Giving facilitators the Flip

Carrying out interviews and capturing informal conversations on video at an event is a useful way of creating a record … but can it be used to enhance the discussions as well? After my experience last week with an event run by the Innovation Exchange, I’m convinced that it can.

The occasion was the launch of the Next Practice Programme, under which fourteen projects working across the issues of independent living and excluded young people will receive support packages that can include expert consultancy and a share of the £200k NESTA Innovation Exchange Fund.

It was a busy day, with some presentations, but most of the time spent working on tables where facilitators helped pairs from projects work through where they are now, what vision they have for the future, what help they might need, and much more. There were plenty of the usual facilitation tools – like flip charts, Post-its, cards – and also a Flip mino camera for each table.

At key points during the discussions the facilitators asked participants to summarise what they were talking about, and then recorded what they said.

Afterwards I asked one of the facilitators, Caireen Goddard, how it had worked. Well, actually, in the spirit of handing over the camera, I asked Caireen’s partner Gene of GoddardPayne, to do the interview. Gene had already done a great job in managing facilitation of the whole day, but happily added a bit of social reporting to his set of skills.

I should add that it wasn’t just a matter of giving facilitators a camera on the day, and hoping they would get on with it. We had a prior team meeting with Exchange director John Craig, where we were able to work through the programme in detail and agree where video might work best.

Perrie Ballantyne, Head of Learning and Project Development, then produced a detailed planning sheet integrating video into the general facilitation instructions.

I think that video worked well for several reasons – the main one being the willingness of the facilitators to blend recording into their work on the day. In addition, the Flip Minos are incredible easy to use – with a big stop/start button and not much else – and their small size and upright shooting position means that they are unobtrusive. They become more of a digital talking stick than a camera.

The preparation with Perrie and team was also essential, so we could agree that there wasn’t much point trying to capture the flow of conversation on a table, but rather do recaps and interviews. In addition Amy Sample Ward – who helped me plan and run the social reporting – and I videod presentations and picked up some opportunistic interviews.

The Innovation Exchange team are now going to review the video that we captured and decide what might be public (when checked with participants) and what will be used internally as content in the research and development programme. I hope it will also yield some additional insights by prompting further reflection on the day.

The big lesson for me that the day re-inforced, was that the more you can help other people do the social reporting for themselves, the more useful to them the results are likely to be. I hope that next time Innovation Exchange may not need me or Amy … at least for the basic social reporting.

More on Capturing Stuff, Stories and Conversations at events, and reporting at previous Festivals of Ideas for the Innovation Exchange here and here.

I’m not saying any of this is necessarily new – and I would love to hear from others using video in facilitation. What I do know is that for it to make sense, you have to try it yourself, and help others do the same.

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