelists and host informally prepare two points:
- very short introductions, just sufficient to link expertise to topic at hand (it helps to reassure the panelists that their expertise is such that they are already well known and it is not necessary to present their entire CV);
- the host discusses with each panelist an initial question they will receive to pique the audience's interest, demonstrate some of the panelist's expertise, and get the ball rolling...
- Concise, brief background information of some sort (e.g. a flyer) is distributed to audience as they come in to the event with information about the subject.
- Then the host (or better yet an assistant) takes a mic out to the audience and asks not only for questions but their own thoughts/ideas ... again the key is to let the audience know that long monologs are not allowed.
- It's the host's job then to "repackage" a set of audience interventions and direct them back to the panel, either as answers to questions or to expound upon an insightful audience comment.
So we have continued this tactic, most recently through my involvement in two events at eIndia 2008 and last month at IAALD-WCCA-AFITA World Congress. Each event has been an experience, and the dynamics have changed depending on the audience size and cultural make up, but each has been a success by following the steps above.
Not only do we continue to get good feedback from both the audience and panelists, but we are getting useful and actionable outputs to work on after the event.
As an example of this, there is an important issue in Asia about the role of public-private partnerships in e-Agriculture, which was identified at GK3. We decided to attack this topic though an online forum hosted on the e-Agriculture.org platform. The outcomes of that were summarized in a 2 page brief, which provided the background document for a face-to-face event, a panel discussion on the same topic at eIndia. The outputs of the eIndia panel were summarized and disseminated by e-Agrigulture and GKP. This was then briefly reviewed by one expert as one part of a larger e-Agriculture panel event at IAALD-AFITA-WCCA, and through the audience discussion that followed we have extended the key issues further. At the moment I've just revising the policy brief to improve it based on all the interventions (it's not posted yet, but I'll link it here as soon as it is).