How I can help you

Transforming the effectiveness of organisations through practical routes to participation

I can help you to design internal meetings, workshops, conferences and meetings with the public by using proven methods that generate positive creative discussions on issues that really matter both to clients and to the organisation.

I can work with you to identify what you want from meetings and what colleagues see as a good meeting and then design and test for you a new format for meetings, leaving you having fewer, more effective meetings.

I can organise participatory events, whether to build real buy-in step by step or to develop world _Cafecommitment to tackle the difficult challenges that never seem to get resolved and therefore require an innovative, future-oriented approach.

I can build a planning process that allows your organisation to adopt and spread best practice easily and systematically. I draw on a range of methodologies and techniques including Participatory Leadership, Theory U, Art of Hosting, World Café and Open Space.

My approach to each assignment is to have an initial, no-cost diagnostic meeting with the client to establish what would help and how and where I can make a difference. From the initial meeting I will produce a tailored proposal for you, the client. Where appropriate I can bring in experienced associates to work on specific topics such as employee participation.

My approach works with commercial, public sector, third sector and community organisations. I enjoy engagements with both small teams and large groups of staff or other stakeholders.

If this makes sense in terms of your agenda for moving forward, why not give me a call? Every situation and organisation is unique and I will work with you, using my detailed knowledge of a range of different methods and techniques, to develop a programme that is tailored specifically to your needs.

fiona-savage-150x150Fiona Savage has 20 years’ experience in business development across sectors that include global pharmaceuticals, the health service, start up enterprise and the charity sector.
Throughout this time she became increasingly interested in how different cultures within organisations can impact on customers, employees and other stakeholder groups, as well overall organisational performance. This interest has led her to start up a consultancy working with a small group of supporting colleagues with complementary skills and experience, bringing new and informed insights to these fundamental issues. Fiona has trained in and used Participatory Leadership and Theory U (as developed at MIT) which she uses to encourage leaders to step into and shape

U.Lab – A new approach to change

Central Edinburgh U lab Hub, Networking, reflect on learning in groups, participate in small coaching circles and having fun!

I undertook the MOOC earlier this year and I also hosted a small hub for a group of people in Edinburgh.

I have now secured premises in Edinburgh City Chambers  during the forthcoming MOOC that begins in September. Holding weekly meetings on Mondays will allow participants time to view the webinars and complete the other activities from the previous Thursday over the weekendPresencing-Model-small

The Scottish Government (Local Government and Communities Directorate) is promoting the ‘U.Lab’ approach to leadership for transformational change through development of “…..a new consciousness and a new collective leadership capacity to meet challenges in a more conscious, intentional, and strategic way. The development of such a capacity would allow us to create a future of greater possibilities.”

U.Lab will run from 10 September until end-October 2015, and will be delivered partly online and partly through local groups meeting together (physically or online), at no financial cost.  Participation will involve a commitment of at least 3 hours each week, primarily through online learning materials which can be accessed 24/7 – whenever it suits participants. You can find out more here

In summary, U.Lab is a global programme run by MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) and led by Otto Scharmer, (see video here), one of the world’s most respected thinkers and change practitioners. U.Lab provides world-leading expertise on how to accelerate change; participants themselves will bring the particular issues that are important to them. Given the potential we believe U.Lab has to support communities and improve outcomes the Scottish Government is working with Otto Scharmer to deliver additional bespoke Scottish elements of the global programme, including developing a supporting local infrastructure of hubs across Scotland.

I am part of the hosting team for the U lab hub in central Edinburgh i if you are participating in the MOOC and looking to join a hub in Edinburgh please contact me for more details.

Young Carers Say “Talk to me, not at me.”

Everyone has life goals, but perhaps they are most pertinent as we move into adulthood, people want their independence, their own house, they want to go to college or university, to find a job, have a little money in their pocket and enjoy life. But for some Young Adult Carers these goals can seem unattainable.

