Dancing a change tango in a dialogue 1: Dialogue as a tool of change
Heidi Rontu, director of Lifelong Learning, and Minna Kaihovirta, Manager of dialogue at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, will discuss Dialogue as a Tool of Change. This is the first episode of the podcast series Dancing a Change Tango.
Speaker 1 Heidi Rontu
Speaker 2 Kaihovirta
Speaker 1 [00:00:23]: This is a podcast series Dancing a Change Tango in a Dialogue. Stay tuned to hear what this has to do with the University of Applied Sciences. Today’s podcast series is called Dialogue as a Tool of Change. My name is Heidi Rontu and I work as the director of Lifelong Learning at the Metropolia University of Applied Sciences, and with me here today is Minna Kaihovirta.
Speaker 2 [00:00:58]: Hello, Heidi. Lovely to be here. I am manager of dialogue here at Metropolia University of Applied Sciences. And I promote dialogue in various situations, settings, places, wherever more dialogue or participation is needed.
Speaker 1 [00:01:24]: Okay, great to have you here, Minna. And I wanted to discuss specifically with you, because I understand, that you have been a central figure in what I have now learned here in Metropolia, and is a new experience to me, new experience particularly in facilitating dialogue, facilitating discussion within the community. This is something new to me, because it is clearly a contrast to what I have previously learned specifically in higher education, in different workshops, discussion sessions, where facilitating change has been on the agenda. What I have learned here is, that instead of somebody coming from outside, not really knowing about the organisation, ways of working, ways of talking, or the history of the organisation, here at Metropolia we have an internal group of experts. And if I understood correctly, Minna, you have been yourself active in the building up and starting this work.
Speaker 2 [00:02:48]: Yes, indeed I have. This all started some five years ago, when in Metropolia in the strategy wanted to make a change in organisational culture. And what we aimed at was to have more active, more participating culture to add dialogue to various forums, and meetings. And in the beginning it was mainly me making suggestions, making changes, trying to get people to give up the, so to say, traditional ways of being in a situation, where one person is speaking and others are basically listening, to sort coach people to be more on dialogue with each others. And this is where it all started, and the demand grew bigger, and there were more and more people wanting to make changes in the practices and in the ways the events were organised. And then I ended up inviting a selected group of colleagues to work together with me. And as a result of this we created a group called Parru, who consists of professionals, who help others to implement participatory approach, and help find tools how to do that.
Speaker 1 [00:04:34]: Sounds great. So, you are actually pushing into practice the knowledge and the expertise, that you internally have, to enhance and develop internal ways of talking and working together. Brilliant. It sounds a little bit like when in these international problematic situations you have people who come in, who know the theme perhaps, or have some expertise in the field’s specific expertise, and they are there to facilitate dialogue. Often obviously this is, as I said, in a problematic situation, when there is tension. But it sounds a little bit like that to me, what you were just now saying. So, you have people, who really know the organisation and they also have the expertise. But how do you actually make it work?
Speaker 2 [00:05:38]: That is a good question. We have been learning along the way a lot, and at the moment we approach different demands with different tools, so to say. In some cases we coach people to plan their own facilitated workshops or events. In some cases me and my colleagues step in and actually facilitate the workshop or event, but more focus has been shifting towards helping people to adopt a participatory approach in the whole project or process implementation, so to say, that they would not need me or one of my colleagues to step in, but they would learn how to make genuine participation in development happening, what it demands and how it is done. So, we try to coach people to do that themselves.
Speaker 1 [00:06:49]: Okay, that sounds interesting. Could you give me an example of, when you say, that you are coaching people to actually implement this in their own, can you give an example, how does it happen? Do people actually do it, and how do they do it?
Speaker 2 [00:07:10]: Yes, I can try to give you an example. Let’s say, that there is a development project starting, and there is someone, who is responsible of making that happen. So, in very early stages, when he or she is planning what to do, one member from Parru team would be invited to have a sort of preliminary discussion of what to do and how to do. And on that discussion it’s defined in which steps, in which phases it would be useful to invite more people to participate, and maybe which stages would be more efficient done using other techniques. So, proper planning is one of the key elements. And the other key element, I would say, would be to define which parts the project owner would be doing himself or herself, and for which stages it would be helpful to have someone else there, for example, taking notes, or facilitating dialogue in specific event or gathering. So, knowing the steps and knowing, who will be in charge of what part, making that clear for everybody involved. That is part of the secret, how it is done.
Speaker 1 [00:08:48]: Okay, great. Well, thank you, Minna, because actually I do know, because I have been also offered the services of this Parru team, so I do know and I have been greatly impressed. And they are really offering support and help on the way, and also not only actually, I would say, to facilitating and enabling the dialogue, but also planning, as you were now emphasising the importance of planning. And that is very important, when you want to have people actually openly discussing together, so yes. Why then this Parru, what makes Parru special, what makes these Parru people special?
Speaker 2 [00:09:33]: Well, us being an in-house service and free of charge, available for each Metropolian is of course one of the special features, so to say. And we see our role as helpers and supporters for organisations, so that the organisation is able to learn, when dialogue and working together are essential, and when maybe some other tool or some other approach is more useful. So, being there for everyone who needs us, and, on the other hand, being able to help defining, what would be the best approach in the current situation, so, doing things responsibly using the tool of dialogue only when it’s really needed and have some impact. I think that is very important, so that members of the organisation know, that when they are invited to participate a workshop or some other session, that it really has an importance, they are really part of making the change happen, and they have an influence, and that there is really some thought and idea behind, when people are invited to work together. That is sometimes, in my experience, forgotten, and when you overlook, that once people start losing the trust in the participatory methods, then you sort of lost your case, when that starts happening.
Speaker 1 [00:11:28]: Yes, that is very true, absolutely. And I am a little bit coming back to, when I was saying, that I do see similarities with the methods, that they are using actually in this, as I mentioned earlier, when they are facilitating dialogue in different conflict situation. I am not saying, that Parru is only for conflict situation, but it is exactly, what you just said Minna, that if you do not make the dialogue happen, so that people actually have the feeling, that they can participate, they can have an impact, you lose the case very quickly. And it is difficult to gain the trust of people in having an impact, and there is a meaning in me saying something, and you need to work a lot to gain it back again. So, in that sense, I do see some Parru factors with more heavy tools in facilitating dialogue in different conflict or problematic situations. Thank you Minna. And now, as I said, I have personal experience of having seen Parru at work, and I have been very impressed, and also happy to learn myself new methods, and see how things, actually, a little bit also sometimes magically turn out to wonderful dialogues. And I would now like to offer more detailed information, more practice, practical information, how this is actually done, how could we do this for our audience?
Speaker 2 [00:13:19]: Well, as we work as a team, for that one I would like to invite in my colleague Anne-Mari Raivio, also a member of Parru team, and she could actually share some more to the details about what is in our toolbox, and maybe some glimpses into how we make the magic happen.
Speaker 1 [00:13:42]: Thank you Minna.
Speaker 2 [00:13:44]: Thank you.
Speaker 1 [00:13:45]: And thank you, everyone, for listening to this first podcast session on Dancing a Change Tango in a Dialogue in Higher Education, and stay tuned for our next session coming out soon.