Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Show Boring People the Red Card

I went yesterday to an event organised by Save the Children, which was a discussion between five young people from the Cynon Valley in South Wales, and government minister Jim Murphy. They talked about what should be done to reduce poverty, and how it is a struggle to make ends meet, both for those who couldn't find a job and for those who were working.

One particular issue that they raised was about the problems of transport - the public transport was not very good, and they couldn't afford even to get a provisional driving licence, let alone maintain a car. This made it hard to attend job interviews or combine working with looking after their children.

I thought Jim Murphy was very good, he seemed genuinely interested in listening and responding honestly and openly, both about areas where the government wasn't going to do anything and in following up on tackling particular problems and looking into ways of sorting them out.

One thing which worked well was that each of the young people had a red and a yellow card. If they didn't understand something which was being said, they held up a yellow card and the point had to be explained, and if a speaker was going on for too long, they showed the red card and the speaker had to finish speaking. This helped to give them confidence to take part to ask if they didn't understand some piece of jargon or anything like that, and not to have their time wasted. As with many meetings, one of the members of the audience launched into a rambling, repetitious and only tangentially connected question - the difference from most meetings was that rather than him being allowed to dominate the meeting, the chair was able to shut him up as soon as the other people attending had had enough.

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