One such Young Adult Carer is, Eilidh Cameron, 25, from Prestwick. Eilidh has been caring for her mum since the age of 18 and it is a full time job, “I help my mum wash her hair and get dressed I make sure she takes her medication and then I start on the household chores, making the dinners and doing the washing. I don’t see it as a task I love my Mum but it is hard sometimes and I struggle to cope.”

Eilidh alongside Young Adult Carers from across South Ayrshire was in attendance at the start of a conversation with professionals from Housing, Health and Education to determine how they could make transitions more accessible. The event was supported by politicians too Councillor Hugh Hunter is a Carers Champion and Chic Brody MSP who opened the event spent the day speaking with Young Carers and listening to their opinions.

The event which marked national Young Carers Day was held at the County Buildings on 12 June. It was hosted by Unity Enterprise South Ayrshire Carers Centre and facilitated by Jacqui Mitchell and Fiona Savage from Collaborate Futures

“I thought the event was really interesting” Eilidh commented, “It was a brilliant way for us all to get talking. It helped raise awareness of Young Carers and Young Adult Carers and gave the professionals an understanding of what they can do to help.”

Jacqui Mitchell from Collaborative Futures said, “The agenda for the event was determined by the participants themselves who put forward specific topics for discussion that included themes such as training, carer’s assessments, further education support, raising awareness of carer roles, community involvement, employer awareness and support from Health and GPs”.

Lively discussion followed in smaller groups where the professionals heard from the young people directly regarding the issues they face. These important conversations were captured on templates with the participants summarizing their discussions using newspaper headlines and detailing the next steps required. Newspaper headlines included “If in doubt, give housing a shout, “Make your voice be heard” and “Talk to me not at me.”

Jacqui added, “ Common themes included the need for raising awareness of young carers and more networking however this wasn’t just a talking shop and specific actions were identified such as having a young carers champion at all levels within education, doing an employer survey to determine their level of awareness and running employer training days. The participants then signed up to take the different actions forward”.

Eilidh who starts college after the summer said “the conversation has stared now, everyone was listening, and everyone took an interest. It is important that we (Young Adult Carers) stay involved and we keep talking.”

Reshaping the Workplace

Several years ago I read Ricardo Semler’s book ‘The Maverick’ telling the story of SEMCO, an incredibly successful Brazilian company that has been self-organising since the 1980s.

At SEMCO they have proven it’s possible to get rid of basically all kinds of bureaucracy if you just start treating your employees as adults.

The future is now participative leadership reaps rewards

The future is now participative leadership reaps rewards

There are no timesheets and no standardised expectations for where or when people should work because the assumption is that people can be trusted to create their own structure and that every person’s rhythms are different when it comes to when and where and how they do their best work. This allows employees to work a “seven-day weekend” during which they are encouraged to be their true selves every day of the week.

Leaders are still necessary but being a leader in SEMCO is not a question of status and privileges. Rather than expecting corner offices and their own parking spaces, they practice participatory leadership which encourages all employees to be highly involved in the running of the company. They realise that every time top executives step in and mandate a solution, they rob the rest of the organisation of initiative and the will to act.

Democracy and open communication define the SEMCO culture. Decision taking is not based on consensus; decisions can be driven by an individual after consulting, listening to and considering input from all relevant colleagues

  • Their basic structure is team oriented, with teams that are self-organising and self-administering.
  • A basic principle is trust instead of control – any adult can be trusted to take reasonable decisions
  • Most of the companies have an explicit value system that they have created with their members, and which new members will learn through training
  • Important training topics are communication, collaboration and handling conflict

There are more and more leaders in organisations from different sectors across the world coming to the realisation that when you trust your people, treat them like adults and enable them to self-organise then their productivity rises and they are able to contribute their full human potential thus benefiting all stakeholders.

If you’re a leader in the private, public or third sector in Scotland and would like to learn more about how these flatter flexible organisations are the role models for the workplaces of the future then register for this one day workshop in Edinburgh on 28th May.

