Tuesday 7 December 2010

The first rule of Fink Club is....

Last night I attended another NEF event at the Hub in Kings Cross. They previewed their latest animation entitled ‘Who will tame the giant vampire squid?’ (view the animation at http://www.neweconomics.org/press-releases/who-will-tame-the-giant-vampire-squid )
A catchy title, the evening was devoted to sharing ideas about the best ways to address the current economic malaise we find ourselves in. Some great ideas, passionate viewpoints and questions were aired during the debate but that is not what I want to draw attention to.
The discussion was called a ‘fink club’ and in common with many debates had some invited speakers to put forward their views on the subject to hand. But what was different about this format was they had a strict time limit to say their piece before a bell was rung and they had to give way to the next speaker. These invited speakers opened the debate but things were quickly opened up to anyone present to contribute. Likewise they too had a set amount of time to say what they wanted and then had to give way to the next person, although there was no obligation to use all the time available.
The event was chaired by Andrew Simms of NEF who did a great job of ensuring that all that wanted had a chance to speak. Each speaker came into a central space so they addressed their comments to all present and the audience gave them room to say their bit without being heckled or interrupted. If you wanted to say something you raised you hand and came into the centre when invited.
The event had a real energy about it with many great contributions but the important aspect was all contributors were treated equally. Even though there were invited ‘experts’ it was not just their views being aired and the direction of the debate was very much led by the audience. It felt truly democratic.
I would wholeheartedly recommend this format to facilitate lively but civilised public discussions. It does require a strong and attentive chair to ensure fair play but other than that you just need a space where the audience can hear the speakers and of course an enthusiastic audience. It is also important the atmosphere is positive and encouraging; it takes confidence to stand up in front of people so this should be made as easy as possible. It is important it remains ‘fink’ club and does not become ‘fight’ club.
I could see this format being useful in a number of situations and not just for debating opinions. It could equally be used for drawing out and capturing ideas or question and answer sessions.
So be warned, I’m up for another ‘fink’ club bout anyone fancy it!

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