Model for Event Design and Implementations
So Participants can make Meaningful Contributions

Draft for discussion and comments, by Jayn Zopf & Robert Pollard

Purpose: To create real participation of all participants in the event

Background: Individuals have a deep need to contribute meaningfully to the events in which they participate. People want to be heard. Their deep collective wisdom is emerging. They no longer wait for leaders to lead, for they ARE the leaders. We need new models for designing and implementing civic, national, and international events so that a high level of human interaction can occur. Because of this interaction, the spirit and outcome of the event are heightened.

Synergy: The theory of systems states that each element in a system makes a significant contribution to the whole system. Each cell in the human body contributes meaningfully to the health of the body. In human interaction, the same concept applies, whether the system is a relationship, family unit, or a larger organization.

When conferences are convened, each person at the conference has a contribution, or gift, that he or she is bringing to the event. When these gifts are evoked, synergy results. The whole becomes much more than the sum of the parts.

A Suggested Model:

The Parliament of the World's Religions, held in Chicago in 1993, developed a process whereby all 6,000 participants in the event had an opportunity to participate in a four-day program called "The Parliament of the People." After several years of planning, there was a realization that the program was being developed solely around presentations from the faith traditions. The people themselves, many who would be coming from all over the world, should significantly contribute to the event.

[Put in the background of how and why the Parliament of the People was developed]

Facilitators: A team of experienced facilitators was convened several months before the parliament to create a design that could be carried from one day to the next. Yet, each day could stand alone as separate modules if the same people did not choose to attend all four sessions. These facilitators not only designed the program, but participated in small group discussions each day of the program.

Format: People met in a large room. Time was taken to set the context. Then they broke up into small circles--groups of ten with a facilitator. They discussed the day's subject. At the end, they met again in a large group to share their group's major issues.

Day One: Visions. Participants identified their personal vision of how they wanted the world to be. The sentence that stimulated thinking was, "What is your vision for the future of human spirituality and the world's religions at this time?" They wrote their visions on "post-it" notes. Several people came to the microphone at the end of the session to report to the whole group. The "post-its" were collected by facilitators, and a group designated to summarize and synthesize those visions looked at all the visions, clustering related visions together. Several large groupings developed in this process. At the next day's event, the individual visions were posted in the room under the larger conceptual groupings so that people could see what they, as a group, had created. The synergistic process had begun.

Day Two: Challenges. In their small groups participants discussed the challenges/blocks they perceived to their visions of a better world. Then each group identified the three greatest challenges from among the ones that they had discussed. At the end of the session, each group sent a spokesperson to the microphone to report to the entire group about their three major challenges. The challenges were collected from each group and synthesized in the same way as the visions were in the first session.

Day Three: Proposals. Individuals had the opportunity to bring in specific proposals on any subject related to ethics, values, spirituality, and the world's religions. They discussed their proposals in the small groups, the facilitator taking notes on the ideas that had not been brought in on paper. At the end of the session all the proposals were collected and synthesized as before.

Day Four: Personal commitment. In the small groups people thought about the commitments they were willing to make as individuals. They discussed them in the group. Then the entire group met in a very large circle with a large sheet of paper in the middle. The globe was drawn on it, and a candle sat in the middle. Individuals could come up to the microphone and state their commitment to act. They put their "post-it" statements on the globe after they spoke. The other notes were collected and placed on the globe. Again, they all were taken to summarize.

Newsletter: An interactive newsletter -- Your Voice -- was continuously being published during the Parliament. Each day, information was collated from all those who wished to make a statement and those ideas were printed in the newsletter. Each contribution was included in the newsletter. Within four days, 11 issues of the newsletter were produced. Three of these issues were produced specifically for the Parliament of the People, with a compilation of the visions, proposals and commitments respectively that were generated at the Parliament. Copies of the newsletters are attached.