Co-creating Participatory Workplaces

How much more successful would your organisation be if everyone was;

  • More passionate about their collective purpose
  • Using their skills and expertise to their full potential
  • More  trusting of their colleagues
  • Able to step out from behind their professional mask and be their true self

Come along to this one day introductory co-learning workshop and;

  • Hear case studies of different organisations who have created self-organising workplaces
  • Learn
    • How to harness the collective intelligence of everyone in your organisation
    • Different models for self-organisation
    • Effective decision making processes for these types of organisations
  • Discuss
    • How could these models be adapted to work effectively in Scotland?

Who is this for?

  • Senior leaders from the Private, Public and Third Sector who are interested in learning about alternative models that work
  • By the end of the day attendees will think wider about leadership and have great insight in to building positive work environment for themselves and colleagues

Date:  Thursday 28th May 9.30 am – 4pm

Location: Over-Seas House, 100 Princes Street, Edinburgh EH2 3AB

Cost: Early bird tickets available at £130 standard and £80 for Third Sector organisations  (£170/ £110 after 15th May)

The workshop will be facilitated by;   Jacqui  Mitchell and Fiona Savage to find out more about your facilitators click here 

Register at

For further information please call Fiona Savage on 07880 788759

Why do conversations matter?

The word ‘conversation’ derives from the Latin con versare – to turn or to dance together. Are you kept on your toes when you feel deeply that the core of your activity is participating in ‘the dance’?

Conversation is the single greatest learning tool in your organization—more important than computers or sophisticated research. As a society, we know the art of small talk, we can talk about the weather or our holidays. But when we face complex or contentions issues, when there are feelings and different opinions, our defence mechanisms surface and this can impede communications.   Besieged by data, seduced by knowledge from books and the internet, many people seem to have forgotten the value of the wisdom gained by ordinary conversations.

The image of conversation most of us have is sitting round a board room table or simple left outchatting. Life is moving so fast, so much is crammed into each day, that an unspoken rule arises: if you have something to say, make it short.  Mental habits and another set of patterns restricting conversation stems from how people are taught to think.

In Parallel Thinking, Edward de Bono says that western culture has always valued critical thinking too highly. Teachers are always getting students to “react” critically to something put in front of them. The easiest kind of critical comment is a negative one.  de Bono also describes parallel thinking as a kind of flow that is possible in a conversation where different ideas are allowed and encouraged to emerge.

Organisations today need more than an agenda in important meetings and conversations.  Great conversations are underpinned by a framework and uses methodologies to help people move from a reactive into a proactive focus on innovative solutions. They need meetings that generate conversations that give people as much a say as possible over the issues that affect their lives and work. Such conversations are needed at every level of the organisation, so all involved can participate in the dance.  How would you feel if you were standing on the side-lines and were not invited to dance?

Is your organising utilising the single biggest learning tool it has?  Conversations underpinned by a framework and utilising participatory methods achieve buy in and commitment from stakeholders, gains faster agreements, saves time and generates innovative problem-solving.

Why has complexity never been addressed holistically?

In today’s environment we see more complexity than ever before and it is widely acknowledged as one of the biggest barriers to organisational performance in both the public and private sectors.  So why has complexity never been addressed holistically?

This is ironic, given that the role of strategy is to provide clear and consistent guidance on what an organisation needs to do in order to achieve its objectives. Strategic complexity can have a significant impact on the effectiveness and efficiency of the organisation, as well as cascading impacts into other areas, such as people’s behaviour, organisational design and process. Rapid

Complexity requires a collaborative, interdependent culture and solutions that cut across wordlefunction, region and profession. Given the right opportunity collaborative groups will be able to integrate knowledge throughout the system and to anticipate and solve unprecedented challenges – all while delivering efficient, high-quality services across the continuum. But building a collaborative culture is not an easy transition. Collaboration, well executed, secures buy-in from all stakeholders and by using participatory techniques it enables you to design your own road map for change.

Well-designed collaborations are underpinned by a process that works in three ways: firstly as a framework; second, as a method for leading profound change; and third, as a way of being. A non-technical social technology were people interact and builds capacities, and generates profound social renewal.

