Sowing and Reaping; Planting and Harvesting.
By Rosemary Hector
Harvest. It sounds so agricultural. An earthy verb, and a noun with resonances. That for me is the metaphor of the teaching day. Sowing and reaping; planting and harvesting.
A carefully crafted question will reap a good response; a careless question an indifferent outcome. We all know this. Like many here, I have run countless events and conferences, focus groups and seminars – and know the sinking heart as the flip charts come back to be typed up. Some good use of this harvest is made – and I have witnessed some excellent events with good and material outcomes, but a lot can be wasted. Do transcripts ever get read? Perhaps. What if the themes that are identified back in the office do not quite echo what the participants thought? Does this process really honour the people who have given up their time to participate? Could I do any better in extracting value from meetings? This day would perhaps help.
There were profound lessons to be learned here; demonstrated as always by experience. How one shows up determines how and what one harvests. Monica was leading us. Her quiet dignity and sense of calm are a first lesson to me and demonstrate that. The team is poised, thoughtful.
There is a memorable moment as we all stand in silence by the question we have written – the question that brought us here. Then we circle, still in silence, as we read the cards with our questions then lift and place them beside similar questions. The questions are grouped. Cluster. Synthesise. Prioritise. This is the work of the group, not an activity that takes place back at the office.
So we learn about designing for harvesting, about focusing from the outset on what we would like to see as an outcome, yet balancing that with emergent themes that have not been anticipated. We learn the importance of using the collective intelligence of the group to harvest – to extract themes – then and there. The importance of space. Silence. Inclusion. Listening. We consider the balance between hosting well and a good harvest.
As a waiter clatters through the room with a platter, we note with a wry smile the importance of practical organisation. My friend has secured this room for nothing; this is work on a minimal budget and I salute her negotiating skills. We are reminded of the need to be practical and consider how we cost events. Hosting, harvesting, organisation; a trio of skills.
There is formal teaching. Linda is skilled at setting the activity to one side to make a point as it arises. Presuppositions are gently challenged. We break for a series of knowledge expeditions: how to draw simple illustrations; how to interrogate a brief; what questions to ask; how to plan.
Much of this is not new and throughout the day there is a sense of assurance. Be confident in your design. A harvest may be material: a report; a new design; pictures; a statement; film or a video. The agricultural equivalents are the bags of grain. It is also sometimes profoundly intangible. What one remembers is often the intangible; the sun on one’s back, the sense of plenty, the exchange with other harvesters, the delight in a common purpose. This was a day of both tangible and intangible harvest.