In August 2012, the conference organisers of the National SEGRA (Sustaining Economic Growth in Regional Australia) participated in a teleconference during which they were coached in the application of a number of ‘Co-operative Conversation’ principles on conference design.  These were then applied during the conference.  After the conference, the convener provided the feedback below.

Dear Ian

Thank you so much for your assistance with the development of the SEGRA 2012 program design and facilitators training you provided.  I am delighted to report that your recommendations worked in both regards and I am sure contributed to SEGRA 2012 being referred to as ’one of the best yet’.

By seating participants in rounds throughout the conference it both modelled and enabled the network development outcomes of the conference to be realized.  It was so successful that delegates stayed in the rooms for considerable lengths of time after the sessions to continue discussions from the session.  (So many were so deeply immersed in discussion after the Wednesday afternoon that they even missed Happy Hour)

Despite some initial misgivings about inviting delegates to discuss topics at the start of and during plenary sessions after an initial ‘dipping our toes in’ we were rapidly persuaded to continue.

The Conversation Pit facilitators had clearly taken on board the general thrust of your tele-workshop.  Implementation was influenced by personal styles and confidence; however every facilitator had worked hard to generate broad themes for discussion (not everyone was confident for the discussion to be in small groups – that will be our next step!)  The manner in which the process quickly develops group trust was reinforced when one participant noted to me how willing people were to share candidly and generously in their small group.

The process matched really well with the shift from linear methods of behavior to systems based approaches that was featured in many of the presentations. 

I also participated in a regional economic development forum in Cranbrook WA which also tested some of your ideas.  Again people sitting in rounds and being encouraged to talk at intervals during the program magnified the energy and focus in the room considerably.  I adopted your approach for my session on advocacy and despite initial nerves on my part was very impressed with the way in which the group members used the ideas and tools I started them off with to generate a wide array of ‘future actions’ in regard to who to approach, when and how.  It was also interesting to note the group discussions started off fairly superficially in their discussions however within 10 minutes were sharing quite frankly about their knowledge gaps, difficulties and successes.  Obviously as they had generated future actions themselves they had a strong commitment to them and the energy on the day has continued to ripple across the region in the following months.

Thank you again for taking the time and having the commitment to share your ideas with us.  I would like to discuss with you further how we might disseminate your expertise more widely across regional Australia – perhaps we could meet in the new year. 

Many thanks

Kate Charters
Director, Management Solutions (QLD)

December 2012.