As Henry Ford once said…. “If everyone is moving forward together, then success takes care of itself.”


Participatory Leadership and the Nature of our Conversations

We are in a world that is connected, but not communicating
Tariq Ramadan

The world is changing faster than ever before, and organisations today are facing complex challenges never experienced before.  Yet we are not creating conversations that matter and are not harnessing the collective wisdom of our sociality.

Creating an alternative future rests in changing our thinking about how organisations transform from mechanical entities to living systems. It depends on the nature of our conversation and on generating the wisdom of the group through harnessing their participation.

The human species is by nature sociable and we all increasingly want to participate in the choices that affect our lives.  We want to make a difference, and leaders across all sectors and communities around the world are being called upon to engage people in a more collaborative way. In order to create organisational cultures based on participation and creativity, where people can tap into their collective intelligence, this requires a change in the nature of the conversation and in leadership philosophy.

The reason for this ‘global mind shift’ in a new era of conscious co-evolution of the power of collective intelligence, is because any group itself has the wisdom and creativity needed to deal with any complex  situation. The only things needed are the context, holding a safe space, focusing the group’s insights towards a specific topic, and crafting powerfully question.

This of course changes the prevailing conventional belief system where the task of leadership is to set a vision and gain ‘buy in’ from others.  Additionally, the default culture and assumptions that underpin most leadership training need to change, shifting away from:

  • Leader and top are essential. The future destination can be blueprinted.
  • The work is to bring others ‘on board’. More measurement produces better results.
  • People need more training.
  • Rewards are related to outcomes.
  • What worked elsewhere can work here.
  • The future is a problem to be solved. Leaders should be a role model.

(Block, 2007)

As Otto Scharmer and many other thought leaders call it, shifting from an Egosystem awareness to Ecosystem awareness is the essence of ego to ecoleadership of our time. Since the research suggests that in groupes  “where one person dominated, the group was less intelligent than in groups where the conversational turns were more evenly distributed” (Wooley, 2010),  in order to tap into the power of collective intelligence, the role of leaders is to create conditions in which everyone can participate.

This notion of participatory leadership challenges the conventional thinking which holds that leaders are the role models that everyone should follow. Such a philosophy represents a form of parenting, and the alternative is to move away from parental dominion. Leadership in the twenty-first century needs to function as a form of partnership. This assumes that the role of the leader is to invite people, focus their attention on certain issues, ask powerful question and design conversations that will harness the collective intelligence of stakeholders.

Meaningful conversations for wiser action

At the heart of what we do is facilitation of Participatory Leadership within organisations to drive enhanced performance. Within your organisation your people have the solutions to the problems you’re facing. We harness the collective knowledge and wisdom of everyone in an organisation to generate innovative solutions to move the organisation forward.

Our services range from one-off interventions to more in-depth programmes of sustainable culture change, all based round around the principles of Participatory Leadership. All our programmes are aimed at promoting radically better engagement, stronger commitment and sharper thinking, leading to powerful but actionable outcomes.

0 principles

The core method used is the ‘ Art of Hosting. of collaborative conversations among your key groups e.g. employees, customers, the public or a wider community, to look differently at issues and relationships so that step-change can happen.

Why are we different? We work with you when the challenges are complex and multi-layered.

By involving stakeholders at the start of the process, working from the outside in and asking powerful questions, innovative ideas emerge from the collective wisdom, thus exposing the myth that there is a ‘one right strategy’ that can be replicated. The outcomes we deliver will place you in the best possible position to decide which ideas to build on within your organisation to create a solution.

If you want positive buy-in and backing from staff, highly constructive relationships with partner organisations, innovative ideas and outcomes, increased and better financial rewards – or even just a better working day – a more meaningful conversation might be just the answer!

Related blog post: What is Participatory Leadership

What’s your Organisation’s Purpose

In order to thrive, a business must be aligned around a meaningful purpose and shared values. With our help, you’ll rediscover the real purpose that sits at the core of your organisation, bringing total clarity to guide every aspect of your organisation.

