No Pain, No Gain

May 27, 2015 | Blog-Admin1 | Learning Elsewhere |


Rating: 4.5 out of 5

Pic-of-Lawrence-McGrathThe SDC Learning & Networking Blog is about sharing and learning. Every speaker and participant at the 2015 Leaders Forum wanted to both share and learn beyond the forum’s rapid-fire 15 minute presentation format. Sharing and learning require a degree of courage and persistence. At the outset of the dialogue, Doris Leuthard and Yolanda Kakabadse explicitly instructed all participants to discard bashfulness and “Be a pain” to senior speakers and officials during breaks. This open invitation to debate was enthusiastically accepted and insight-fuelled discussions coursed throughout the corridors during breaks.

By Lawrence McGrath, Institute for Media and Communications Management of the University of St. Gallen

Eager junior participants had been publicly given permission to pester; and senior participants had the burden of responsibility to engage and defend ideas. This simple message was responsible for a great deal of mutually-beneficial experiences at the forum.

Another factor which contributed to the success of the forum was the diversity of high impact speakers. The relatively unknown Martin Burt of Fundación Paraguaya was one such speaker. He offered a host of innovative solutions. The image below shows Martin Burt in front of a pollution problem in his home town of Asuncion, Paraguay.

Martin Burt, Founder and CEO of Fundación Paraguaya, sustainably solves development problems in 31 countries using microfinance, microfranchise, youth entrepreneurship, and financial literacy methodologies.

Martin Burt, Founder and CEO of Fundación Paraguaya, sustainably solves development problems in 31 countries using microfinance, microfranchise, youth entrepreneurship, and financial literacy methodologies.

In contrast to Daccord, Burt complemented his messages with slides. It is noteworthy that these were not the slickly-produced, uniform images that we are used to seeing in presentations. These were simple amateur photographs of places and situations from Burt’s life. Like Daccord, Burt used storytelling to draw audiences in, but by offering intentionally simple images of the problem on the ground in his home town. Burt used a picture to tell a thousand words. Not just about the problem at hand – but also about himself. The audience quickly gained credible insight into the character of Burt through a few background images.

By subtly adding the personal touch, Burt amplified the power of his presentation via the three Aristotlean bases of persuasion: logos, pathos and ethos. Logos is the provision of rational evidence that forms the basis of your argument. Too many make the mistake of believing that this is their argument. Pathos, as in drama, is the stirring of audience emotions and imagination. By now, many have heard the idea that our heads merely follow our hearts. Much research confirms this. These first two aspects are typically heeded by impactful speakers.

Burt’s presentation was set apart by ethos – ethical appeal. Burt garnered the respect of the audience through his credibility and character. He needed to actively work at this because he and his organisation were relative unknowns compared to the likes of the ICRC and WWF – and he accomplished it by sharing details from his personal experiences. A potentially painful tactic, but one associated with serious impact gain.

The logos basis of Burt’s presentation were project results. One of these is entitled the “Poverty Stoplight”. The idea is that families self-diagnose their level of poverty as the first step in pulling themselves out of poverty via a personalised strategy. This is a simple software tool which lets users characterise there poverty level via a range of universally accessible means such as photograph comparison.

Combining Poverty Stoplight results allows for the creation of useful maps showing pockets of poverty within a certain area. Indeed applications based around Google Maps were one of the silent stars of the Leaders Forum. Most notably, the World Resource Institute and Brazilian Tasso Azevedo report exciting findings with technology such as Global Forest Watch 2.0. This technology allows open-source, near real-time of deforestation so that stakeholders on the ground can intervene.

The forum was based around a central core of short input deliveries from a diverse range of speakers, interspersed with opportunities for informally discussion. The second day of the forum broke this pattern with a set of hour long roundtables. At these workshops, participants gained more insight on a topic via a short presentation before an extended question and answer session. This was highly valuable for elaborating upon complex, specialised topics.

It is hoped that these few words can help to spread the positive effects of this recent event beyond geographic and temporal constraints.

Related story

2015 Leaders Forum Highlights: Yves Daccord’s Stakeholder Engagement Stories



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