My Experience of “Being the Difference” – Ian Kalmen

I am sitting in a room with a diverse range of people, there are a few volunteers from a day centre, a person who works on databases, one who is on a panel, some others who volunteer in other places, a person who works for the government and me. The only obvious link between us is we all have something to do with homelessness. We had all come to participate in a 2 day workshop called Being the difference, it was run by a gentleman called David Ford the CEO and founder of Expert Link. The focus of this experience was Co-production, now looking at the individuals in attendance I asked myself “how could this diverse group work together?”

I will here share a simple technique that David used, he asked us to write on a post it note our job titles, we all did this and then they were collected and place on a flip chart. Then he tore the page off and threw it out the door, He then turned to us and announced we were all equal. This to me was so simple but so effective. I now looking back at the experience and it was the starting point for the gelling of the group.

David then told us the purpose was to be able to either facilitate or chair a meeting, one person announced then and there they would never be able to do this, now I have been to other workshops where people are told presentation is a part of this and when they said the same they were informed it was part of the experience, you could tell that they were expected to do it. The reaction here was different, I felt it was heard and understood, no pressure was made on the person.

Over the two days we were, treated to doing small group work and listening to David’s sharing’s in which he told us of people he had met over the years now all these people had a background of being homeless some had other needs and what I liked most was that he never addressed any of these people in a negative way, that for me was inspiring.

Finally we came to the point in the process where we were all to do a presentation, we were put in groups. The good thing was there were other tools provided to support us. Then the presentations were made, even I felt nervous about this but observing the other people do theirs helped me. I remember observing one presentation made by a participant, he had been quiet all the way through the venture, he was amazing. Now before you ask yes the person who said they could never do it, did a presentation. I was impressed by everyone.

Why did it work? I think the process started with that first exercise, we were all made to feel equal, the facilitators attitude to me is that everyone is amazing was a revelation. As an introduction to Co-production, I would advise anyone to try it. I would also say it can also be a vehicle for people who have never met each other this aided the difficult process of getting them to work together. I can see that over this very short period we were provided with tools to speed up this process.

So don’t hesitate send your people to “Being the Difference”, the effect will be mesmerising.