Together, we’ll define shared values using a combination of surveys and facilitated sessions. This process draws out desired behaviours, enabling every employee to understand what’s important.

We’ll help you alignfacilitateds, teams and behaviours to the organisation’s purpose and values, engaging people at every step of the way for sustained change.

  • True purpose discovery: We’ll work with your founder or most senior people to uncover the real, meaningful purpose of your business, to create a clear and inspiring organising point.
  • Shared values definition: We’ll use online surveys and fun, creative group work to uncover the deeply held values that your people share.
  • Purposeful engagement programme: Taking either your purpose or shared values, we’ll use facilitated group work to develop a deep and personal understanding of them, so they have real impact on your business.

Participatory Leadership and Decision Making

Participatory Leadership and Decision Making: Not All About Consensus

By Kathy Jourdain

Collaborative or participatory leadership surfaces interdependence, within a team and among teams. It invites people to bring their strengths, talents, passion and voice and to step in where they have something to offer and step back when they don’t.

Interestingly, the awareness of interdependence and the use of participatory leadership, not done well, often leads to a mistaken belief that all decisions need to be made by the collective or through consensus. This is a shadow of participatory leadership. In a high functioning team, or a high performance team, the team operates as if by consensus because the trust levels are so high the team trusts individuals or smaller groups of individuals to make appropriate decisions. There is no sense of one-upmanship. When decision-making processes are not clear, there is confusion about where decision-making authority resides, how decisions get made and who makes them.

Clarity on decision making strategies and a collective understanding of who makes what decisions when, under what circumstances offers the greatest flexibility and responsiveness to the situation at hand. Only a small number of decisions really need to be made collectively. Clarity on what those are and trust in the intentions of everyone on the team, allows for autonomy in the vast majority of decisions.

Ideas to Action

How can we use our collective imagination to move from ideas to action?

An invitation was sent to a diverse group of individuals to a participatory taster event in Edinburgh using two methodologies from several that can be used to solve complexity. When these events are held for a whole day or over several days, or become the operating system of an organisation, the outcomes become deeper and more meaningful. These methodologies are used in policy development in the EU Commission and Austrian local government, Ontario’s rural and agricultural organisations, Minnesota university student mental health and international pharmaceutical companies. They have also been used in redesigning the free health care system in Columbus Ohio


The participants checked out by describing how they were feeling at the end of the evening in one word. Examples included;


Curious (2) Energised unnamed (2) unnamed (1) unnamed

What you need to know about Presencing/Theory U

The Presencing approach of Otto Scharmer of MIT is a model that is used in across all types organisation for social change by creating the capacity for community wisdom. I frequently underpin the design collaborative change processes and workshops using the model. It has inspired me to invite my clients to look behind the scenes and explore the necessary depth needed to achieve the goals.

Presencing describes a natural flow of actions if something new has to be developed or learned and delivers a framework to re-discover the natural development process.

“Presencing,” a blend of the words “presence” and “sensing,” refers to the ability to sense and bring into the present one’s highest future potential ─ as an individual and as a group.

Theory U offers both a new theoretical perspective and a practical social technology. As a theoretical perspective, Theory U suggests that the way in which we attend to a situation determines how a situation unfolds. As a practical social technology, Theory U offers a set of principles and practices for collectively creating the future that wants to emerge.

The Presencing approach is also called Theory U as the visual model has the shape of a U. Depending on the task the U can go as deep as to the essential openness (e.g. if a long-lasting powerful organising vision and purpose has to be defined) or can stay shallow on the cognitive openness level (e.g. if a successful procedure has to be tweaked here and Presencing-Model-smallthere).

If issues and task cannot be solved after several attempts on one level, they need to be addressed on another level.

