Sunday 9 October 2011

Foxy Knoxy or Inspector Clouseau?

The power of narrative in public opinion has been made very clear by the Knox trial, appeal and acquittal.

On the one hand, the prosecutors invited us to believe in Knox as a sexual predator whose over the top games ended in the death of her flat mate.

On the other hand, the defence put before us a story of police ineptitude, with evidence collected late and without sufficient care, calling into question the DNA samples that provided the link between Knox and the knife.

Which story we find more credible is likely to have a strong influence on how we interpret the evidence: was Knox callous or inconsolable when seen in her lover's arms soon after the body of her flatmate was found?  And so on.

What we tend to find is that once a preferred story is settled on by an individual (you or me) or a group (police, media...) all the evidence in the world can be interpreted to fit that story.

It is no coincidence that Knox's family hired a PR consultant to help them to present a different narrative to the world, particularly the press.  And it's interesting (though sad) to note that a neutral narrative (such as 'she didn't do it, we don't know much else') is much less appealing to the press either than  the Foxy Knoxy narrative, which is sufficiently salacious, or the police ineptitude narrative (particularly foreign police ineptitude!) which eventually won the day.

Saturday 8 October 2011

Highlights Awayday

Great Strategy Day yesterday with Highlights Rural Touring.  Jane is a Board member, and a neighbour in the village is Chair, so I was very well briefed!  Moreover, having recently led a two day Facilitation Skills Programme for Akzo Nobel, I was being particularly mindful of my planning and faciltation - and that paid off.

We agreed to use a village hall as the venue.  Their last strategy day (unwisely facilitated by someone else) had been held at a hotel conference centre, and they'd apparently got little done in the afternoon, partly thanks to the big lunch!

But we thought a village hall was more appropriate, as their business is bringing arts (music, theatre, a craft show etc) to rural village halls.

We were made very welcome at Soulby, with a light lunch (delicious soups and a fabulous range of home-made puddings) and cakes and biscuits throughout the day.  The bill for the whole day for 14 of us, including food, was less than £130 - so will be exploring village halls for other clients!

The day itself went very well: they have a good Board and good staff, all well-informed (and having read the pre-work!) and up for creative and purposeful discussions.  In the morning, after the introductions, we reviewed the last period to recognise successes and extract the learning.  We also identified the major strategic issues that needed discussion, and four groups spent a significant amount of time scoping the territory of one or other of these, generating ideas, and identifying next steps to take it forward.

After a light but delicious lunch (qv) we heard from each group, and interestingly, although they had been looking at different issues, some common next steps emerged, that would address several of these strategic priorities.  So we prioritised them with sticky dots, and put names against them to take them forward.

After tea and some home-made cakes (which none of us needed, but somehow many were eaten....) we looked at how the Board and Staff were working together, and wrapped up the day by checking the degree to which the objectives and peoples' individual expectations had been met - and whether there was any further work to be done.

A very productive day, with high levels of energy, creativity and enthusiasm throughout: on that basis I am confident Highlights will have a very successful season, even in the challenging climate in which they find themselves.

And if you live in Northumberland, Durham or Cumbria, look out for their shows in ia village near you: always well worth a visit!

Friday 7 October 2011

These ethical dilemmas...

Clare has just gone off to University, and had used the last of my stock of flipchart paper to line her trunk...

And then I found an old pad, beside the filing cabinet.  But it was rather faded and yellowed.  So the dilemma was do I bin it, as it doesn't convey that professional image which I strive to achieve (you may have your own views on how successfully....)?  Or do I use it?  After all, binning it would seem a waste.

I did toy with the idea of keeping it for the next time somebody needs to line a trunk, but by the time that comes round we will have forgotten about it.

Then I reflected on our stated policy about environmental impact and all that, and realised it is wholly meaningless to use recycled paper etc and then throw away a pad of flipchart paper unused.

So it's on the flipchart stand today and I'll be using it for the Highlights Awayday: and have to rely on the efficacy of my facilitation to create the desired image of professionalism.