Nourishing Newcastle planning workshop

Nourishing Newcastle

We had a good planning workshop with Nourishing Newcastle today. The planning we had done for the workshop (you can read about it here) paid off and we had a successful morning. I think there were a number of things that helped make it successful:

  1. It was a small group (only six people and me) all of whom are committed to Nourishing Newcastle.
  2. They all had good group skills so worked well in the group – nobody dominated, they listened to each others ideas, they were willing to disagree (but not argue) and everybody had a say.
  3. We started the day by checking-in (i.e., going around the circle so everybody said how they were, why they were at the workshop, and what they wanted to gain from it).
  4. Even though they are an effective group we still set the scene by discussing how we wanted the workshop to work (i.e., set some group agreements).
  5. We had met to plan the workshop a few weeks ago so the agenda was based on what they wanted to do.
  6. We were flexible with the agenda and changed how we did things if it would help.
  7. We were in a good venue (the training room of the Family Action Centre).
  8. We shared food (which is appropriate for a group interested in local food production – and it was very nice food too!)

The broad structure of the workshop worked well. We checked-in and set the scene, each person had time to reflect on what their vision was for NN in 10 years and how they would get there, which were then shared with the rest of the group. Based on these visions, we looked for the common themes and the differences. Leaving the visions for the moment, we considered the assets in the community that could be of use in achieving their vision before brainstorming and discussing possible activities and strategies. We identified three priorities and fleshed these out a bit and it was the end of the workshop.

I said in my previous post about Nourishing Newcastle that “Strategic planning can be challenging as I think we often try to do more than we can in the time we have.” I actually think we judged it well this time and they came away with a clear shape for a unified vision (it still needs some refining) and some concrete actions.

When they started sharing their individual visions, I must admit I was thinking “AAARGH” as I wasn’t sure how to bring it all together. I thought about divergent and convergent processes (and remembered to breathe) and didn’t go to pieces. We moved from the circle where we had been working to a table so that everybody could write on some flip chart and we discussed common themes and differences. It actually showed there were lots of similarities in their visions and gave a direction for the next stages of work.

We moved from the circle to the table a number of times throughout the workshop. The circle was good for some discussion and listening to what other people had to say. The table allowed ideas to be written down (without relying on one scribe) and encouraged clarity and finding areas of agreement or disagreement.

It was important to have a range of processes up my sleeve as a facilitator so I could adapt to what the group wanted or needed. Flexibility is vital. For example, we had planned to use stickers to help identify the priority actions, but the group didn’t want to go down that track so we adapted and moved over to the table again.

ABCD Speed Dating

I think doing the asset mapping was useful as it helped broaden thinking around the resources that are available for the group and created a sense of energy and hope. We used a process that Dee and I call ABCD Speed Dating. We put six pieces of flip chart around the room (one with each of the six types of assets mentioned in the previous Nourishing Newcastle post) and in small groups spend two minutes at each asset listing as many assets as we can. It is a quick way of identifying heaps of assets.

I found it interesting that when they brainstormed actions they could try, it was only during the discussion following the brainstorm that two of the three actions, which eventually became priorities, were identified. It was also interesting that they were ideas they had been already working on. It shows that brainstorms have their place, but we need other processes as well.

I had a great time and think they did well. I’m looking forward to hearing about their next steps.

About Graeme Stuart

Lecturer (Family Action Centre, Newcastle Uni), blogger (Sustaining Community), environmentalist, Alternatives to Violence Project facilitator, father. Passionate about families, community development, peace & sustainability.
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