We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.
Albert Einstein

Systems Thinking

I was one of six authors of Systems Thinking, published by the Management Innovation Exchange. You can find the full publication here


Deming and others showed that when you look at the performance of an organisation, about 85% to 95% is due to the system. That leaves roughly only about 10% that is due wholly or in the total control of the person doing the work. How often have you heard people say in their 1:1 appraisal ‘that goal was out of my total control to deliver’.

Deming, John Seddon in Vanguard, Senge, Ackoff, Scholtes, and countless others have demonstrated many times over that:
• you need to get people to begin recognising the organisation as a system;
• understand human motivation (Dan Pink);
• look at the design of the work from the outside in;
• focus on what is the real purpose and what matters to the customer, and
• creating the opportunity and permission to allow people to re-design the work and then getting out of their way!

systems thinking art - Copy

The Power of Storytelling

Once upon a time…

When we hear that phrase, it brings back magical memories of someone reading a story to us during childhood. Suddenly, we have warm thoughts of fantasies, fairy tales, princesses, and pirates.

Storytelling plays a big role in the Art of Participatory Leadership. I was inspired to write this blog after meeting and hearing Bob Keiller talk, delivered in story form about  leadership and the core vales.  Bob is the Chief Executive of Wood Group plc, a British multinational oil and gas services company with its headquarters in Aberdeen, Scotland. He truly engaged the audience with the  two stories he told,  sparked by a sat-nav and then a banana, the later  was the spring board to the groups  core values the DNA of business – they’re a global gold standard that guides thinking, determines  behaviour, and allows the Wood Group to adapt to local needs.

Stories and storytelling have always been part of how human beings pass on knowledge, share wisdom, and create new ways forward.

Our brain are simply wired for stories and that’s why they work in so many contexts.

There are stories we need to stop telling – stories of fear, of hate, of divisiveness, blame and shame. But there are also those we need to start telling. We need to tell about what’s working, about collaboration, about our dreams and the power of relationship. If we do, then connection and engagement will follow.

In an age of 24/7 news cycles, an increase in media channels which didn’t exist a generation ago, and the connections that technologies allow us, there are also key reasons for us to be aware of, work with, and shape our own stories. When we incorporate storytelling practices and techniques into our organisations, our lives and our family, we are more able to grasp the attention of those around us.

story tellingWhen we unleash the power of people through storytelling, we build connections in a world that may be connected but not necessarily communication-rich.
Where do we find our stories?  Stories are hiding everywhere! Think of yourself as the Chief Story Archaeologist, the maker of a story. Perhaps you need a story about one of your organisational values in action or how someone overcame a challenge. When you know what you are looking for, you’re more likely to find it.

Look, listen and ask, observe people in action. Where could  that story be hiding? Listen to what people are telling each other; perhaps the story is embedded in what they are saying. Ask questions to find out where a story might be found.

Explore your own life experiences; our lives and families are a rich source of material, especially when you can tell stories about what worked, what didn’t and what you learned that made you who you are today.

You may find a source of inspiration in the news, in a movie, in a book or a conversation that occurred over dinner. The themes you find will help to spark new ideas. Setting out your intention and staying curious will help you find the bones of a story, then it is up to you to arrange them in order to make your point.

Well-told stories will always have certain traits in common, which are layered and woven in such a structure: use of key characters, a theme or plot and a cultural setting.  These traits eventually come together to create a narrative that is:

Credible, Compelling, Consistent, Coherent, Character-driven

Stories, whether written down, acted out, or delivered orally, form the backbone of any society. Stories communicate cultural value and important myths, and often convey history from the point of view of the storyteller. They engage our interest on a primitive level, and they act as a filter for new information. They are a connector, and a powerful way of synergising what’s going on. The key is harnessing their potential.

Unlock an Organisation’s Capacity to Solve Complex Problems

New solutions are needed. Increasing complexity compels us to find new solutions. Participatory Leadership enables collaboritive change is crucial to unlock your organisation’s capacity to solve complex problems and create success in the twenty-first century. ‘Just do your job’ may have been a default response to dissatisfied workers in times gone by, but not now.

