This Dare-to-Share fair took place at the headquarters
of a European development aid organization.
It was organized together with workshops, exhibitions, video corners
and theatre workshops.
A team of facilitators used visualisation materials and pin boards to make the sessions more interactive and involving.
Many people would like to change the normal procedure of running conferences: keynote speakers who do not dialogue with the audience; paper presenters who are pushed by chairpersons to finish within given time limits; so-called “working groups” which are not organized properly or may have unclear instruction and inadequate time to complete tasks. This results in an overall non-productive environment with feelings of frustration by many participants. Very often, the main achievements happen in corridors and at dining tables in discussions which are not part of the formal conference proceedings. Declarations and conclusions are often imposed by a few people who have their own agenda, and very often they are written before the conference begins.
It does not have to be like this! VIPP methods can be used in conferences or “information markets”, involving large numbers of participants. The methods are used to facilitate better dialogue and understanding between participants throughout the proceedings. Using VIPP in such events requires a team of skilled facilitators who can assist in smaller group deliberations, clustering and labeling the ideas generated for presentation to plenary. Rather than the usual paper presentations in specialized panels, such conferences split into mini-workshops with various topics of interest to different participants. Each mini-workshop employs a facilitator to support dialogue. A combination of VIPP methods is used, such as expert interviews, drawings, statements and structured discussions. This helps broaden the discussion and perceptions about issues. The deliberations of each mini-workshop are then fed back to the plenary.
In an “information market” there may be 5 to 10 key topics and the participants rotate in groups to these “market” venues for a presentation and discussion on the different topics. The facilitators stay in place, repeating the process with each new group. In this way they can gather different opinions and results from different groups and these can be summarized and reported to the plenary.
Conference design and facilitation is a very challenging but rewarding discipline and demands expertise which a VIPP facilitator can acquire. Some materials are under development for conference design and expertise is now available to interested conference organizers who want to offer alternative and productive experiences to their audiences.