Chris thought my visual facilitation might be a fit for the city of Edmonton. He's the IT branch manager and chief information officer of the city of Edmonton. So the deal was if I could make my way from South Africa to Canada, they'd put me up and have me do visual facilitation here in Edmonton.
Of course I wanted to know how Chris knew about me. First time I got to that was in the car from the airport. He told me, "Well, you did a SlideShare presentation on the web about a session hosted by the Disney Institute, and a friend of mine sent me that SlideShare. I ended up printing out every slide and surreptitiously, every now and again, putting up a copy of one of the pages, just to jolt the office around a little bit and generate some interest." As soon as he saw the SlideShare he started thinking about how he could use my skills. He couldn't bring me out just for a City of Edmonton event – he has to be responsible with spending taxpayer money and all – so he waited for an opportunity where there could be a synergy. ICLEI came up. He started negotiating with them, and I’m here!
One of the things happening in the City's IT department is that they're moving towards each individual designing their future. So it’s not about reacting to stuff anymore. It's about taking charge and saying, "This is what I want out of my daily life. These are my interests. This is what I want to do." And the IT department's making it real. It's not lip service. It's real stuff. To demonstrate that, Chris got me into a Q & A session where the audience got to ask the department directors questions. There were 300 people, all of them working in the department. And Chris and his directors were being really open and honest about who they are, what their plans are, what’s going on in the department, and what the forward planning is. Open and transparent.
I said to Chris, before the session started, that I'm sure this is probably going to be quite a confidential session so if he'd like, I wouldn't put any of the pictures up on Flickr. And he said, "No, we're about transparency and openness. Whatever you create in this session, you can put on Flickr. And we're going to share it with all the staff. We want to be held accountable for what goes on in our department." So the entire session’s on Flickr. People were blown away, because everyone was being totally open and honest, and because it was so interactive. I was drawing on screen, the directors were doing their thing, the audience was asking questions. It was great.
Roy Blumenthal is a visual facilitator. He came to Edmonton for the ICLEI World Congress, where he made vivid visual encapsulations of the things people were saying. He remembers all the best noses, chins, and ears at the conference, and drew quite a crowd whenever he hijacked a screen and busted out his stylus and tablet pc.