Gallup did an extensive study of the effects of high employee engagement in 2012. They looked at over 50,000 organisations and one-and-a-half million employees in 34 countries, and discovered that organisations that score in the top half of employee engagement have double the likelihood of success of those in the bottom half.  Not only that, but those in the 99th percentile of engagement had four times the success rate.

Is your organisation in the 99th percentile?

Increased complexity compels us to find new solutions for the common good in business, healthcare, education, local and national government and in our communities. Solutions are more comprehensive and readily found and owned if they are co-created by stakeholders. Tapping into the potential wisdom already held in the organisation is crucial; inviting collaboration with diverse perspectives is key to realising potential.

New solutions grow between chaos and order. If we want to innovate, we have to be willing to let go of what we know and step into not knowing.  Innovation happens in the space between order and chaos – ‘the chaordic path’.  It is here in the chaordic space that new possibilities emerge. The way to major change goes through chaos and order.


Conversations matter. It is in our DNA to bring people together in conversation, within the chaordic space . It is the human way since the dawn of time, gathering around fires and sitting in circle. Conversations are how we create meaning together and build strong relationships that invite collaboration.

Organisations are living systems. When people join together in an organisation they have more in common with a living system than with a machine. Living systems are intelligent and capable of self-organising their own solutions. The way you manage a living system is radically different from operating a machine.

I can help you facilitate Participatory Leadership wich enables collaboritive change.

Co-design Health and Social Care Services

Citizens’ power and participation are essential to co-design the integration across Health and Social Care Services in Scotland.  The forthcoming Community Empowerment Bill lays out that “public service providers should give communities a say in how services are delivered. Examples of public service providers are hospitals, schools, police, and local councils.”

The integration is complex and multi-layered and requires a series of participative open public events that generate discussions among communities about the possibility of exploring whether the people of the region might be able to create a new response to the impending health and social care Iintegration.

How can we together create affordable and sustainable integrated healthcare for all in Scotland?your health

The traditional method is to gain input and solve complexity by breaking the whole down into parts and to segment the market by various means. Key stakeholders stand above the process and give presentations to targeted audiences, and then a question and answer session is invited, surveys undertaken over the internet or articles published in newspapers.

People are hungry for more effective meetings where all stakeholders can participate and work better together amidst times of change and high complexity. If the integration across Health and Social Care Services in Scotland is truly to meet the needs of us all, we need to move beyond consultation to citizens to participatory decision make using methods such as the Art of Hosting .

If public service providers truly wish communities to a have a say in how services are delivered, a process of co-learning and co-evolution needs to be implemented: processes and engagement strategies that bring out the best in our communities and that foster collaboration.

Do you enjoy being in conversations where your voice is heard?  Do you appreciate time to think and value being offered a new perspective? I do!

How do we together ‘do’ collaboration and achieve participation?

The answer: create a series of unconferences. ‘What is that?’ I hear you say! An Unconference is a participant-driven meeting. At an Unconference, anyone who wants to initiate a discussion on the overarching topic can claim a time and a space.

As a result a diverse range of stakeholders, sharing the same space, will have participated, discovering different perspectives and ways of thinking, sharing ideas, and it’s in this space that innovation emerges. You can ask for solutions to the relevant issues in your organisation and the integration across Health and Social Care Services in Scotland can truly meet the needs of the people.

At the end of the Unconference we collate all that has taken place and send this out to you. Key themes of what citizens want from an integration of Health and Social Care Services in Scotland will have emerged. This process has been successful around the world, including for affordable and sustainable healthcare systems. It can be here!

What is an Unconference?

UnconferenceAn Unconference brings people together to find solutions to an issue or question, or to discuss a particular theme, with emphasis placed on taking action as a result.

It could be about creating a greater understanding of what customers want from your organisation, either around the services you provide or the product you make. It could also be used to improve employee engagement or involve stakeholders in determining the of your organisation.

