Active Listening – The Power Of Union
Cape Town 2. The Cullinan Hotel 15th – 19th February 2016
The Visual Tour
What follows is a summary, mostly from the visual perspective. It charts the week in Cape Town by looking at the visuals and images that we created together.
It was a remarkable week with some remarkable people.
African Shared Values
There are few things more important to mankind than harmony and peace, two ingredients required if humanity is to thrive – and if you are determined to execute then you must add courage, critical and collective thinking.
A privilege to be involved.
An impressive group of people arrived in Cape Town to drill into the significant amount of work already undertaken and to ask themselves what next.
Cape Town proved a powerful visual backdrop to the conversation — transforming the mountain of passion into a comprehensive roadmap — to create the new landscape.
Our role was to ‘actively listen’ — to extract the essence from the conversations throughout the week.
Actively Seeing – The Power Of Frameworks
We had prepared well in advance.
We had spent a lot of time understanding and then distilling as much as possible. We wanted to be properly structured and ready as the week evolved – but at the same time to not be blinded by the sheer wealth of information.
As the team arrived a wall of logic was already in place.
We had built both a contextual and conversational framework — two frameworks that sufficiently honoured the incredible amount of work already done but enough ‘white space’ to allow for the agenda that the team needed to work through.
We like white space.
Frameworks have the ability to stimulate and provoke.
They highlight gaps and they enable important calculations. For us they are everything but for the team we hoped they would simplify, respect and then enable real clarity around the way forward.
Signal To Noise
The world we live in is awash with information.
Much of it valuable but most of it out of context. OPI – ‘Other People’s Information’ is often ignored because it was written for different audiences – not tailored to us. Information is mostly written for specific purposes — often not crafted deliberately to survive the Twitter Generation.
Unfortunately people do not always have the attention span to engage as much as we would like them to.
That’s why we use visuals as well as mere words.
Working In Union
What we see (as we travel around Planet Earth) is a tidal wave of meaningless information flooding the ‘jewels’ of the story.
We observe low levels of engagement and attention in complex issues generally. This creates real difficulty for the many and varied stakeholders to engage with societal challenges in the way we need.
“These days REALLY engaging isn’t just the tyranny of sharing but the paucity of caring.”
Our aim (through structured visual conversation) is to unravel the complexity, reveal the true meaning of what we have and unify the aims and ambitions of those with the responsibility to deliver.
That would be the Power Of Union.
All Strategy Is Story
The Governance of Democracy and Human Rights is of paramount importance. But if we cannot tell it as a story conveying its TRUE meaning we will fail. And if we cannot boil it all down simply with grace and relevance then it’s highly unlikely that we will get the message across.
We have incredible content and we need to bring it to life – for the benefit of the millions of deserving people in Africa.
We simply have to get the story out. Simply.
Comfort In Complexity
Few of us DO have comfort in complexity.
The reason we visualise and structure information is to lay out the complex in ways that makes sense. So that the data makes sense to us and in the process we hope to explain its meaning to everyone.
We believe the best strategies are told as stories that far outweigh the sum of their moving parts.
The 50+ Nation States of the entire continent of Africa working in unison to common aims. A ‘machine’ that illustrates the themes (clusters) — the vital elements to be dealt with, the actors and organs involved in bringing anything about.
Imagine the ‘machine’ showing how the instruments should be applied — locating the processes and policies that sit within — all the managing, the reporting and the lobbying — the monitoring, communicating and the refining of it all.
All of it adding up to an inspiring if heady cocktail.
Imagine it applied uniquely at each ‘National’ instance and applied appropriately in every context. We know everyone demands simplicity but the world just isn’t simple.
Our story had better be.
Our ‘Conversational’ Framework
We had two primary tools in the room.
1. The Context Framework that explained the driving question we were there to answer – surrounded by 4 quadrants that explained the strategic intentions of the AGA.
2. The Conversational Framework that was designed to honour why had already been achieved and also allow the conversations of the week to be reflected in a logical way.
Conversations Take On Many Forms
We design the frameworks to cause the right conversations — knowing that important issues will arise and the clues we need will emerge.
They will be a mixture of important fact, fresh thinking and genuine insight. We resist anything that’s meaningless or superficial and as a result arrive with the most valuable and unified reflection of each of the topics as possible.
The Strategic Intentions
Because of the arrangement of the room it was difficult for everyone to see the 4 quadrants below at all times but they were the foundations of everything.
They were written and visualised to remind everyone of the overarching intentions, aims and mission of the AGA.
Module F — The Impact Of The African Union
The ambition of the program is very high – the measure of how well we achieve it will be directly proportionate to how well we implement and communicate.
Impact is a powerful measure of achievement. The communication of this impact is a tremendous lever for influence and effect.
Module A — The Challenges
To anchor the framework — on the far left of the wall we wanted to capture any major barriers, challenges and also the real achievements so as to baseline the current state of play.
A lot of progress had happened since Cape Town 1 in 2014.
Module B — The AGA As A Framework
Although this image represents the architecture at a simple level it does start the show the primary components in relationship to each other. In time we hope it might help to inform a wider audience of how it all works and how it is used to achieve the strategic intentions.
Module C — The Vision
A core aim for the week was to construct a unified AGA Vision.
A vision that would bind all the members around a common view and help articulate the machinery of it all.
“At the heart of this image is the African People — a citizen centred system for the benefit of ALL Africans. People who simply want to get on with their lives and improve their wellbeing.”
This vision represents our spirit.
Additionally we felt it would be valuable to clarify/illustrate the roles of everyone in helping to implement — because everything we do is in pursuit of this vision.
Module D— The New Goals
We used this module to remind us that we already have a set of powerful ‘Strategic Intentions’. They were represented in the Context Framework — and our job is to make them work.
What Will We Do?
The team split into groups to work on this question.
We collated all the different reports into a series of themes. The groups were remarkably aligned in the themes that emerged. They guided the outcomes and the actions.
All of the work evolved into the roadmap below.
Module E — The Comprehensive Roadmap
A roadmap is a set of initiatives and actions leading to results (outcomes) over time.
Our roadmap rests on simple definitions – It will run over period of time — to 2020 and beyond. During that time certain outcomes need to have been achieved – several of them (but by no means all) are shown in the first draft above.
Each outcome will demand certain actions if it is to be reached.
Module E — The Rules
Outcomes Are Achieved By Actions
ONE: Each action will (most likely) be preceded by prior activities – activities that are necessary if the action is to be completed.
TWO: Multiple actions will be required to achieve each outcome.
THREE: Certain outcomes will need to have been completed for other outcomes to be achieved.
FOUR: Every action needs a clear plan, budget, owner and deadline.
And Finally — The Reporting Mechanism
Showing How The ACDEC Is Applied
To support the main framework it became useful to show how the ‘machine’ and the reporting mechanism for the member states met with the main processes.
This representation began to put all of that together as a hypothesis – illustrating how the different parts and their roles work — the picture aimed to make that clearer.
The main elements showed how the AGA Secretariat, Platform, and the key instrument — ACDEC front and Centre.
The Power Of Union
Click Here To See ALL The Above As A Simpler Album
To contact us — for clarity and/or correction to the above — by e-mail — firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com — or on Twitter at @tifferly or @johncaswell