Two Types of Events

Time and again we get workshop and conference agendas, which are not much more but a line-up of presentations and lectures.

We then try to demonstrate (and convince people) that there is another way of designing these events. What we keep hearing is that (and I quote from an e-mail of a senior manager of a large organisation) “more substance should be reflected in the programme, instead of the process”. What we see is this constant misconception that it is either content or process, that process stands against content, that the two are a zero-sum. This is fundamentally untrue:  process is the underlying structure that creates the container for content and leads to results (or not – if badly chosen).

The relevant comparison is rather the following one:

Domain (Issue) Centred Knowledge User (Learner) Centred Knowledge
Valuation of Information Academic value Practical value
Selection criteria for information Elaborateness (correctness, scope, completeness) Usability
Benchmark Accuracy Appropriateness
Scope of Information Covering a domain of knowledge and its issues Considering the character of knowledge and its applicability / transferability
Main focus of agenda setting Selecting/elaborating the right products (contents) to be transferred Providing the right processes (methods and instruments) in order to allow transfer

When we come to process and the format of the event, we find ourselves with the choice between two paradigms:

Modernist Paradigm Constructivist Paradigm
World View Mechanic Organic
Pattern of interaction Centralistic – star-shaped Networked
Type of process Consultation Co-creation, co-construction
Role of Facilitator Director – lead and summarise Steward – guide and create containers
Facilitator Expertise Subject/domain Transformation processes/human behaviour & interaction
Form of interaction Lecture/ping-pong Dialogue/conversation
Emerging understanding Fragmented Holistically interdependent
Ownership over outcome With the organiser/consultant/facilitator Distributed with everyone
Impact Delegation of responsibility to organiser Commitment
Basic agenda pattern Line-up of individual topics (topic-centred) Learning process that builds up
Focus Domain centred Results centred

So we could rather say that we have to choose between content and results – and the process is the underlying means to determine which alley we go down…

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