Voice is back in our midst

Following our last blog post we have facilitated the Away Day. Perhaps unsurprisingly it worked really well – using Voice (a framework in the Axis of Influence series) to frame the day was fantastic and we had forgotten how enjoyable it is – so very rewarding. its flexible

Voice took about 3 years to develop in full and there was a great deal of agony in its development, as we tried to get it ‘right’. It has all paid off – it is so easy to use and the outcomes are really heart-warming.

So – what difference does it make?

  • For a start off – it is all there – it is all written up with suggested discussion points and suggested/example activities – so all you need to do is pick and choose the bits that are appropriate for the event you are facilitating. We always reckon it takes about the same amount of time to plan a facilitated session as it does to deliver this so having the Voice Resource pack at hand more than halved that time to plan.
  • Secondly it gave a real coherence to the programme, forcing a focus on developing the group to influence – everything they do is about influence and it is so easy to get caught up in the distinct parts e.g. developing a communication strategy or developing a promotions strategy. Using the Steps in Voice these tasks happen but there is a subtle difference in the way we look at it – the starting point. For example – we wanted to start talking about how we would go about developing a promotional strategy. The temptation here is to start thinking about the different methods of promotion: magazines, websites, social media, leaflets, radio etc etc. Voice took us a different route – Step 9 ‘Know How to influence’ suggests that we look at the different ways in which influence happens – more subtly – through:

1.Whispering – in the ears of influential people – private discussions which represent issues,
opinion and priorities through a more influential other.
2. Shouting – which could be about passion, bullying or frustration. It is not usually viewed as
an effective form of influence but it can reap rewards
3. Negotiating – this is about sitting around the right ‘table’ (where relevant discussions are
happening and decisions being made) at the right time, having all the information, skills and
organisation you need in order to be an equal.
4. Taking action – encouraging members to play active roles which are related to and which
highlight the issues.
5. Being part of a bigger network – joining with others, for example Neighbourhood Watch
benefits from an even wider network – it is part of national neighbourhood watch and
receives support, information and greater strength in numbers.
6. Shaming – drawing attention to poor decision making or embarrassing those who are not
listening or taking account of people’s views
Extract from Voice Resource Pack Part 2 – in the Axis of Influence series, changes 2009

Internal externalFrom this point, we could start to think about examples in the room and start discussing which are most appropriate for the group – and when – and why. From this point it becomes pretty apparent which methods might be most effective with different audiences. It was a challenging and very enjoyable way to do it!

So – our Voice resources are dusted off and sitting in the middle of the changes office once more. Needless to say this has spurred us on and they will be back in action this weekend at our residential ‘ Women, leadership & Change’ programme.

We are quite excited to recall that we trained about 1000 people to work with Voice – many have changed jobs, changed sector and been made redundant and the momentum for Voice, along with a huge amount of great work, was lost. Perhaps now is the time to start feeding it in again, to nudge and remind people about this and other fabulous resources designed to challenge the power differential between communities and the state – between the voluntary sector and the state – and between communities and the voluntary sector.

Since our last blog we have gently started reintroducing Voice as a subject for discussion and consideration. This is a continuance of that.

We have always said that people need facilitation skills and proper training to work with Voice – we still believe this. Long ago we made the first part of the Resource Pack available to download for free – have a look

  • Handy Guide – Part 1 of the Voice Resource Pack – this provides the basics of Voice so you can have a go with it. If you want to do more, orResource pack use it in different ways, then we strongly advise that you get in touch with us to discuss how – we have been developing some useful resources.

If you are interested in reading more about Voice then check out these articles:

changes offers a specific course to help local people with facilitation skills who are already working with groups to learn how to work with Voice. We call this ‘Voice facilitator training’ and we are the only providers. The course is complemented by a comprehensive resource pack and networking opportunities.

We also offer training in facilitation skills – get in touch!

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Thursday, November 20th, 2014 Community development, Community influence

2 Comments to Voice is back in our midst

  • jill says:

    Hi Lorna
    Good to hear from you…!! Hope all is well in your world 

    You make some interesting observations and I read the TED transcript with interest. All sorts of thoughts bubbling up around that…

    Strikes me that the ‘new’ technology gives us a different range of tools to use around influence – however, we still need to know what we want to change, the problem if you like, (if not the precise nature of the change itself), be organised enough not to fall into the tyranny of ‘structurelessness’ and know who and what to target…all the stuff that Voice focuses on. For me, this reflection has shown how bang on the nail Voice continues to be – and how exciting that is…

    The TED talk seems to be about the dynamic tension between ‘old’ and the ‘new’ ways of mobilising, experiencing and utilising power – and the dangers of the ‘new’ morphing into known shapes and patterns that emulate ‘old’ power…a hanging onto power, a concretising of power, once a form of power becomes established…an age old issue!!

    For me, pertinent questions are to ask, are
    • how we use our power within given power structures (because they haven’t gone away – indeed, possibly more rigid and controlling than ever) as individuals and collectively….on a day to day level when imagination is often utterly absent
    • how do we ensure that the power of the new doesn’t reinforce inequality and abandon democratic principles

    Thoughts on a postcard….!! 

  • Lorna Prescott says:

    Hi Sal

    I agree, there is so much in the Voice framework that can be used to guide reflective and action focused dialogue, and indeed I draw on it instinctively in much of my work.

    It’s surprising to reflect that we started developing Voice with networks in Dudley in 2005, a year after ‘The Facebook’ was launched at Harvard University and a year before Facebook would become open to anyone with an email address. We were still testing and developing Voice in 2006, the year Twitter was launched and early adopters started making use of it.

    So much has been written, both online and in published books, about our ability to connect and network in new ways changing the ways that citizens, groups and organisations influence. It leads me to ponder …
    what would Voice contain if it was being developed for the first time in 2015 instead of 2005 …
    how would Voice take in to account some of the shift from old power values and models to new power values and models (see http://www.ted.com/talks/jeremy_heimans_what_new_power_looks_like/transcript?language=en)…
    and would we have developed Voice in a different way for new generation of people working in community contexts – people who expect to be able to play with, adapt and mash up ideas?

    In the current context of central government suffocating local government I also wonder whether Voice for 2015 might have more of a focus on collaborative approaches and platforms for change – a magnification of the taking action and being part of a network ways of influencing?

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