Sharing and building Solution Focused practice in organisations
This summer has been full of busy, rewarding weeks, but the last couple have been particularly so. Last Monday I cheered myself hoarse at the Paralympics, and from the middle of the week onwards I was making final preparations for the SF evaluation workshop I was delivering at the SOL World 2012 Conference in Oxford. At the same time, both children were taking new buses to new schools – each of them excited, but full of nervous anticipation.
On the Wednesday evening I drove to Oxford with the Olympic Opening Ceremony music playing in the background. After an easy journey in glorious sunshine, I found myself walking down the road, map in hand, feeling curious, nervous and, if I’m absolutely honest, a tad lonely. But as I turned the corner and entered Keble College, a wide beam of late evening sunshine shone straight into my eyes and two members of the conference team, who I happened to know, greeted me with open arms. I was so overcome by it all I forgot to shake hands with them. And it was there, with that warmest of welcomes, that my first ever SOL experience began.
Entering my student room some four floors up, I had a hunch that the next few days were going to be more than fine. I was a student, at Oxford no less; an SF practitioner, a friend and colleague and yes, a long-distance Mum.
I have never been to a conference like it. 200 delegates from 26 nations, in Keble College, the most magical of settings that blended the old and the new with state-of-the-art conference facilities. A Conference Team that I absolutely take my hat off to, in partnership with an Events Team and Manager who went the extra mile and back. A programme that wowed us, wowed us and wowed us again… from a plenary panel with insights from Chief Executives into how they use SF in their organisations; to fascinating, useful workshops and brilliantly organised Open Space sessions like the one I went to on Life Balance. Friendships forged and reconnections made. Social events like the Ghost Tour that made us smile from ear to ear and the first night Pub Crawl in four venues, each hosted by a member of the team encouraging us to try out the local ale.
Now I’m back home, I've caught myself asking questions I ask others in my SF evaluation work: ‘What made it different? Who noticed? Who else?’ And because so many things did make it different, I begin by looking for – and finding – tiny signs… touches like the orange SOL water bottles in our goody bags; short, creative ice breakers that made us laugh and smile; long tables in the Dining Hall (think Hogwarts) which made it impossible for anyone to feel left out, and the captivating Oxford Pro Musica Singers who were there to welcome us at the informally formal Gala Dinner; the cream tea at the end … the list is endless. What I do know though, from speaking to members of the organising team, is that 18 months of planning and hard work went into making this the fantastic experience it was, and that everyone had an input to the design – every aspect of this conference had someone’s personal stamp on it.
On the way back to the car, my suitcase wheel jammed. I’d only had it a week. A tiny stone had something to do with it and at the time I was tired and rather cross. But having been immersed for four days in solutions focus and problem free talk, I quickly realised it wasn’t the end of the world. I arrived home inspired, energised and feeling that I had become part of a rather special family. And now, with a new suitcase in the cupboard, I’m once again ready to roll.
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