Unconferences typically follow this timetable:

Arrive. Meet people. Decide on good topics to talk about. Find a process e.g. Lightning Talk, Open Space, Fishbowl, World Café, Round Table, Q&A or simply just having a chat.Talk about the topics. Use Post It notes to puzzle things out. Learn. Think. Talk more. Stuff will happen. Lunch will happen. More good topics will be decided upon; another process will be chosen to ‘host’ the conversation. The collective knowledge of the group will emerge, innovative thinking will happen, and there will be more participation, learning and peer review. Gather together. Say goodbye to new contacts.

At the end of the Unconference you have a brain full of ideas; and a notepad with scant stuff in it because you were too busy listening and talking to write. We will collate all that has taken place and send this out to you.

You have met diverse and interesting people, participated, and interacted with more people than you would at a traditional conference. At an Unconference, you get to know what people THINK rather than just what they DO. It’s a different connection.

You spend time sharing ideas, discovering different perspectives and ways of thinking. You can ask for solutions to the relevant issues in your organisation or business. You get to try out new methodologies, or practise old ones again.

Once you have decided the question or issue to be tackled and agreed the timeframe, we will design and facilitate the Unconference session using a blend of participatory and energising techniques and exercises to ensure that you have a host of ideas harvested from the collective wisdom of the audience. The only real limiting factor is how much time you allocate to the Unconference. Use it as a productive breakout session or devote a full day or even several to a bigger topic to really drill down on a key subject and gain potential solutions to the issue.

Collaboration v Conventional Groups

Collaboration Groups

Conventional  Groups

Everyone participates, not just the vocal few The faster thinkers and the most articulate speakers get more time
People give each other room to think and get their thoughts all the way out People interrupt each other on a regular basis
Opposite views are allowed to co-exist in the room Differences of opinions are treated as conflict that must either be stifled or solved
People draw each other out with supportive questions – ‘Is that what you mean?’ Questions are often perceived as challenges, as if the person being questioned has done something wrong
Each member makes the effort to pay attention to the person speaking. Unless the speaker captivates their attention, people space out,  doodle or check the clock
People are able to listen to each other’s ideas because they know their own ideas will also be heard. People have difficulty listening to each other’s ideas because they’re busy rehearsing what they want to say
Each member speaks up on matters of controversy. Everyone where they stand Some members remain quiet on controversial matter. No one really knows where everyone stands.
Members can accurately respect each other’s point of view – even when they don’t agree with them. People rarely give accurate representation of the opinions and reasons of those  whose opinions are at odds with their own.
People refrain from talking behind each other’s backs Because they don’t feel permission to be direct during meetings, people talk behind each other’s backs outside the meeting.
Even in face of opposing from the person in charge, people are encourages to stand up for their beliefs. People with discordant, minority perspectives are commonly discouraged from speaking out.
A problem is not considered solved until everyone who will be affected by the solution understands the reasoning. A problem is considered solved as soon as the fastest thinkers have reached an answer. Everyone else is then expected to ‘get on board’ regardless of whether they understand the logic of the decision.
When people make an agreement, it is assumed that the decision still reflects a wide range of perspectives. When people make an agreement, it is assumed that they are all thinking the exact same thing

Participatory Leadership for System Change

Your people already know the answers to the problems within your organisation. We facilitate them to draw out solutions that can be used to address these.

This is achieved by dialogue, collaboration, Participative Leadership also know as the Art of Hosting and harvesting the wisdom of all stakeholders.

Participative Leadership is an approach to leadership that scales up from the personal to the systemic using personal practice, dialogue, facilitation and the co-creation of innovation to address complex challenges. Participative leadership is being used at all levels of society, in business, NGOs, communities, in government, local and national, in families and complex stakeholder processes

We live in a meeting culture. We have schedules packed solid with meetings, and somehow, very little gets done. Instead, the real work often occurs in the hallway between meetings. People are crying out for more effective meetings to drive change and progress; that’s what participatory leadership is all about. We teach collaborative leadership to help organisations increase their capacity to solve complex problems.

Related blog posts: What is Participatory Leadership When to use Participatory Leadership